A year ago the Internet was buzzing about the S-E-X and nudity in HBO’s much anticipated Westworld. The press was calling it HBO’s new Game of Thrones and said that the show would make Game of Thrones’ approach to nudity and s*x look stuffy. We predict an upsurge in HBO subscriptions.
In 1973, novelist and screenwriter Michael Crichton, brought Westworld to the big screen. It was his baby. He wrote the script and directed the film. It’s set in Delos, a futuristic theme park peopled by robots. Only the guests are human. And the star humans in the film are Peter (played by Richard Benjamin) and John (James Brolin). Delos is a theme park for the rich. Plonk down $1,000 a day and choose between West World, Roman World, or Medieval World. Marry a princess in Medieval World and get up to all sorts. Stage an o*gy in Roman World. And in West World, live the life of a cowboy in the old West; and John and Peter head straight for West World. It’s a world of dusty streets, saloons, cowpokes, saucy women of ill repute, and gunslingers. And in all the Worlds, guests can do as they please with the male and female robots. And we mean anything. Shoot them dead and they get repaired and sent back out. It’s a hard robot life. At first, John and Peter are having the time of their lives. Then something goes wrong and the robots malfunction and start getting their own back. Gunslinger, ably played by veteran actor Yul Brynner, is the number one malfunctioning robot. He kills John and aims to do the same thing to Peter. Everybody cheered when Peter finally managed to bring him down, literally in flames.
And now we have the TV show. The show has star power, including Ed Harris (National Treasure), James Marsden (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Thandie Newton (Rogue). And as the scientist who invented the park, is Anthony Hopkins. Wait. Scientist invents a theme park that goes wrong. Very wrong. Where have we seen that one before? Read on. Here are 15 things your didn’t know about the Westworld movie and TV universe.
15. If The TV Show Is As Good As Its Cast, It’ll Be Great
Let’s face it, announcements of cast members are something of a bore. But, in addition to the sex scandalette and talk of bust ups between producer Jonathan Nolan and HBO, there was a genuine buzz out there as the casting unfolded. Indiewire enthused that the casting had gone from interesting to “bonkers amazing”. That’s pretty good, we think. Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris (the scientist and the gunslinger) are definitely A-Listers. Add young up and coming James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright (and on and on), and you’ve got an attention-grabbing group of actors. And there’s another twist: Rumor has it that as the robots are killed off, they are brought back to life with different personalities. Sounds like an actor’s dream idea to us. The only thing that could make it better? A real life (now deceased) Yul Brynner robot.
14. From The Man Who Brought You Jurassic Park
Michael Crichton was some guy. He was a best-selling author, a doctor, producer, director and screenwriter. His thing was medical fiction and thrillers, often prominently featuring technology. Like Westworld where robots turn nasty and Jurassic Park where terrifying robot dinosaurs stalk the people who were dumb enough to find themselves in the park. His books have sold in the hundreds of millions and have been adapted into films and TV shows. Back in 1994, he had simultaneous ‘number ones’ in US television (ER), movies (Jurassic Park), and book sales (Disclosure). Before he died in 2008, he was approached to update and adapt Westworld. He said no. With a net worth approaching $200 million, he probably had better things to do. Like sit on his yacht…
13. To HBO From The People Who Brought You Star Wars
J.J. Abrams and Chewbacca face the Twizzle challenge. The man (Abrams not Chewbacca) has become a legend in his own time. Extremely talented, the man is busy, busy, busy. He produced and directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens and is one of the producers for Westworld. Now, he has been in pursuit of Westworld for a while. He met with Michael 21 years ago, but the author and screenwriter was not interested. There have been rumors or disagreements between HBO and another producer, Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest). Nolan and his wife Lisa Joy (Burn Notice), c0-wrote the entire series. But everybody says everything is fine. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? With a firm October 2016 release date, looks like the wait is nearly over.
12. Arnold Schwarzenegger Was Supposed To Be The Gunslinger In The Movie Reboot
Movie types have been trying to reboot Westworld for decades. It’s a complicated formula involving getting writers, directors, producers and actors together, and then getting a studio on board. It can take years and years. For a while, there were reports of a Westworld remake starring Arnold Schwarzennegger as the Gunslinger. Think of Terminator in the Old West kind of thing. Word was that the film would be written by Terminator 3 screenwriters Michael Ferris and John Bracanto. Tarsem Singh (The Fall, Immortals) was set to direct but left the project. Quentin Tarantino was reportedly approached but said no thanks. As late as 2011, Warners confirmed that it was still trying to get the project up and running. Finally in 2013, it was announced that HBO had ordered a pilot for a Westworld TV series. But it was not until June of 2016 that the full trailer for the series was released by HBO. While we are certain that Ed Harris will make a great Gunslinger, we would have liked to have seen Arnie give it a shot.
11. The Movie And The Snake Malfunction
In the 1973 film, the first sign that things are going well comes in the snake scene. In Westworld, even the snakes are robots. So, when the snake bites good guy John (James Brolin (aka Mr. Barbara Streisand), you know things are not as they should be. First he tries to shoot the thing. It won’t die. Then the snake jumps him and gives him a nasty bite. He can’t die because it’s only a robot snake, but he’s well and truly teed off by the fact the thing bit him. Something’s not right in Westworld. Of course, there are not any robot snakes, so cue the real snake milked of its venom just in case. They even padded Brolin’s arm with cotton and leather, just in case. But the snake was too smart for them. It managed to sink its teeth into the actor’s arm. “No”, Brolin probably said, we are definitely not doing any retakes.
10. That Gleam In The Eye Of The Gunslinger
In the movie, Yul Brynner wore light reflection contact lenses to get that other-worldly gleam in his eye. It’s one way of spotting the robot. And we actually got to see some scenes through his pixellated perspective. But there were problems, as the movie was plagued by a number of minor injuries. During one of the many shootout scenes, a bit of wadding from a blank cartridge hit Brynner in the eye, scratching his cornea. So, no contacts for Yul for a while. He was sidelined while the eye healed. But there’s another problem: if you look at the screenshots of the world from the robot’s point of view (below), you may well question if the robots could really see much of anything. There’s one scene where one of the good guys is being chased by the Gunslinger and he (almost) evades him by standing still. How dangerous can a robot that sees a pixellated world be?
9. HBO Is Making The Robots The Good Guys
In 1973, there were good guys (people) and bad guys (the robots). The head villain was Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger. And he was the last bad guy standing. HBO has turned that one on its head and now the people are abusive and mean, and the robots are out to set things right. It’s a nice twist and will probably make the show all the more interesting. Cast members have tried to play down all the s*x rumors with talk of how “interesting” the show will be. Certainly, the trailers show a dark, intriguing universe where you can spot the robot in an instant, but it’s clear that the people are the problem, not the robots. In Jurassic Park, a kind Richard Attenborough played the slightly dotty scientist. In the TV show, we get Anthony “Hannibal Lector” Hopkins. We think that’s a hint.
8. The 1973 Film Was a Total Technological Marvel
While the movie didn’t invent computer viruses, it does have one of the earliest references to the bane of computer owners everywhere. When the robots start breaking down, the rather boring scientists have a prolonged discussion of a disease that causes the malfunctions. In other words, a computer virus. It was also the very first feature film to use digital image processing for the pixellated vision of the robots. There are only 2 minutes and 31 seconds of the images, but they mark a real advance in computer special effects. Michael Crichton was proud of the accomplishment and wrote that in the end “we obtained a sort of blocky, animated effect that was remarkable in 1973 – and a cliche seven years later, when similar imagery appeared in every thing from perfume ads to paintings by Salvador Dali”. Salvador Dali was inspired by Westworld?
7. Westworld Extras Were Paid $600 For…
That was the headline to the Deadline Hollywood posting about the goings on in what HBO had described as a “dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” And we all know what “sin” means in film and TV. S-E-X. And we all know about “those” scenes in Game of Thrones. It probably would not be as popular as it is without them. Oh joy. Would Westworld be even raunchier? Variety reported that SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, was up in arms over reports that extras on the show were required to “be fully nude and/or witness others fully nude and participate in graphic sexual situations”. It’s kind of confusing because HBO and Warner Brothers Television said it ain’t so. Apparently, the villain of the piece was some outside casting company who got the wrong end of the stick. Good old HBO and Warners would not even think about doing such a thing. We aren’t so sure about that. Well, guess we will have to wait and see
6. Pity About the Sequels
The movie Westworld was a big hit, critically and at the box office. It got an 86% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. So, more of same? Definitely. In 1976, came Futureworld. The people who gave you Westworld, have revamped the theme park into Futureworld. Don’t worry. It’s 100 percent safe. Well, you can guess what happens. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a resounding thumbs down with a 33% rating. Then in 1980, Michael Crichton had the idea for a TV show, Beyond Westworld. It was so bad that only five episodes were made and CBS cancelled it after the third episode aired. In the TV show, a mad scientist is attempting to reboot the theme park’s robots for his own evil ends. Yes, we thought it sounded pretty bad, too. But Crichton didn’t give up on TV. And in 1994 he created ER, the medical drama that featured an incredibly young George Clooney.
5. Thank You Game of Thrones
Jonathan Nolan has gone on record saying that without Game of Thrones, Westworld would not have happened. Why? Well, it pushed the TV boundaries on a lot of levels. There’s the nudity and s*x thing for sure. But Game of Thrones opened the way for TV portrayals of alternative universes. One of the tag lines for Westworld is about questioning your concept of reality. Nolan and others who connected with the show also say that it owes more to movies like The Matrix than the 1973 Westworld. HBO will serve up a world where the humans are the bad guys and the robots, who are not really real (or are they?), are the good guys. It could be an interesting journey.
4. How Gunslinger Inspired The Terminator and Halloween
In 1960, Yul Brynner played Wild West gunslinger Chris in The Magnificent Seven. In the film, an oppressed Mexican village hires seven gunslingers to get rid of the bad guys. And Brynner’s Chris was head gunslinger. Gunslinger in Westworld was a kind of spoof of the Chris character. He even wears essentially the same costume in both films. The performance was noted by Hollywood A-Listers. In 1978 when John Carpenter made Halloween, he based the “indestructible” character of Michael Myers on Brynner’s near indestructible Gunslinger. And when Arnold Schwarzenegger saw the film, he would remember Brynner’s star turn and use Brynner’s performance as the bases of his performance in 1984’s The Terminator.
3. Yul Brynner’s Hat Sold For HOW Much?
The hat was reportedly custom-made by the production company for Yul Brynner (Gunslinger) to wear in Westworld. It even has Yul Brynner’s name handwritten in it. So, how much is a secondhand 40-something old black hat worth? According to iCollector.com, it recently sold for $27,500.00, plus a $5,500 buyer’s premium, bringing the total to $33,000. But don’t worry, they are also throwing in the original box and labels. Apparently, it was delivered to Brynner at his hotel. Do you think that sounds like a lot of money? Maybe, but it’s cheap by lightsaber standards. The lightsaber wielded by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the first Star Wars movie pulled in some $240,000. Then there’s the dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. That sold for $4.6 million.
2. How Alka-Seltzer Saved the Day
Towards the end of the movie, Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger malfunctions and kills the James Brolin character John. His buddy Peter (played by Richard Benjamin) is chased by Gunslinger. Then the tables turn and Peter zaps him with acid. He smokes and fizzes. How did they do it? Nowadays, we would have a computer generated image. Back in 1973, they used a low tech, but convincing technique. Brynner’s face was coated with an oil-based makeup that was mixed with ground Alka-Seltzer. Cue the acid (really water) and plop, plop, fizz, fizz. The Gunslinger is down but not out. He comes back and goes after Peter, yet again. But, in the end, the bad guy goes down in flames with a little help from sole survivor Peter. But wait, how did Gunslinger played yet again by Brynner make a comeback in the 1976 movie Futureworld? Talk about a total body makeover.
1. The Whole Thing Started With A Trip To Disneyland
Writers get inspiration from real life. And in the case of Westworld, the whole thing started when Michael Crichton took his kids to Disneyland in California. Like parents everywhere, he probably thought he would just have to grin and pretend to enjoy himself. Then he went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. You float through a magical world of animatronic pirates and wenches. The things move and talk and brandish swords and take long swigs of rum. Believe it or not, the ride predates the movies, having first opened in 1967. Nowadays, there is a Johnny Depp inspired Jack Sparrow. What, Crichton probably thought, would happen if the things malfunctioned and came after us? Welcome to Westworld Land.