'Westworld' Photo Sparks a Real-Life Conspiracy Theory


Westworld generates a ton of fan theories, but the second episode of the show’s sophomore season renewed interest in a conspiracy theory about the real world. No, not the lands outside of the boundaries of Westworld, but the actual real world that we all live in. See, the appearance of William’s wife, a character who had only previously been seen in a stock photo, has die-hard fans in a tizzy because it seems like there’s some suspicious connection between the photographer and Westworld.

In Season 1, Dolores’s father had a breakdown when he found a photograph of a woman in the dirt. By the end of the season we learned that it was a picture of Juliet, William’s wife and Logan’s sister. That picture was actually a Getty Images stock photo, seemingly unrelated to the show.

It got a lot harder to believe that the stock photo was really unrelated to Westworld when the model in the photo, Claire Unabia, made an actual appearance in Season 2, Episode 2. Did HBO, realizing that they wanted to give Juliet an actual role in the series, reach out to the model in that stock photo, or was this planned from the start? The photographer who shot the picture, Erik von Weber (a name that does sound like Dolores’s co-creator Arnold Weber) has shot some other pictures that have similarities to Westworld. Redditors noticed that von Weber took stock photos of samurai who looked similar to the ones in the show. He’s also taken pictures of medieval characters, perhaps a nod to a Medieval World?

Of course, this theory isn’t perfect. Other redditors found citations for von Weber’s photos going back to 2005, well before Westworld. It’s possible — likely, even, that the similarities between the samurai can be simply explained. The designers on the could’ve just been using the photos as reference points.

But, Juliet’s reappearance is a little thornier. The Huffington Post managed to speak with Unabia, who said that the stock photo that started it all wasn’t actually supposed to be a stock photo.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know if they got that photo that way, because that picture, as far as I know, wasn’t for a stock photo,” she explained. “I don’t know if that’s actually the way that they got it. I’m not sure. I’ll just put it out there that maybe it wasn’t actually a stock photo.”

“It was for a particular job,” she continued. “What I recall was for technology, [an] internal technology picture, so that’s what I recall taking it for.”

She went on to explain that she didn’t know her picture would be on Westworld until that first episode aired, and that HBO didn’t contact her directly until after the season finale, when they asked her to appear in Season 2.

When asked by HuffPost, HBO had no comment and Getty Images said von Weber wasn’t speaking to the press.

What does it all mean? Well, if nothing else, it means that Westworld is making us all paranoid conspiracy theorists.

New episodes of Westworld air on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern.