LAST OF US HBO SERIES: BASED ON THE POPULAR VIDEO GAME, THE NEW SERIES OFFERS A NEW TAKE ON POST-APOCALYPTIC ACTION.
Seven years after it was first announced that a movie would be made from The Last of Us video game, and five years after those plans collapsed, Sony is bringing the insidious and terrifying horror game to HBO television.
The Last of Us, based on the 2013 game, is set in 2033, 20 years after the world’s population, and thus society, has been decimated by a fungal brain infection that first makes its victims violently insane and feral, then destroys their eyes, causing them to use echolocation to find people… and rip out their throats. Here’s everything we know at this point about the anticipated adaptation.
WHAT THE GAME IS ABOUT?
In The Last of Us, surviving boyfriend Joel Miller is hired to guide a teenager named Ellie through the wasteland to doctors who think Ellie might be the cure for the plague. On their way from Boston to Salt Lake City, they encounter the usual post-apocalyptic trails, including wandering groups of infected people, a couple of cannibals, some huge jerks and a giraffe who escaped from the zoo and is trying to get out of there while he can.
It is expected that while the series will largely follow the plot of the first game, it may include elements from The Last of Us Part II, which takes place five years after the first game. However, it seems more likely that the series will include elements from The Last of Us: Left Behind, an Ellie-centric prequel set before the events of the first game.
However, the series is expected to expand on the game’s storyline, apparently including some elements that were previously cut from the game. In an interview on the BBC Sounds “Must Watch” webcast, series co-creator and screenwriter Craig Mazin said of his Naughty Dog colleague, “Neil [Druckmann] said at one point: “‘You know, there’s this thing we talked about [in the first game] for a while,’ and then he told me what it was, and I was like – gop! – Okay, my jaw dropped, that’s going to go in. We have to do it.”
Mazin also said: “So the changes we’re making are to fill in and expand. Not to cancel, but rather to improve,” adding that “it’s not like we just decided, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be cool if in one episode Joel and Ellie got on motorcycles and ran into a gang of motorcyclists?’ There is no episodic nonsense here. Everything new and different about the story we’re doing is connected organically and seriously, which I think fans of the game and newcomers alike will appreciate.”
WHO WILL PLAY THE LEAD ROLE?
The cast so far announced includes several video game veterans. The producers chose Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones,” “Mandolorian”) to play Joel’s father, who has experience voicing Paolo in the 2016 game Dishonored 2, and Ellie will be played by Pascal’s colleague from “Thrones” Bella Ramsey, who voiced Freya in “Doctor Who Infinity: Invasion of the Daleks in Time. In addition, Merle Dandridge of The Flight Attendant will play Marlene, as she did in the first game (and briefly in the second).
Anna Torv (Fringe, Mindhunter) is the latest actress announced. Deadline reports that Torv will play smuggler Tess, who accompanies Joel to get Ellie to the Fireflies.
The cast also includes Us veteran Jeffrey Pierce of Bosch, who voiced Joel’s best friend Tommy in both games but, according to Deadline, will play the recurring role of “… rebel in the Quarantine Zone,” and Con O’Neil of Chernobyl, who voiced Tichy Gren in Dark Souls II, will join Murray Bartlett (Iron Fist) as “…a survivalist living alone in his isolated town.” As for those who don’t have any games on their resume, we also have Gabriel Luna (Agents of S.I.T., Terminator: Dark Fate), who has been cast as Joel’s younger brother Tommy, and young Nico Parker, who made her debut in the Disney film Dumbo, invited to play Joel’s daughter, Sara.
WHO IS DEVELOPING THE SERIES?
The series will feature the same names as the games. Druckmann, who co-wrote and co-directed the first game and co-wrote and co-directed the recently released sequel, is co-writing the series along with Mazin and will probably write or co-write some episodes, and one of the executive producers of the series is Evan Wells, CEO of Naughty Dog, the company that created The Last of Us.
As we mentioned, some of those who worked on The Last of Us games will also be helping out on the HBO show. Along with the aforementioned Druckmann and Wells, the show will feature music by Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed the score for both games as well as TV shows like Jane the Virgin and Making a Murderer. The series will also be co-produced by Asad Kizilbash, who is working on the upcoming Uncharted movie and has also worked on Sony games such as Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima and several parts of God of War.
As for the people working on The Last of Us who are not employees of Naughty Dog or Sony, the first episode (and possibly others) will be directed by Kantemir Balagov, author and director of the Russian drama Beanfield, while subsequent episodes will be directed by Ali Abbasi, writer/director of the 2018 film Border, and Yasmila Zbanic, who directed the 2020 Oscar-nominated film Quo vadis, Aida? Reportedly, two more directors have yet to be announced for the series’ first 10-episode season, but even this first set of established international filmmakers certainly raises the bar.
Other collaborators who may be familiar to TV fans, but not necessarily gamers, include the series’ executive producers, including Carolyn Strauss of “Game of Thrones” and “Chernobyl” and Rose Lam of “Altered Carbon.”
As for business, Sony Pictures Entertainment is producing The Last of Us in conjunction with PlayStation Productions. Sony Pictures Entertainment is no stranger to television, with credits including “Breaking Bad,” “Guys” and “Seinfeld.” As for the relatively new PlayStation Productions, The Last of Us is their first television series and only their second announced project after – fittingly enough – the aforementioned movie based on Naughty Dog’s Uncharted games. That film is scheduled for early 2022, and actors Tom Holland (Spider-Man from the MCU), Mark Wahlberg and Antonio Banderas will star under Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”).
WHEN WILL IT PREMIERE?
Like all television shows these days, the production of HBO’s “The Last of Us” movie adaptation was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, unlike projects that started filming and then had to stop, Mazin said in the aforementioned interview with the BBC that he and Druckmann had only just gotten to the scriptwriting stage, having already come up with what Mazin calls the “first cycle” of the series.
Thanks to Gabriel Luna’s Instagram post in early July 2021, we know that filming on the series has begun as originally planned. According to the Directors Guild of Canada, filming is set to end in June 2022, CBC reports, which means either we won’t see the series until late 2022, or – which is less likely, but possible – they are shooting two seasons in one stretch, and the first season could come out earlier. (A gamer TV fan can dream!).
Either way, The Last of Us won’t appear on HBO until late 2021, which isn’t great news for impatient fans, but it’s enough time for those unfamiliar with the game to finish playing it before the series spoils things.