Jonathan Nolan Is Ready to Unleash ‘Fallout’ and Finish ‘Westworld’
The writer-director-producer on his upcoming Amazon sci-fi series, how he wants to go back to ‘Westworld’ and the lessons of Peak TV: “If the lesson was to ease back on complexity or weirdness, I don’t want to learn that lesson.”

I've never played Fallout. But I also never played The Last of Us, and love that show.1 This adaptation, which premiered this week, looks compelling – I'd be worried it's almost too whimsical, but the DHARMA Initiative-like subversion mixed with a little of the old ultra violence seems like a good counter. The latter, of course, was also used to great effect in Jonathan Nolan's and Lisa Joy's Westworld (more on that below).

The evolution of gaming has clearly now made for a fairly seamless transition to the screen – well, the other screen, well actually, the same screen, just television/film content instead of games. Nolan clearly agrees:

When Todd and I first sat down for lunch, the bar was not only not high, it was nonexistent — especially in the TV space. You would have people adapting a first-person game and [a studio would be like,] “So the show is going to have a first-person point of view.” No, that’s a grammatical tick of the game, that’s not how you adapt it. It’s always nice to be the first one. But when somebody makes something as good as The Last of Us, it makes it easier, because suddenly everyone understands what’s possible.

Also, I love comic books, but how many people do you know actually go to comic book stores? Compare that to how many friends you have who play video games. There was a run in the late 2000s of games where the storytelling was provocative and exciting, and there was a lot more punk rock in video games than I had seen in the movie business. When people have spent 50 to 100 hours in a world, their level of investment is very different.

Yes, it was really only a matter of time before videogames made for great content in film/television formats – both the audience and filmmakers simply needed to age into it, just as they had done previously with comics.

Is there any possibility that Westworld‘s original planned ending will be dramatized in any form — whether as a graphic novel or a movie or anything? Do you still have hope for that?

Yes, 100 percent. We’re completionists. It took me eight years and a change of director to get Interstellar made. We’d like to finish the story we started.

While Westworld almost got too lost in its own maze in the latter seasons, the early days were fantastic. Perhaps this inadvertent pause, while working on things like Fallout, will help Nolan and Joy get back to it and get it back to its form to complete it. You could easily see a Westworld movie, just as the creators of Deadwood were eventually able to end their western as well.

In other odds & ends of the interview, guess who wrote the most famous line from The Dark Knight? The same guy who rowed crew at Georgetown with Bradley Cooper – and apparently broke his back doing so! Mainly, I can't get over the fact that Jonathan Nolan speaks with an American accent while Christopher Nolan speaks with a British one.2

1 Admittedly, I haven't played a lot of videogames in recent years/decades. Some Nintendo Switch games and the occasional iOS game. But the reality is that it was one of the elements of my life that I cut out to make room for family. I miss gaming sometimes, but I'm also worried I'd be overwhelmed by how much the art form has evolved -- hence games like Fallout and The Last of Us. One day...

2 Undoubtedly due to a very intertwined childhood for both kids -- British father, American mother, British upbringing, American summers. But Jonathan is both younger (and so learned to "speak American" earlier) and whereas Christopher went to college in England, Jonathan stayed in America and attended Georgetown -- hence the Bradley Cooper overlap above.