October 2nd, the premiere date for HBO’s Westworld is fast approaching, and over the past few days, there have been a bunch of new and interesting details revealed (in large part thanks to the folks at Entertainment Weekly). Details including, but not limited to, all the legal stipulations involved with visiting the Wild West themed world. Also, there are definitely *spoilers* lurking about, so if you’re looking to go into this with as little knowledge as possible, then you’ve been warned.
And for those of you who aren’t familiar with Westworld, it’s an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie of the same name, about a futuristic Western-themed park where patrons can pay large sums of money to engage in any and all types of behavior they desire. Which, as you may guess, leads to some bad, and unexpected, occurrences.
The Reason Behind the Production Delay on HBO’s Westworld
So, this past January, we all got a little worried when reports leaked that Westworld was temporarily shutting down production to give showrunners Johnathan Nolan and Lisa Joy more time to work on the series. Joy was quick to address the reason back then, saying that “The show is complicated and ambitious. For the first half of the series we were writing while in production and we needed the time to catch up on scripts. Taking that time allowed us to really finesse all the storylines we set up – deepening character arcs and delving further into the series’ larger mythological questions.”
But now, EW has revealed an additional behind the scenes problem the creative staff as working to solve as well: the future path of the show for the next five or six years. Now, according to Nolan, when they pitched the show to HBO, they already had a rough plan for the first three or four seasons. “I always feel like you want to have a sense,” said Nolan. But now actor James Marsden has revealed that “It wasn’t about getting the first 10 [episodes] done, it was about mapping out what the next 5 or 6 years are going to be.”
Marsden added that they wanted to have everything in line, so that when the very last episode aired, “five or seven years down the line,” that they would have known how it would end from the first season. He added that “it’s a testament to Jonah and Lisa and HBO that we got them right, especially the last three scripts. They could have rushed them and got spread too thin. They got them right, and when they were right, we went and shot them.”
OK, now, five, six and seven season numbers are being thrown around there, perhaps to give the series a little bit of wiggle room in case they need / want to end it early, or extend it a bit, but it is nice to know that they’re considering an overall, connected story, rather than simply running it for as long as they can.
The Structure of the Five (or Six, or Seven) Planned Seasons of Westworld
Nolan also elaborated a little more regarding expanding Westworld’s story to cover multiple seasons, “We have a fantastic original film, but that’s a little under two hours of storytelling. So our joke was we have to write the ‘novels’ first and then adapt them and then go shoot them.”
He added that they didn’t want the series to repeat itself year after year, in the vein of something like Fantasy Island where new guests arrived at the park each season. “We wanted a big story. We wanted the story of the origin of a new species and how that would play out in its complexity.”
More Details on the Cast and Characters in HBO’s Westworld
HBO also recently revealed a poster, and official descriptions for the characters, which reveal a little more detail on their roles:
- Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins): The brilliant, taciturn and complicated creative director, chief programmer and founder of Westworld, who has an uncompromising creative vision for the park.
- The Man in Black (Ed Harris): The distillation of pure villainy into one man.
- Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood): A provincial, beautiful and kind rancher’s daughter, who begins to discover that her entire idyllic existence is an elaborately constructed lie.
- Teddy Flood (James Marsden): A new arrival to a small frontier town, quickly proves both his charm and talent with a revolver.
- Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton): A Beautiful, razor-sharp madam, who has a genius for reading people and a knack for survival but her seen-it-all-before worldview is about to be challenged.
- Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright): The brilliant and quixotic head of the park’s Programming Division, whose keen observation of human nature provides him with boundless inspiration for his life’s work: creating artificial people.
- Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson): A mysterious and savvy provocateur with a unique perspective on Westworld.
- Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen): Westworld’s head of Quality Assurance, responsible for keeping the park from sliding into unscripted chaos.
- William (Jimmi Simpson): A first-time visitor to the park who is initially wary of the park’s more lascivious attractions but slowly uncovers a deeper meaning.
- Logan (Ben Barnes) is a veteran guest whose hedonistic romp through the park is equally motivated by self-indulgence and a desire to help his friend, William.
- Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro): Westworld’s perennial “most wanted” bandit, who subscribes to the theory that the West is a wild place, and the only way to survive is to embrace the role of predator.
- Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward): A sardonic rising star in the Behavior Department, who is charged with diagnosing the odd quirks of behavior in the park’s hosts.
- Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal): A savage fighter and brutal bandit, whose ruthlessness is surpassed only by her abiding loyalty to her fellow outlaws.
- Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman): The head of Narrative, whose storylines tantalize the guests, while his temperament grates on his colleagues.
- Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan): One of Westworld’s most popular attractions, who is perfectly beguiling, by design.
- Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth): The no-nonsense head of Security, charged with monitoring host and human interactions and ensuring the safety of the guests.
- Lawrence (Clifton Collins, Jr.): A charming but lethal outlaw, who has a knack for maneuvering and negotiating the various criminal elements of Westworld.
Now, along with that additional information, Entertainment Weekly scored some new photos and was able to drill out some additional detail on Ed Harris’ role.
Images Credit: John P. Johnson / HBO
Again, this treads into spoiler territory for this character, so, double warning. For a while now, most of us have been assuming that Harris, like the iconic gunslinger role played by Yul Brynner in the original, was an android gone rogue. However, this is not the case. He’s actually a human, and a frequent visitor to Westworld. According to Harris, “He’s got a much more specific intention than just having a good time.”
James Marsden sums it up this way, “You’ll constantly be off balance. You’ll think you’ll know what’s happening, and where [the story is] going, but you’ll be wrong.”
Everything You Need to Know If You Want to Visit HBO’s Westworld Attraction
OK. So, HBO recently put a fake site up for the Westworld attraction, which encourages you to “Live Without Limits,” and offers the “ability” to book a trip (they’re currently booked out). It’s a fun bit of extra advertising for the show, but thanks to Slate, we also know the legal parts involved with a visit to Westworld, and let’s just say that if this were a real-life venture, you’d definitely want to read through the terms before signing up. Here are some of the more interesting stipulations. First up, the potential dangers of making a visit to Westworld:
- “Upon use of the service, you agree that Delos, Inc. is not responsible for any injuries that are a result of gameplay.” OK, pretty standard stuff. But then they go on to detail it a little further, “You dissolve Delos, Inc. of any responsibility financial or criminal that would result from dismemberment, broken bones, heart failure, loss or loss of use of hand and foot digits, shock, marital and relational strife, child endangerment, psychological trauma, delusions or hallucinations resulting from the realistic nature of the park experience, and/or any other physical, emotional, and psychological effects resulting from strenuous park activities.“
- OK, the above list is definitely more specific, and ominous sounding. But they provide even a little more detail, saying that, statistically speaking, while you have more of a chance of dying from a lightning strike than from visiting Westworld, that deaths have occurred from “buffalo stampede, self- cannibalism, accidental hanging, drowning, 3rd-degree burns, autoerotic asphyxiation, blunt force trauma, allergic reaction to non-native plant life, falling from great heights, common manslaughter, tumbleweeds.” Uh… wow. Death by tumbleweed?
- But even that impressive list doesn’t represent the full potential danger. According to the legalese, “All livestock within the Delos parks are Hosts, with the notable exception of flies. All humanoid and animal Hosts within Delos parks work to keep guests safe, even when the narrative calls for them to appear to endanger guests.” See, the Hosts have something called the Good Samaritan ReflexTM which they utilize to prevent bodily harm to visitors. However, according to the legal terms, Delos is absolved on any legal blowback in “circumstance beyond our control, which shall refer to any act of God, storm, fire, casualty, unanticipated work stoppage, power outage, satellite failure, strike, lockout, labor dispute, civil disturbance, riot, war, national emergency, Governmental action, Host malfunction, or other circumstance beyond our reasonable control.” Now, how they figure that “Host Malfunction” is something beyond their control is a mystery, but it’s really starting to sound like a pretty dangerous place.
OK. So, if you’re good with the dangers, what about sharing your trip with others? Well, that’s not allowed, according to the rules:
- “Upon entering the Delos Destinations compound, you agree to voluntarily divest yourself of all cameras, cellular devices, and electronic technology capable of recording your park experience, including virtual reality recorders and devices, and holographic recreation devices. There is no video recording, audio recording, or written recording allowed within the park.” They further stipulate that you will be provided the opportunity to use park-appointed photographers to provide you with photos of your narrative. Which, OK, they’re in it to make money. But you can’t even keep a diary during your visit? Harsh.
- Speaking of your visit, you agree to leave on your specified date, and not attempt to hide and prolong your stay. Also, the maximum allowed stay is 28 days before you have to proceed to the “Mesa Gold area for decompression.“
- Also, if you have any good ideas while in Westworld, be careful. “Please note that while utilizing the Mesa Bar, you may interact with Delos, Inc. employees; any ideas pitched to Delos, Inc. employees automatically become the property of Delos, Inc., in perpetuity.“
OK. That’s some pretty slimy legal-ese right there. However, the most impressive and slimy piece of the proposed contract has to be this: “By entering the Delos Destinations Port of Entry, you acknowledge that Delos, Inc. controls the rights to and remains the sole owner of, in perpetuity: all skin cells, bodily fluids, secretions, excretions, hair samples, saliva, sweat, blood, and any other bodily functions not listed here. Delos, Inc. reserves the right to use this property in any way, shape, or form in which the entity sees fit.” Basically, if you visit Westworld, don’t be surprised if you start seeing Hosts who share a startling similarity to you on return visits.
So, there you have it. If you want to visit Westworld, you’re basically signing away all your rights. Oh, and I’m officially at maximum intrigue levels regarding HBO’s Westworld. I can’t wait for October 2nd.
Featured Image: HBO