The long-delayed reboot of sci-fi western thriller (what a combo) Westworld is finally getting going to get an audience. HBO announced today that the series will debut in the fall.
It was way back in 2013 that HBO announced plans for a series adaptation of the film which was both written and directed by Michael Crichton in 1973. James Brolin and Richard Benjamin starred as friends visiting a futuristic theme park where human-looking androids interact with the guests. Until… because it’s a Crichton story, an infectious robot disease spreads throughout the park turning the androids into killers. Notably, this was the first time a computer virus was ever utilized in a film plot. Yul Brynner also starred as the Gunslinger, an android who challenged visitors to western pistol duels.
The original trailer is full of 1970s schlocky goodness:
The story sounds pretty rich for a series. The original park contained three “worlds” within, West World, Medieval World, and Roman World, so if they stick with that construct there will be a lot of room to roam among diverse settings. And helming the project are none other than J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan, so high-value production and tight storytelling should be a foregone conclusion.
This time around Ben Barnes and Jimmi Simpson will play the leads who introduce us to the park. Anthony Hopkins has signed on as Westworld’s creative genius, Ed Harris is a mysterious villain called The Man in Black, James Marsden steps into the Gunslinger role, and Jeffrey Wright plays the head of Westworld Programming and creator of androids. Thandie Newton will show up as a madame, Tessa Thompson as a ‘provocateur’, and Evan Rachel Wood as an android who gains awareness of her artificial life.
Shooting began in 2014 and things were moving along on the project until HBO announced they were suspending production this January, allegedly so Nolan and co-writer Lisa Joy could get ahead on writing. But rumors were that the shoot was running way behind schedule and already in need of reshoots, according to Slashfilm, so fans feared the project was dying on the vine.
At the time, Abrams, who said he first met with Crichton 21 years ago to discuss this project, tried to quell fears, saying the story deserved patience and diligence: “It’s one of the projects I feel most grateful and lucky to be a part of. What [the directorial team has] done is so stunning and cool and they’re not rushing it because of business matters and the network is giving them the time. That is never a bad move.”
The series is being updated to reflect our culture; Abrams said it will cover questions of consciousness and oppression. HBO describes it as dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin, telling the story of a futuristic theme park. The network has notably left out an actual premiere date for the series but we’ll let you know as soon as we hear.
This fall HBO is also adding the half-hour comedy Divorced, which will bring Sarah Jessica Parker back to TV as a woman who discovers ending her marriage and starting a new life is harder than she expected. The Issa Ray comedy Insecure centers on two black women dealing with racy and unsettling experiences, and High Maintenance, a former web-series picked up to cable, will follow a pot dealer and the wide variety of personalities that make up his client list in Brooklyn.