Luke Hemsworth has just played a prominent part in one of the TV events of the year – Westworld, HBO’s TV adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1973 techno-noir thriller movie.
The sci-fi drama is about an amusement park populated by lifelike robots who start to develop consciousness and become self aware.
The show takes the basic idea behind Crichton’s film – robots run amok at a theme park – and builds on it to deliver a more thoughtful, philosophical drama about what it is that defines us as human.
The first season ended its run on OSN last week and left fans clamouring for more – season two is due in 2018 – but Hemsworth had a shock admission to make when we spoke at the Dubai International Film Festival on Saturday: he has never seen the original film.
“I never got around to watching it,” says the star of Neighbours and The Anomaly, who plays Westworld’s security chief. “I kind of knew it was a film and it existed, but I actually still haven’t seen it.”
This was not a problem, however.
” I think the show kind of bears a resemblance in name only,” he says. “It’s kind of the opposite to the movie in that the original film followed the people and their story, whereas this really follows the hosts – the robots – and they’re fleshed out much more thoroughly than the human characters.
“But you’re right, it probably is part of my repertoire that’s missing. I should probably revisit it soon.”
Hemsworth was joined by co-star Jeffrey Wright at Diff for an “In Conversation” appearance yesterday.
Wright, who plays Bernard Lowe, a programmer who helped to shape the artificial intelligence of the robots, is more familiar with the source movie.
“I can’t think of a better film to revisit,” he says. “Michael Crichton was so ahead of his time back in the early 1970s that the premise has only become more relevant now. It was such a great opportunity to be able to revisit this idea and explore his ideas in the long-form drama format we have now with HBO.”
While he resists comparing the movie and the TV show too closely, Wright does seem to think the new version might have improved on an idea that helped to define and inspire a genre – robots-gone-bad – that includes box-office hits such as The Terminator (1984) and Blade Runner (1982).
“Crichton was a brilliant writer and a brilliant thinker but, and I say this most respectfully, I’m not sure that directing was his thing,” says Wright. “It’s a fantastic film with a fantastic premise and fantastic performances, and so we grabbed at that and tried to race down the line to the next level with it.”
Both Wright, who also starred in The Hunger Games films and Bond movies Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and Hemsworth are full of praise for the team behind the Westworld reboot.
“[Executive producer] J J Abrams and [writers] Lisa [Joy] and Jon [Jonathan Nolan] are huge fans of the original movie, but they’ve taken it with due deference and just blown it apart and brought it into the contemporary arena in a way I think Crichton would approve of,” says Wright.
While the show has been a hit with audiences and critics, it emerged from a troubled production process.
“We got scripts as we were shooting,” says Hemsworth. “The production team were working so hard, literally minute-to-minute to get the scripts to us before the next episode.
“They ended up having to take a three-month break from shooting to catch up with the scripts. We literally knew nothing about our characters’ journey, and I think that really worked with those big twists and reveals – because we didn’t know what was happening, either.”
Season two will be less chaotic, Wright says, thanks to an extended break.
“We finished shooting in May or June, I think,” he says. “We go back into production with Westworld in, I think, June of next year, because this time they’re taking the time to write all the scripts in advance so we don’t have to stop as we did with season one.”
In the meantime, Wright is focusing on other projects, including the movie OG, which was shot in a high-security jail using real-life prisoners and staff as actors.
“We’ve finished shooting that, and we’re just in the process of editing, so who knows – hopefully we may be back here in Dubai with it next year.”