One of the terrifying things about launching HBO’s cerebral AI series Westworld, according to co-creator Jonathan Nolan, was “that half of it was this dead genre.” Speaking at last night’s screening of the season two finale at London’s BFI Southbank, Nolan expressed his love for Westerns, but admitted that launching a new show set in “a moribund genre” had been an early cause for concern.
When the original film was written, the Western was more prevalent, suggested an audience member. Did co-creators Nolan and Lisa Joy have a plan to explain, in the backstory of how the Westworld park came to be, “if some change in the near future made us all sick of comic book movies and go back to Westerns?”
“Well, I certainly hope we get sick of comic book movies,” answered Nolan, to a round of laughter. “Though there are some really great ones.”
“That’s how film has always worked,” he continued. “The Western had a remarkable lifespan from the thirties to the sixties as it migrated from film to TV and we might see something similar happen with superheroes where they sort of… we’re clearly in a glut of them now.”
“Having contributed to the superhero movie a couple of times [with scripts for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises], I’m not terribly sure how well that genre will age. There’s some weird subconscious stuff that’s been forming—a bunch of characters dressing up in tights beating the crap out of people…”
Westerns though, said Nolan, “are a fascinating, fascinating genre, and it’s a shame that we’re done with it.”
“Not totally done with it!” corrected Lisa Joy.