HBO’s mind-bending sci-fi western (yes, all of those things) is currently airing its second season after an 18-month hiatus. In honor of its long-awaited return, we’re digging deep for trivia about the genre-crossing hit.
Creators and showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy were inspired by Las Vegas as a consequence-free playground, something that’s crucial to the Westworld experience.
Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton wrote and directed the 1973 Westworld film. Many fans noticed similarities (both stories are about theme parks with futuristic attractions that go bonkers and attack the guests), which make a lot of sense when you know they both come from the mind of the same author.
While repairing a robotic bird, Delos tech Felix Lutz (the guy who helps Maeve execute her escape plan) says, “Come on, little one!” This is the exact line John Hammond says in Jurassic Park when he watches the baby Velociraptor hatch from its shell.
In 1980, CBS had a show called Beyond Westworld, which focused on the Delos head of security trying to stop an evil genius from using the Westworld robots to take over the world. The series was canceled after three episodes.
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy asked the first season’s directors not to use hand-held cameras until the finale—the episode in which the hosts develop consciousness. The first instance is when Teddy rescues Delores from the churchyard in the finale, and then again when Maeve looks at the little girl during her attempted escape.
Westworld and Game of Thrones are both high-concept, big budget genre crossover hits, but these HBO series have something else in common: their composer. German composter Ramin Djawadi composed the opening credit songs for both shows. Bonus: both shows’ opening sequences were created by Elastic.
Thandie Newton, who plays host-gone-conscious Maeve, did several full frontal nude scenes during Westworld‘s first season. Still, the actress, who plays a host who is forced to work as a prostitute in the park, says her curve-hugging Mariposa costume, which was designed to display her character as a sexual object, actually left her feeling more exposed than she felt during her nude scenes.
If you’ve ever been watching an episode of Westworld and thought that the old-timey piano music in the background sounded familiar, that’s probably because it was. The songs played on the player piano are all modern songs. Songs featured in Season 1 include “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden, “No Surprises” by Radiohead, and “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. The Westworld versions of the songs are even available on iTunes.
Westworld honored Yul Brynner’s gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement scene. Good luck spotting him.
Westworld’s main saloon is the Mariposa, which is Spanish for “butterfly.” The name is a reference to the transformation Maeve, who spends most of her time in the park at the saloon, undergoes in the first season.
HBO budgeted $100 million for Westworld‘s first season. By comparison, the first season of Game of Thrones had a $60 million budget.
The showrunners didn’t tell the actors where their characters’ arcs were going in order to capture more authentic performances. Even stars Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Harris didn’t know the first season’s big twists until they had to.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR WESTWORLD SEASON 1 BELOW:
One of the biggest shocks of Westworld‘s thoroughly shocking first season was the reveal that the entire season had been running multiple timelines, and Jimmi Simpson’s William actually grows up to be Ed Harris’ Man in Black. Many fans were caught off guard by the reveal and Simpson admits the producers didn’t clue him in about it—but he figured it out on his own, very early on.
“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much. He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?'” he told Vanity Fair.
“I was like, ‘Why would they change my eyebrows? Why in the world?'” he continued. “I started thinking the one reason was to make me look like someone else, and then I cycled through the Rolodex of the main players. There’s only one that really fit my look and dialect. They didn’t reveal any of that to any of us until about [Episode] 8, 9, or 10 officially. This was probably seven months before I was supposed to know this, but I just said to Lisa [Joy], ‘Am I supposed to be Ed Harris?’ She just froze and said, ‘I can‘t say anything, but I will say you have a hell of an arc this season.'”
One of the first cast members to learn a big twist about their character was Jeffrey Wright, who plays Bernard. In Episode 7, fans learned Bernard is actually a host being controlled by Ford. The showrunners told Wright the twist during filming of Episode 2.
“I knew going into the second episode [of Season 1],” he said. “I didn’t know when I signed on. I didn’t know it when we shot the pilot. But, when we came back to full production for Season 1, Lisa Joy pulled me aside and dropped the bomb on my robot head.”
Because the actors were kept so in the dark about the show’s twists, many cast members took to coming up with fan theories of their own—especially star Evan Rachel Wood. She says the twist she expect was the reveal that Bernard is a host.
“I did not see Jeffrey’s [twist] coming. I will say that,” she said. “That was a surprise. I ran onto set the next day and wagged my finger in his face, saying, ‘This whole time! This whole time!'”
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy visited a car manufacturer in Germany. While there, they saw cars being dipped in and out of huge tanks of paint by robotic arms. This imagery inspired the Vitruvian man from the show’s opening credits.
And that white goop the Vitruvian man is dipped in? It’s Elmer’s glue.
Cost of admission for the park is $40,000/day, minimum—and that’s in the William timeline. According to the Westworld website, the pricier Gold package runs $200,000 a day.
Westworld fans love Armistice, the snake-tattooed host/total badass who plays an increasingly-large role in Season 1, culminating in a jaw-dropping (but very spoiler-y) scene in the finale. Armistice is played by Norwegian acyress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, but the character was originally conceived as seven-foot-tall, mute, muscly man. The role was gender-swapped because producers so wanted Ingrid in the series.
Each season of Westworld has a title—and they’re pretty interesting clues about the season’s overall plot. Season 1 was “The Maze” and Season 2 is “The Door.”
During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, James Marsden, who plays Teddy on the show, revealed that the creators have already mapped out several years of stories for Westworld.
“It wasn’t about getting the first 10 [episodes] done, it was about mapping out what the next five or six years are going to be,” he said. “We wanted everything in line so that when the very last episode airs and we have our show finale, five or seven years down the line, we knew how it was going to end the first season—that’s the way Jonah and [executive producer J.J. Abrams] operate. They’re making sure all the ducks are in the row.”
The scene in which Teddy declares his love for Dolores on the beach (which was shot in Malibu) is a “deliberate reference” to the final scene of Planet Of The Apes.
The actor replaced Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey as Logan when Bailey had to leave the show due to a scheduling conflict. Before Barnes was set to start, he broke his foot and proceeded to hide the injury out of fear he’d lose the job if producers knew. He even went so far as to give his character a limp to cover it up.
“I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes explained.”“But really I had a very purple foot… So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”
Dolores’ long blonde curls and blue-and-white dress was meant to evoke the vibe of a fairy tale princess. It also reminded some fans of Alice from Alice in Wonderland.
Westworld is laden with symbolism and hidden meaning, including the name of the fictional park’s parent company, Delos. In ancient Greek mythology, Delos was the name of the island where it was illegal for anyone to die. In Delos’ parks, guests can’t die (when the parks are running properly, that is).
Before HBO’s series, talk of a Westworld remake were circulating for years. Tarantino was rumored to be attached at one point, as was Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Two of the faces on the wall belong to Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden, who play Dolores and Teddy.
At least during that intense fight scene with Evan Rachel Wood in the Season 1 finale.
During an interview with Seth Meyers, Wood explained that the show is a real test for the actors.
“In the show, we’re kind of called upon to do these shifts of energy very quickly because we operate off of voice commands. And so, I’ll be in a full panic attack and then someone will go, ‘lose all emotional affects and I have to go…” she explained before acting out going from a panic attack to a state of calm instantaneously. “And then back into character mode and then back to half-character, half-analysis mode. And, like, sometimes I have an accent and sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I have to be completely deadpan, but in the script once it said, ‘no facial expression, but crying through the eyes.'”
Evan Rachel Wood says she realized Dolores was special during Season 1 Episode 5.
“The moment that always sticks out for me is in Episode 5, when we see her take out five Confederados that are holding Jimmi Simpson’s character hostage. They grab him and pin him up against a wall, and he yells, ‘Dolores, run!’ The first take we did, I ran—I’m not supposed to run,” she explained. “Everyone was kind of looking around, confused, and then I slowly crept back onto set and they asked, ‘What happened?’ And I said, ‘I’m so used to running. I’ve never been asked to stay and save the day.’ I got a little teary-eyed and a couple of women on the set got a little teary-eyed, and I thought, ‘Wow. This character is really important.'”
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