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‘Westworld’ Creators Explain the Choice to Introduce Shogun World and Wanting to Make ‘An Homage to Akira Kurosawa’

Here's why Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy chose Shogun World over Medieval World and Roman World in Season 2 of the HBO series.

Jeffrey Wright, "Westworld"


Westworld” makes its long-awaited Season 2 debut at the end of the month, and fans are gearing up for the introduction of Shogun World. The samurai-filled world was teased in the Season 1 finale, and now showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are ready to talk about the setting’s introduction. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Nolan and Joy explain why they decided to bring the series to Shogun World over the likes of Medieval World and Roman World, both of which appeared in Michael Crichton’s 1973 film.

“Part of the reason we’re going to Shogun World instead of to Roman World or Medieval World is, yes, you saw those in the original film. But also if you’re doing a theme park, you wouldn’t limit it to the Western European or North American experience,” Nolan said. “You’d try to reach a global audience. So the idea is you have a texture here that’s totally different.”

Nolan explained that his love of Akira Kurosawa also played a factor in the creative decision: “Selfishly, it comes down to being obsessed with Japanese cinema as a kid and earnestly wanting to make an homage to Kurosawa and the other films I grew up watching. My older brothers and I watched Sergio Leone Westerns and Kurosawa’s classic samurai films and were fascinated to discover they had the same plot…Frankly, this was just a great excuse to go and make a samurai movie with all the trimmings.”

Lisa Joy said that Asian representation was another reason the show decided to head to Shogun World. Joy grew up in Taiwan and remembered all the “new talents with the actors, new fighting styles, and new types of wardrobe” she saw while watching local television and films. Shogun World allows the series to celebrate these styles and put more Asian actors front and center in prominent roles.

“We looked to all our [department heads] to make sure we had the full thrill of exploring Shogun World,” Joy said, “researching hair and production design and costume, working with choreographers who were skilled at fighting styles we haven’t seen before, and of course working with incredible talent, from Hiroyuki Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi, and the other actors that we cast and the extras filling it out. It was wonderful to see that world come alive.”

Nolan referenced Sonny Chiba movies as being another influence on Shogun World. Chiba is one of the most well known Japanese actors who specializes in martial arts. American audiences probably know him best as Hattori Hanzo in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill.”

“[Chiba movies] are the ones Tarantino is riffing on in his films with the superfluidity of gore and mayhem. This sense of an alternately brutal and beautiful world that raises the volume on what the guests might be looking for,” Nolan said. “It wasn’t just about gore, it’s also about being immersive. We wanted to feel like our story dropped into a totally different world. Basically, we have a whole episode in Japanese.”

Joy, however, is tampering expectations and wants fans to know that Westworld is still the primary setting of the series. “Westworld” returns April 22 on HBO. Head over to Entertainment Weekly to read Nolan and Joy’s full interview.

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