15. Notice Any Jurassic Park Similarities?
Okay, so most of us know that world renowned novelist and filmmaker, Michael Crichton, wrote and directed the 1973 film that became the source of material for the Westworld television series. But Westworld isn’t the only story Crichton wrote revolving around a theme park in which the attractions went bananas. In 1990, Crichton released the science fiction novel Jurassic Park, but instead of lifelike mechanical robots, the attractions were real life dinosaurs.
There are many similarities between Westworld and Jurassic Park, and for the uninitiated, Westworld seems like something of a rip-off of the dino book and film series. The big question both stories seem to share is, “just because we have the technology and the ability to do something of mind blowing proportions, then, should we?”
14. Quentin Tarantino Was Considered To Direct The Pilot
From the very early years of the motion picture, the Western was one of the most popular genres of film. The American Film Institute describes the western as those films “set in the American West that embodies the spirit, the struggle, and the demise of the new frontier.” In Westworld, that new frontier is the bounds of an individual’s imagination with endless visual possibilities, and that visual palette would be attractive to any director.
When it came time for the HBO producers to choose a director for the pilot episode, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that their short list included none other than acclaimed and uniquely talented director, Quentin Tarantino. A series rich with cinematic influence, Westworld would have been a giant playground for Tarantino, who happens to be a humble student of cinema himself. Alas, Tarantino declined, and the pilot episode was directed by another acclaimed and incredibly talented director.
13. The Pilot Was Directed By Christopher Nolan’s Brother
With the epic proportions and creative vision of a Blockbuster franchise, who better to co-create and direct the series launching episode than the brother of the Dark Knight helmer? Jonathan Nolan may be six years younger than the Batman director, but he has certainly proven his moxie working closely with his older brother, having written the short story that became 2000s Memento, as well as sharing screenwriting credit with Christopher on The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and the 2014 epic Interstellar. Jonathan also created and served as Executive Producer on the CBS hit television series Person of Interest, which premiered in 2011.
Jonathan’s penchant for dark themes and thrilling plot lines, as well as a niche in the science fiction genre made him an ideal captain for Westworld’s creation and direction.
12. Sound Familiar?
One of the classic elements for any Western is the trusty player-piano heard in the background of just about every saloon scene. In HBO’s Westworld, the piano-player not only serves to set the tone, sometimes eerily presciently throughout each episode, but it also provides a nice little episodic Easter egg as some of the song selections are very familiar to viewers.
From “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden, to “No Surprises” by Radiohead, and even the Rolling Stones’ classic “Paint It Black” playing as the soundtrack to one of the more tension filled scenes the series has offered thus far, the unique personality of the player-piano combines familiar music with an instrument nearly lost to antiquity. Fans of the music can now hit up iTunes and download their favorite Westworld player piano covers.
11. Miranda Otto Was Originally Cast As Theresa Cullen
Theresa Cullen, Westworld’s sharp and trenchant head of operations, has the extraordinary responsibility of keeping the theme park in order, making sure none of its attractions run off the rails or go off script. Audiences have witnessed actress Sidse Babett Knudsen embody the character with exceptional poise, but she was originally not cast as Theresa Cullen.
When the casting announcements were made, Miranda Otto was to play Theresa Cullen. Otto has starred in both film and television, appearing in two of the Lord of the Rings movies as well as the USA Network mini series The Starter Wife. Otto is more recently known for her portrayal of Allison Carr in Homeland, and due to a commitment to the Showtime series, she was forced to withdraw from Westworld in July of 2015.
10. Is That A Hemsworth?
If you catch yourself doing a double-take every time the head of security appears on screen, it’s because, yes, that’s a Hemsworth. Luke Hemsworth, Chris and Liam’s older brother, plays Westworld’s security chief, Ashley Stubbs, who is responsible for monitoring interactions between the theme park’s attractions and the guests who pay a cool $40,000 per ticket to be there.
An Australian native, this hunky Hemsworth began his career back in 2001, playing Nathan Tyson on Neighbors, an Australian soap opera. He continued to work in television and feature films pretty steadily for the next 15 years, but he hadn’t quite achieved star power status like his brothers. Though he may not have the blockbuster success of his younger brothers, Luke’s performance in Westworld just might give him the bump he needs to ignite a sibling rivalry.
9. The Game of Thrones Connection
Westworld is constantly being compared to the other epic HBO drama series, Game of Thrones, but the two series have something more in common than sex, violence, and dragons (okay, maybe not dragons… not yet!). The two shows share the same composer of the opening titles. Ramin Djawadi is a German composer whose credits also include Iron Man, Pacific Rim, and Batman Begins, where he and Jonathan Nolan first met. Nolan later hired the composer for his series Person of Interest. Moreover, the title sequence for Westworld was created by Elastic, the same production studio that designed and produced the opening title sequences for HBO’s previous series like Rome, Carnivale, and, yes, Game of Thrones. With the pairing of composer Ramin Djawadi and Elastic, HBO certainly has a formula of success for memorable opening title sequences.
8. Westworld Would Not Exist Without Game Of Thrones
Westworld’s co-creator and director Jonathan Nolan has been candid about how his futuristic science fiction Western fantasy series would have never happened were it not for its sibling series Game of Thrones. The carnal depictions of lust and violence in Game of Thrones is said to have made it possible to explore a theme park in which people pay good sums of money to enact their most curious, however disturbing, sexual and violent fantasies. Not only that, but Game of Thrones’ vast, sweeping cinematic, and visual style was probably more suited for the multiplex. Until HBO took a chance by putting it on the small screen in 2011, television audiences were not accustomed to such grand production value in a TV show. With Game of Thrones paving the way, Westworld was ripe for development, and co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy went to work.
7. Blockbuster Budget
It’s no secret that big budget action movies break the bank with price tags in the hundreds of millions, but until recently, most television shows cost a fraction of that. The Hollywood Reporter reported that the series budget for 10 episodes of the first season of Westworld hovered around $100 million, with a quarter of that sum apparently going into the pilot episode. That’s $25 million for a single episode of television. However, when HBO commits to something, it commits to something (er, unless the show is called Vinyl). The budget on the Game of Thrones pilot had an apparent price tag of $20 million – and was completely scrapped and reshot!
If the reports about Westworld’s pilot and series budgets are true, then that leaves a measly $8.3 million for the rest of the season 1 episodes. Based on its early success, Westworld proves that a big, chunky budget is no longer reserved for the summer blockbuster.
6. Thandie Newton Couldn’t Wait To Get Out Of That F***ing Corset
Veteran actress, Thandie Newton, all but steals the show as Maeve, the ultra-lifelike robotic brothel madam who begins to question her reality and the world around her. In an interview with Collider, Newton talks at length about the time she spends in her birthday suit. While she appreciates the level of craftsmanship put into her costumes, particularly her corset, she admits, “I couldn’t wait to get out of that f***ing corset.”
Newton explains she was actually more comfortable in the scenes where she was bearing all. When she was naked, she explains, the cast and crew were “really respectful and in awe of my ‘bravery’.” Being an incredibly skin-heavy show, Westworld seems to challenge the conventions of sexual exploitation in unique ways, taking nearly all of the sensationalism out of nudity.
5. Robot Flip-Flop
In the HBO television version of Westworld, the humanoid robots are the empathetic, likeable characters that everyone cares about, and it is the questionable behaviors of the actual human beings that seem to irk most audiences. This seems appropriate, because while robots and machines can be flawed in many ways, it is typically caused by human error or mishandling by the user. Humans, on the other hand, can be deeply flawed on a level that no machine has yet to match. The very existence of a theme park in which guests can play out their darkest desires is proof of that.
In the 1973 film version, the roles were reversed. The humans by all accounts were the good guys, fighting back against the evil robots, like the Gunslinger played by Yul Brynner, that turned against them.
While the human-like machines in the HBO reimagining of Westworld are the more sympathetic characters, there is still a “bad robot” of sorts pulling the “behind the scenes” strings. Executive Producer and Hollywood wunderkind J.J. Abrams’s production company is in fact named Bad Robot. Okay, bad robot jokes aside, Abrams is one of film and television’s most proficient players, and his production company launches multiple series and films every year.
Bad Robot Productions was founded in 2001 by J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk and is responsible for such original television mega-hits as Alias, Lost, and Fringe. Their films include Star Trek, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens – like Westworld, all of these were very successful reboots or re-imaginings of already incredibly successful franchises.
3. Great Expectations
According to IMDB, Academy Award winning actor Anthony Hopkins, has 132 screen credits to his name, but it has been 25 years since Sir Anthony has appeared in more than two episodes of television. Star of film, stage, and screen, Hopkins is an international legend, highly respected and highly sought after. In feature films, he has played the likes of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Nixon, Titus Andronicus, John Quincy Adams, Pablo Picasso, Quasimodo, Othello, and even Adolf Hitler. His long resume includes a handful of television projects as well, but until Westworld, Hopkins has not appeared in more than a couple of episodes of TV since the epic 1991 television mini-series Great Expectations.
Great expectations indeed, as Anthony Hopkins’ accepting the role of Dr. Robert Ford would have placed a tremendous deal of confidence in Westworld’s creators and producers.
Soon after the announcement came that HBO had committed to picking up Westworld for a second season and a collective sigh of relief blew across the globe, some of the actors opened up regarding the highly anticipated season finale. Jimmi Simpson, who plays William, one of the show’s morally torn protagonist’s, told TV Line that the series will certainly wrap up some of the big season 1 plot lines, but it will also open up the story and take some interesting turns.
So what can the Westworld audience expect down the road? Who knows! But according to those in the know, the season finale is as unpredictable as it is thought-provoking. Not all will be satisfied, of course, but for the majority of fans around the world, the first season of Westworld will certainly go down as some of the best 10 hours of television out there.
Back in September 2016, James Marsden, who plays one of Westworld’s more enchanting robots, Teddy Flood, floated the idea to Entertainment Weekly that the show’s writers and creators have plans to take audiences on the Westworld ride for at least five seasons. If we’re lucky, we’ll be visiting Westworld for at least ten Sundays a year thru 2020 and beyond.
Fans of the hit series can rest assured that for the future of Westworld seems very secure, and that there will no doubt be more surprises in store.