‘Westworld’ creator Lisa Joy on ‘Reminiscence’ and why NJ lingers in her reminiscence

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In a brand new film, Hugh Jackman helps individuals relive recollections so potent, it’s as if they’ve movies taking part in of their thoughts.

The gadget he makes use of to take them there — the Reminiscence — calls up occasions exactly as they occurred. Light, sound, emotion: No particulars are spared.

And if the Reminiscence had been actual, Lisa Joy is aware of precisely the place she’d go.


“I would love to revisit my childhood,” she says. “There are certain memories that I have this feeling for, but I can’t remember any of the details. I’d love to revisit them to kind of color them in. The first apartment that I lived in when I moved to Parsippany, it was in Rutgers Village, this little apartment complex.”

Joy makes her directorial characteristic debut with the sci-fi film “Reminiscence,” which is out on HBO Max and in theaters Friday, August 20.

The author and producer is named the co-creator and showrunner of the HBO collection “Westworld” alongside her husband, Jonathan Nolan, brother of director Christopher Nolan.


Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister and Thandiwe Newton as Watts in “Reminiscence.”Ben Rothstein | Warner Bros.

The Emmy-winning drama collection, which is predicated on the 1973 Michael Crichton film starring Yul Brynner, James Brolin and Richard Benjamin, follows android “hosts” of elaborate theme parks — together with the Old West-themed attraction within the title — who grow to be conscious of their very own programming.

“Reminiscence” serves up motion and romance in futuristic noir. Both the collection and the movie are grounded within the idea of reminiscence: the moments we recall and the tales we inform ourselves about these individuals and locations.

That’s the factor, the director says — recollections are mutable, slippery, like these psychological outlines of her previous dwelling in Morris County.

“There was a pool that we used to go to,” says Joy, 44, talking to NJ Advance Media by Zoom a bit of greater than per week earlier than the movie’s launch. “I recently went back right after I had my first baby. And I took a photo there and tried to remember all the details. But the weird thing about memory is it’s hard to remember if you’re remembering your memory, or if you’re remembering a story that you patch together based on a photograph or somebody else’s retelling. So to be able to go back and experience it again and know for sure how it was would be incredible.”

In “Reminiscence,” Hugh Jackman performs Nick Bannister, a person residing in a future Miami that’s greater than slippery — the entire metropolis is flooded by the rising sea degree. Joy calls the setting a “logical extrapolation” of the present actuality of local weather change. People shuffle via puddles and journey by boat in between half-submerged skyscrapers.

Nick considers himself to be a distinct type of ferryman. Like some type of reverse “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” it’s his job to attach his prospects with misplaced family members and tender moments. And typically, to determine the place the hell they put their keys.

“You’re going on a journey … a journey through memory. Your destination: a place and time you’ve been before,” he tells them, as if channeling Rod Serling. “To reach it, all you have to do is follow my voice.”

After every buyer affixes the required know-how to their heads and enters a particular tank, Nick and his technician Watts, performed by “Westworld” actor Thandiwe Newton, watch every Reminiscence via a type of digital curtain to see life because it actually occurred, with out the added filters of time and human error.

Westworld Showrunners Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy

“Westworld” showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan at SXSW in 2018. The present is at the moment in manufacturing on a fourth season, and Joy and Nolan are producing two different upcoming collection.Amy E. Price | Getty Images

Joy tapped her ardour for traditional black-and-white movies — Howard Hawks’ “To Have and Have Not” (1944) and noir like Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” (1958) and Jacques Tourneur’s “Out of the Past” (1947).

Rebecca Ferguson (“Dune,” “Mission: Impossible — Fallout”) performs Mae, an alluring chanteuse who captures Nick’s coronary heart after she asks him for assist recovering a easy reminiscence. The mysterious character leads him down a path of intrigue and hazard — and a minimum of one underwater combat scene.

Joy was born in South Orange to immigrant mother and father — her mom from Tawian and her father from Britain. She lived in Parsippany earlier than shifting to Chester, attending West Morris Mendham High School.

“I once had an internship at The Star-Ledger,” she says.

She can’t fairly pinpoint the yr of her native newspaper expertise — like many recollections, that one is a bit murky. But since that summer season, Joy grew to become a company guide, acquired her regulation diploma, handed the bar, began writing and producing TV, was nominated for a number of Emmys and helmed a characteristic movie distributed by a serious studio. Like all of Warner Bros.’ present slate of movies, “Reminiscence” will probably be obtainable on HBO Max for 31 days after its Aug. 20 premiere.


Rebecca Ferguson as Mae with Hugh Jackman in “Reminiscence.”Ben Rothstein | Warner Bros.

Joy grew up loving poetry and writing. She was shy, however loved late nights at diners ingesting espresso with pals.

“That’s also where a lot of my writing time was spent,” she says. “Because they let you sit there indefinitely. So I can bring a notebook and just scribble away for hours on it.”

Joy studied English and Chinese at Stanford University. After school, she saved writing for enjoyable in her spare time, at the same time as she managed the calls for of full-time jobs with lengthy hours.

“I never imagined a world where I would direct,” she says. “I never, to be honest, imagined a world where I would be able to even write professionally. My main concern was getting a job that had health insurance and being able to take care of my obligations.”

Those college loans weren’t going to pay themselves.

“I was far too responsible to contemplate a career in the arts,” she says with a light snigger.

Joy grew to become a guide at McKinsey & Co. and attended Harvard Law School earlier than she acquired her break as a TV author.

She married London-born Jonathan “Jonah” Nolan (who grew up between the UK and Chicago) in 2009.


Thandiwe Newton as Maeve in “Westworld.” She gained an Emmy for the function in 2018.John P. Johnson | HBO

The writers, who’ve two youngsters, met on the premiere of Christopher Nolan’s 2001 movie “Memento.” The hit film was based mostly on an idea from Jonathan, 45, who revealed it because the quick story as “Memento Mori” and shared within the Oscar nomination for greatest unique screenplay. He went on to write down a number of movies along with his older brother, together with “The Prestige,” co-starring Jackman, “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” which filmed in Newark, and “Interstellar.”

At the time of the “Memento” debut, Joy was working in company at Universal Studios, however she continued to write down for enjoyment and stress aid at any time when she may.

Jonathan Nolan, Joy’s future husband and artistic collaborator, inspired her to keep it up, giving her a present certificates for screenwriting software program.

Before heading to Harvard, Joy took on-line screenwriting courses at UCLA, the place she first workshopped her writing.

She hadn’t grown up with a lot TV at dwelling since her mom frowned upon it, however she caught up as an grownup, turning into a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan.

Thanks to a screenwriter good friend, a spec script for “Veronica Mars” that Joy wrote whereas finding out for the bar made it to author and producer Bryan Fuller. She was invited to grow to be a employees author in 2007 on his ABC comedy “Pushing Daisies.”

After regulation college, Joy had returned to a full-time job, but when she needed the writing gig, she needed to begin instantly. She abruptly pulled the plug on the work that had been her livelihood and left the company world, despite the fact that it meant she needed to pay again her firm for protecting the price of Harvard.

HBO's "Westworld"

Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Casey Bloys — chief content material officer for HBO and HBO Max — and producer J.J. Abrams on the second season premiere of “Westworld” in 2018.Jesse Grant | Getty Images

After “Pushing Daisies,” Joy grew to become the one girl writing for the spy drama “Burn Notice” on USA Network, the place she served as a producer in 2011.

“Westworld” government producer J.J. Abrams employed Joy and Jonathan Nolan (who created the CBS collection “Person of Interest”) to adapt the idea for TV. The product of their collaboration as writers, government producers and showrunners debuted in 2016, after vital delays.

But the big-budget present — reportedly $100 million within the first season alone — proved its price to HBO executives, successful 9 Emmys throughout its three-season run. A fourth installment is on the best way.

The TV drama, which landed Joy and Jonathan Nolan nominations for excellent drama collection and writing for a drama collection, is at the moment again in manufacturing after a brief hiatus because of COVID-19.

Next, the artistic companions, who’ve an overall deal with Amazon that Deadline reported to be within the $100 million vary or extra, are engaged on three additions to their sci-fi oeuvre.

Under their Kilter Films, they’re producers of Amazon’s “The Peripheral,” based mostly on the 2014 William Gibson novel of the identical title and starring Chloë Grace Moretz (”Suspiria”) and Jack Reynor (”Midsommar”); horror anthology collection “Unknown”; and “Fallout,” an adaptation of the post-apocalyptic online game franchise.

Joy says viewers can count on new “Westworld” episodes and “The Peripheral” to hit screens first.

In 2018, Newton gained a supporting actress Emmy for her efficiency as “Westworld” host Maeve Millay. The humanoid robotic tries to reprogram herself and exert free will within the face of preordained storylines and park friends residing out violent fantasies.

She seems in “Reminiscence” alongside her daughter, Nico Parker.

“You’re late,” Newton’s Watts tells Jackman’s Nick in a single scene.

“Late is a construct of linear time,” he replies.

The story, which options the decidedly low-tech parts of man, girl and heartbreak — with some corruption within the combine — examines reminiscence however can appear miles extra linear than “Westworld.” The collection is understood for such intricate shuttling between time, place and characters — like Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores Abernathy and the Man in Black, performed by Tenafly’s Ed Harris — that followers rush to learn recaps and explainers to untangle what really occurred.


Thandiwe Newton’s Maeve and Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores Abernathy in “Westworld.”HBO

Another “Westworld” common, Angela Sarafyan (Clementine Pennyfeather), seems in “Reminiscence.” Jonathan Nolan serves as a producer of the movie, and Joy labored with collection cinematographer Paul Cameron, composer Ramin Djawadi, manufacturing designer Howard Cummings, costume designer Jennifer Starzyk and editor Mark Yoshikawa on the film, which filmed in Miami and New Orleans.

Joy accomplished the “Reminiscence” script earlier than “Westworld” aired, whereas she was pregnant together with her first baby. The story offered for a reported $1.75 million to Legendary Pictures in 2013.

Prior to manufacturing on the movie in 2019 — the premiere was delayed by a couple of months as a result of COVID-19 reshuffled the discharge calendar — her solely directing credit score was for a 2018 episode of “Westworld.”

Joy envisioned Nick Bannister’s Miami as a drowned, post-war metropolis with a contact of “Blade Runner” aesthetic, a spot the place individuals attempt to adapt as barons hoard dry land.


Hugh Jackman searches for solutions in drowned metropolis streets.Ben Rothstein | Warner Bros.

“You also see the social pressures and the injustices that can arise from it,” she says. “That kind of environment is a logical backdrop for a noir like the one that I’m telling, because in these environments where the rules are being rewritten and when there’s an underpinning of inequality, unrest, it really shows the measure of who we are as individuals in society.”

In the movie, as in “Westworld,” ethical questions concerning the abuse of know-how appear to have been steamrolled to serve human needs.

Dwelling on recollections is one factor. Making a behavior of wanting again in such a vivid manner as a Reminiscence dangers dependence. Nick’s prospects can grow to be hooked on the know-how, despite the fact that they will’t work together with the individuals within the recollections, together with themselves (“Back to the Future” confirmed us the perils of that).

Nostalgia takes maintain as a result of there isn’t a lot to sit up for, Nick says. The identical might be stated for the uncertainty of life within the COVID-19 pandemic — a well being disaster with out a identified finish date.

“We each (had to) confront a lot of solitude for the last year and change,” Joy says. “And I think in moments of reflection and quietude like that it’s natural to think back on the past to try to savor the moments of connection and love and engagement that we had and look back on them. I, like everybody else, spent a good amount of time reminiscing.

“Hopefully, as the world opens back up, we can take all the things we reminisced about and the gratitude we felt for those experiences and carry it forward with us.”

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Amy Kuperinsky could also be reached at [email protected] and adopted at @AmyKup on Twitter.

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Amy Kuperinsky

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