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Why Singapore was chosen as a filming location for HBO's hit series Westworld

The cast of the sci-fi show was in town to film recently. And co-creator Lisa Joy told CNA Lifestyle no other city has the same “poetic skyline” as Singapore does. Plus, our people were "great to work with".

Why Singapore was chosen as a filming location for HBO's hit series Westworld

HBO's Westworld filmed in various locations in Singapore such as Chinatown, the Helix Bridge and the National Gallery Singapore. (Photos: Pexels, Visit Singapore, Unsplash/Ilham Wicaksono)

HBO’s science-fiction series Westworld is currently one of the biggest TV shows there is at the moment. And according to its co-creator Lisa Joy, all it took was one look at photos of Singapore for the team to decide they had to shoot here for the coming third season.

“We needed to get on a plane and travel 19 hours (to Singapore) because there’s nowhere else like this,” she told CNA Lifestyle during Westworld’s recent shoot. “It’s the ways in which nature entangle with modernity here.”

(Photo: Westworld; Art: Jasper Loh)

She added: “Your architecture is so spectacular and quite singular and unique. There is a poetic shape to the skyline of Singapore that no other city has. There is a beautiful curvature to it that is really unique and interesting.”


CNA Lifestyle was the first to report last month that the third season of the award-winning series known for its plot twists, stunning visuals and philosophical dive into the idea of artificial intelligence, was to be filmed in the Lion City. 

READ: Is HBO’s Westworld headed for Singapore to film an episode for Season 3?

Since Jul 1, a host of Westworld stars including Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and Season 3 newcomer Aaron Paul had been spotted in and around Singapore during the 10-day shoot.

The cast filmed at Chinatown’s Smith Street, Orchard Road, the National Gallery, Esplanade Park, SOTA ( School of The Arts), Helix Bridge, Marina One, the hotel Parkroyal on Pickering, LASALLE College of the Arts and Oasia Hotel Singapore, using a mix of local and international crew.

This is in addition to the previously reported shoot locations of Robinson Road in the Central Business District (CBD) and Pulau Ubin.

CNA Lifestyle also found out that Singapore-based actors Nikki Muller and Bobby Tonelli scored speaking roles in the Westworld Singapore episodes.

The team “needed to look towards the future” for Season 3, said Joy, who co-created Westworld with her husband Jonathan Nolan. The latter, who is the brother of The Dark Knight trilogy director Christopher Nolan, was also in town during the shoot.

READ: Westworld cast visits Haw Par Villa and other places while shooting in Singapore

“We needed to create a world of fiction that was immersive, new, beautiful, gripping and fascinating. Looking outside the window at Singapore right now, where else would we go after seeing this?” she declared, from our interview spot at the Esplanade.

Westworld co-creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan on the Season 3 set in Singapore. (Photo: HBO)

“The wonderful thing about filming here in Singapore is that looking through the lens of a camera, you're always able to appreciate the beauty of things even more, because you really focus on it," she said. “You start to notice the subtleties, the cutaways, the negative space within it and the ways in which nature entangle with modernity here.”

Aside from how Singapore looked, having “great people and great crews” were also major reasons why the team chose to film here.

“You have a limited amount of time to get a lot done while travelling (to film),” the writer-producer-director explained. “And you will be working with new teams – you want to make sure that you're working with the best in the world. And that's what Singapore has to offer.”

Lisa Joy on Westworld Season 3 set in Singapore (Photo:HBO)


The Westworld writer-producer-director, who is on her first trip here, also revealed that she’s been writing during their Singapore stint, “polishing things up with Westworld’s incredible team of writers”.

“It’s been so inspiring but also so distracting because I want to go out into the city and eat everything!” she shared, with a laugh.

Joy added: “I was telling my team that I don’t want to leave Singapore! I just want to sit here forever and write. It's also appealing to me personally because you're immersed in a culture that feels right at home.  It’s this mix of modernity and antiquity which I find very interesting, and I never want to leave.”

Half of Joy’s family is from Asia, which is why she has always wanted to shoot in the region. 

“I don’t have family here, but I have a lot of friends from Singapore, who would regale me with tales of the architecture, the culture, the people and the food,” she said.

A friend of the couple was the first to point out Singapore as a possibility – Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, who is currently busy with a 280-metre-high plant-filled skyscraper at the Central Business District, which is set to open in 2021.

“We were talking with him one night about designing the future. And we asked him where would be the most spectacular place be? He said, ‘Come to Singapore and check it out.’”


Given some of Westworld’s controversial storylines, were there any difficulty getting the thumbs up to shoot in Singapore?

“I think the thing that most people want to know when you're going to film in their country is simply: Do we like your show? Are you going to be respectful of our people in our culture, and our locations?” she said.

“So, of course, Westworld has dark themes, but they are universal themes. And part of the thing about our show is that it’s not necessarily socially or politically specific.  What we’re dealing with is on a human scale ... and people get that.”

Scheduled to premiere in 2020, the third season of Westworld is said to depart from the original two, with a new story arc that looks to leave the confines of the titular theme park where guests intermingled – sometimes fatally – with humanoid "hosts" to venture into the real world

Stream all episodes from Westworld Seasons 1 and 2 on HBO GO.

Source: CNA/gl