In search of Westworld
Do you enjoy watching the HBO series Westworld? When I first watched the show, I wondered where some of the stunning outdoor shots had been filmed. Interesting land features and sunny skies serve as a backdrop in this series. I found out that several filming locations were in Utah so we visited them on a recent trip.
Origins of Westworld
This series is based on the 1973 Westworld movie, written and directed by Michael Crichton. In this sci-fi classic, wealthy tourists visit an Old West-themed amusement park where they can indulge in any of their fantasies with no consequences. The “hosts” in the park appear to be human but they are actually androids. Though the skies appear to always be sunny, there are dark plot twists involving the hosts in both the movie and the series.
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy worked on the screenplay for the new series. It debuted on HBO in October of 2016. You may have heard of Jonathan’s brother, Christopher Nolan. The two of them co-wrote the screenplays for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and several other successful films. Jonathan worked as a writer, director, and executive producer on the Westworld series, roles he also held for the Person of Interest series.
Jonathan Nolan visited many locations to scout out places to film Westworld. Though much of the filming takes place in California, he was drawn back to southern Utah for additional shots because of its dramatic landscapes. He visited many places on a 12-day Utah trip in search of shooting locales.
Utah is no stranger to the film industry – almost 1,000 motion pictures have been filmed there. The Utah Film Commission courts potential filmmakers by showing off their beautiful state and by offering them several incentives. Some of the locations Jonathan Nolan chose to highlight in Westworld have been featured in past films including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Stagecoach, and Rio Grande.
When you see shots of a train entering the Westworld theme park with new and returning visitors, they are actually passing through areas traversed by current-day State Route 128, east of Moab. You may catch glimpses of the Colorado River meandering through canyons that border that highway.
The film crew transported a train car on the bed of a flatbed truck and had it drive back and forth to get some of the shots.
In the first episode, The Original, The Man in Black character is featured in a dramatic scene as he scalps one of the robot hosts. The background in this scene features images from Dead Horse Point State Park, west of Moab.
Many of the overhead shots in various episodes were filmed over parts of Castle Valley and Fisher Valley, east of Moab. Panoramic views of the landscape were also shot at these locations.
There’s a lot of space in these locales for Westworld’s characters to interact with the environment. It’s almost as if the landscape itself is a character in this series. If you, like me, were impressed by that character and want to see more of it, consider a trip to Utah.
Season 2 of Westworld is rumored to start in late 2017 or early 2018.
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