Westworld premiered on HBO on Sunday, becoming the network’s highest-viewed premiere of a new series since the first season of True Detective, hitting 3.3 million viewers. The following morning, the internet was a frenzy with reviews, responses, and verbal digestion of the weirdness that is Westworld, based on the 1973 film.
Set in a dystopian theme park populated by lifelike androids and ruled by possibly evil (or maybe just “morally compromised” — TBD) human creators. Like in all stories of fabricated worlds, something breaks, and the story begins.
But what was most engrossing about the first episode were the performances by the actors playing robots and androids. They MOVED like robots and androids — but in the most subtle ways. A glitchy twitch of the eye, a tiny tremor under the skin. Are these actors really so in control of their every typically-involuntary movements that they can rehearse and perform such minute tics? Turns out, there was some significant VFX involved.
The show’s VFX supervisor Jay Worth explained to Inverse that heavy-yet-precise post-production effects had to be employed to make the performance just “off” enough to be believable. Of the scene where Old Bill drinks with Dr. Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins), Worth says, “We changed his performance entirely, but it’s really subtle,” Worth says. “We gave him these little stopping and jerking things, his eyelids and hands and arms and how he moves. It was so effective in making it feel like this older model that was not quite as smooth.”
He also noted that the show’s many flies were “often real and replaced digitally only when necessary.”
That mean they had a fly trainer/handler on set who placed real flies on actors faces. EGAD.
However, Worth was also careful to explain that the digital effects were used as minimally as possible, and that the actors really are incredible enough to carry much of the subtlety needed in the performances on their own.
Well, color us impressed.