Why The Last of Us Movie Didn’t Happen

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Druckmann makes it sounds like the upcoming HBO series has figured out how to adapt this beloved video game.

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While the small-screen adaptation of The last of us franchise is currently in the works, the plan was originally for the story of Joel and Ellie to become a film. While discussing the HBO adaptation of The last of us with the podcast Script Apart, Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann touched on capturing the essence of the source material while prioritizing drama over action, separating itself from the failed movie that never took off.

When Sony first saw the explosive impact the game had on audiences when it released, the company committed itself to a film adaptation that saw Druckmann back in the writer’s chair and Sam raimi producing. Shortly after, the project went into “development hell”, remaining dormant for years until HBO picked up the project for a series. Details regarding the cancellation of the big-screen project have been scarce, but Druckmann has now shed a light on the ultimate reason for the adaptation’s demise: “When I worked on the movie version, a lot of the thinking and notes were like ‘how do we make it bigger? How do we make the set pieces bigger? “Druckmann also said,” I think that’s ultimately why the movie wasn’t made. ”

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Image via Naughty Dog

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Unlike the canceled film adaptation, Druckmann goes on to argue that the television format allows them to tell the story in a more intimate way. He specifically discussed the creative team’s indie film-like style for the HBO series, one that focuses less on action and more on character drama.

“Our approach to The Last of Us was’ Let’s make it as an indie film. Let’s approach it as an indie film team, the way it’s shot, the way how small and intimate it feels. And with the show we get to lean into that even more because we don’t have to have as many action sequences as we do in the game. ”

Less focus on delivering big action set-pieces is a good thing for a solemn property like The last of us. Beyond the blood and gore, what remains with players long after their playthroughs are the deep relationships they create with the characters, which only comes after the story develops them with the maturity they deserve. Based on his comments, it seems Druckmann and company have their priorities straight this time around.

The Naughty Dog co-president is developing the series alongside showrunner Craig mazin, creator of HBO’s Chernobyl, who has proven to be quite adept at finding the humanity within disaster. Filmmakers Jasmila Žbanić and Ali abbasi are attached to helm episodes of the highly-anticipated series while Beanpole director Kantemir Balagov is set to direct the pilot.

HBO sets out to adapt the iconic story to the small screen with game of Thrones veterans Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in the lead roles, while Terminator: Dark Fate star Gabriel Luna also recently joined the cast. Druckmann’s recent comments will likely help assure fans the new adaptation will prioritize the game’s rich thematic elements. There is no release date yet for HBO’s The last of us series.

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