Finally, this is happening!
HBO has given a pilot production commitment to Bad Robot and Warner Bros. TV for a series adaptation of the 1973 Yul Brynner cult classic Westworld, to be written and helmed by Jonathan Nolan. The film verions of Westworld influenced later science fiction works such as Blade Runner, Terminator, and the most recent horror/sci-fi comedy The World’s End, with ultimate high-concept drama: “A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park.” A Westworld remake has faced many years of obstacles, and is even on the list of movies I wanted to make if I ever broke into a real directing career. Over time names such as Tarsem Singh, Quentin Tarantino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Russell Crowe were attached to be a part of a remake, but nothing ever gelled, and now producer Jerry Weintraub is hoping television will be the right medium for his project to be breathed life.
Variety reports that Hollywood busy-man J.J. Abrams, currently also working on the new Star Wars films, and Jonathan Nolan, brother of director Christopher Nolan and co-writer of The Dark Knight Rises, are teaming up to turn the property into an HBO television series. The team has been collaborating on other television series and are currently into their third season of the acclaimed Person of Interest. HBO has committed to the pilot, which will be directed by Nolan, who will be co-writing it with his wife, Lisa Joy, current writer on the television show Burn Notice. Co-produced by Weintraub along side Abrams’ production company Bad Robot Productions, the property seemed to have found it’s aptly named benefactor, plus gives Abrams another chance to put his mark on another property among geek culture.
The original Westworld had a less successful sequel called Futureworld, followed by the 1980 Beyond Westword television series which only aired five episodes on CBS. Unique for its time period, the mash up of Western and science-fiction themes made the film almost iconic in its presentation, with images of Brynner’s face separated from the rest of his mechanical head while firing a revolver. This techno-nightmare character faced off against stars Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, who played vacationers at an adult-themed amusement park filled with robot-modeled humans, like an age-appropriate upgrade of Disneyland, where computers begin to malfunction and things goes horribly wrong.
In its reincarnation, the new series will probably leave the 70’s camp of the film behind, opting for a modernized realistic take on the tale, if Nolan and Abrams’s previous works are any indication. The remake is described to be more attuned to the artificial intelligence themes of the original, and, according to HBO, will be “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” An underpinning of many science fiction tales, an episodic take on such a grand theme would be great to see approached in an original and grounded way with the long format television provides.
Michael Crichton has brought us wonderful themes for filmmakers to explore, and Westworld is no exception. He even directed the original himself. As a fan, and with the potential that I know the material has, the new series will definitely be one to take notice of when it premieres. Just imagine an updated realization of the trailer below and tell me you are not excited.