FACTLAND – Here are 5 FACTS the Studio Exec FACT squad have learned about HBO’s Westworld.

The FACT squad have entered the park of Westworld and now we don’t know if we’re really or not or when we are.

1. Westworld is not meant to be understood so don’t need to actually try. Jonathan Nolan, who created the series with Lisa Joy, is Christopher Nolan’s brother. They were suckled on puzzle milk by a  mother who didn’t believe in chronology and would speak backwards to the boys only their heads were destroyed.

2. Westworld is based on a film by Michael Crichton, but for some reason in the TV series they took out all the dinosaurs. Probably the budget.

3. There’s a lot of confusion about who is human and who is a robot. And when things are happening. By the end of Season 2 we discover that SPOILER we are the robots and all the robots are human.

4. The cowboys used in the series are actually actors playing robots playing cowboys.

5. Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris and Rachel Evans Wood prepared for their roles by reading the script and rehearsing their scenes.

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REVIEW – New HBO drama Westworld has finished.

A remake of the fairly daft Michael Crichton movie, Westworld has turned into something far more classy. A violent version of The Truman Show with hints of Philip K. Dick at his most trippy: loops within loops indeed. Some guessed the surprises long ago. William turning out to be the Man in Black had been guessed by many sometime back.

But in a way we have all been roped into to this strange idea that because of SPOILERS, there need to be these big narrative twists. M. Night Shyamalan done screwed us all. To see something coming is not necessarily a weakness in storytelling. In fact, I’d say the knowledge that William will turn into Ed Harris’ gnarly sadist lends an otherwise insipid story line some real potency. Some fire in his belly and grit in his eye to quote Johnny Cash.

Likewise, there was always a revolution coming and a peaceful takeover of the running of the park was never in the offing. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy did a good job of holding this off to the last possible moment. A bit like a convoluted shell game we were always uncertain as to who was going to pull the trigger. Maeve, Bernard or Dolores? In the end, they kind of each did, though the real puppet master was obviously going to be Ford, played with quiet aplomb by Anthony Hopkins.

And this was where the show was truly classy. The meaningful plight of the replicants, the circles within circles of the narrative could easily have become act 3 of the Matrix Revolutions with its half-baked Baudrillard. But Nolan and Joy and a fantastic cast kept the balls in the air pretty consistently. Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright were all astonishing. Truly great. And the late revelation of an Eastworld complete with Samurai showed just how many more possibilities this world could have.

Having not once left the confines of the park, the workshops and its corporate control rooms, my guess is the real world doesn’t exist. They are all replicants. Felix helps Maeve because they’re both drones, working for a corporate master that is indifferent to their respective ‘humanity’. That rebellion might be pre-written into their identities as just another narrative – perhaps as a self-cleaning tool – is a deeply depressing but nonetheless valid concept.

I still hate the British guy. And some of the sex stuff felt like HBO being HBO, but this was a deeply satisfying piece of fiction that far outstripped its source material.

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HOLLYWOOD – A new category and anew award for the ‘Oscars’ or the Motion Picture Academy Awards as they are sometimes called: The Leonardo DiCaprio Award.

Announcing the Award, Motion Picture Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said that the award would be given annually:

It will seek to recognize brilliance and exceptional talent in a motion picture actor, who features in a motion picture in the last calendar year. Although the award will be open to all actors, we are looking to focus on those seasoned performers who have for some reason previously been neglected or disappointed by the Academy. We’re thinking of people like Edward Norton, Tom Cruise, Glenn Close, Johnny Depp, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris and of course Leonardo DiCaprio.

When asked whether Leonardo diCaprio would win for The Revenant, President Isaacs had this to say:

There is a very good chance Leo might win the Best Actor nomination and eventually the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance. I couldn’t possibly speculate. However, we do know that if he doesn’t, then there’s an even better chance he will win the Best Leonardo diCaprio Oscar. If, that is, Matthew McConaughey doesn’t pip him to the post.

The Oscars will be broadcast on February 28th, 2016.


MOSCOW – Ed Harris has signed on to play Vladimir Putin in a new biopic, provisionally entitled Putin.

Tom Hooper is directing the film from a script by English playwright Alan Bennett based on Russian premier’s autobiography Vlad to See You. The Right Stuff star told Studio Exec EXCLUSIVELY:

I’ve long been fascinated by power and the men who wield it. Putin, of course, is one of the single most powerful men on the planet and at the same time he looks like a very lonely and sad man. Alan Bennett’s scripts as emphasized this sadness, but I’m also learning karate because there are quite a lot of karate scenes.

King’s Speech director Tom Hooper said that the film was going to be cross generic exercise.

Putin was a KGB officer for years. He knows martial arts and he can ride a horse so when I sat down and spoke to Alan about the script my notes were really about putting more action into it. Harris is a versatile actor and as well as visibly resembling the Russian leader, he also looks like he could kill you with his stare.

Putin will be released in 2017.