‘Westworld’: Jonathan Nolan Recalls Butting Heads With HBO & Their “Handwringing”: We Were At “Loggerheads”

Three months after it was renewed for season five, HBO abruptly changed course and suddenly canceled “Westworld” last year, the dystopian science-fiction series by creator Jonathan Nolan (co-writer on ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy) and his wife and creative partner Lisa Joy. “Westworld” wasn’t cheap to make; the ten-episode first season was reportedly produced on a budget of approximately $100 million, with per-episode budgets somewhere between $8 million to $10 million, and the pilot episode alone costing $25 million to produce.

READ MORE: ‘Westworld’: Jonathan Nolan “100 Percent” Wants To Make The Show’s Fifth & Final Season: “We’re Completionists”

While it’s unclear if “Westworld” cost that much in its later seasons, ratings precipitously dropped off after the convoluted season two, which led to a shaky finish to complete two more seasons before eventually being canceled. Regardless, it sounds like the creation of the series was a bumpy road from almost the beginning.

In a recent long-form podcast appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Nolan, promoting his upcoming post-apocalyptic series, “Fallout,” reflected on the origins of making “Westworld” and painted a problematic picture of HBO execs second-guessing them and even shutting them down during production of season one.

“Even from the beginning, the first season was tough,” Nolan admitted. “It was the first piece of science fiction that HBO had done really, I think ever, so with that original [HBO] regime that hired us, that bought the pitch, there was some handwringing about what the show could be. They had some ideas of what they wanted it to be and we eventually came to loggerheads and had to shut down and had to sit there and cut and figure out and have the confidence and faith in ourselves of what we made.”

Nolan then said the tide against the show shifted when HBO’s CEO Casey Bloys came on board to run the network, and he got it and understood what they were trying to make.

“And then eventually Casey Bloys took over the network, and he came to us, and he watched five episodes and said,’ I don’t get it [the problems that others are seeing], it’s great, let’s go,’ and we went back to work,” he explained,

Nolan suggested he realized early on that “Westworld” was going to be a big challenge with executives no matter what because of all the wild twists and turns they had planned.

“With ‘Westworld,’ we knew from the first season onwards this was a big swing, and so you better make each season count,” he said. “You better make sure each season tells a complete story, settle your debts, walk away, and if there’s a chance to go back and tell more of the story, great.”

Nolan has previously said he’d love to finish “Westworld” and do a fifth season, and he echoed the sentiment again. But with “Fallout” about to enter the world and reportedly potentially already getting a second season greenlight, it doesn’t sound like it would happen anytime soon.

“So if we never get a chance to do it,” he said of a fifth season, “the experience of making that show was such an extraordinary one, that cast, that crew, that collaboration with me and Lisa… it was very very special. So if there was a chance to do it again, I’d jump all over it.” Watch the interview below.