Writer-director Michael Crichton's 1973 sci-fi-western Westworld still boasts one of the most high-concept premises of all time: "A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park." Such a genre mashup was rare for its time period, and the image of The Magnificent Seven star Yul Brynner as a robotic gunslinger has become (sort of) iconic.
Warner Bros. has been trying to remake Westworld for years, and now Variety reports that The Dark Knight Rises co-writer Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness) are teaming up to turn the property into a TV series for HBO, to be produced by Jerry Weintraub (Behind the Candelabra) and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions.
HBO has committed to producing the pilot, which will be directed by Nolan, who is also co-writing with his wife, Lisa Joy (Burn Notice). The remake series sounds like it will dig a fair bit deeper into the AI themes than the original, and will be “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin."
This project marks the next series collaboration between Nolan and Bad Robot, who are entering season 3 of CBS's hit series Person of Interest. HBO's pilot commitment denotes their faith in Westworld, which was followed up by a movie sequel, Futureworld and a short-lived TV series, Beyond Westworld.
Much like '70s cult-sci-fi favorite Logan's Run, launching a Westworld remake has faced years of obstacles. Names like Mirror Mirror director Tarsem Singh, Quentin Tarantino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Russell Crowe have all been attached at one point, with producer Jerry Weintraub now looking to TV as his best bet to get this long-gestating project off the ground.
Check out the wonderfully-70's trailer for the original Westworld movie below:
Westworld has a much lower profile than J.J. Abrams' other two famous sci-fi properties (his rebooted Star Trek franchise and a little film called Star Wars: Episode VII), but it's another chance to put some kind of fingerprint on a property which still somehow resonates throughout geek culture, even if its been on the margins for decades. The original film has its campy (yet weirdly sinister) pleasures, but expect Jonathan Nolan to put a grounded, somewhat realistic spin on the premise.
Still, the last time Hollywood combined two venerable genres, the world was treated to Cowboys & Aliens. However, that film didn't have the DNA of the late, great Michael Crichton behind it, and under the guidance of Nolan and Abrams - and within the anything-goes realm of HBO - this updated Westworld will definitely be worth checking out.
Expect more news on HBO's Westworld series as details emerge.