HBO And Naughty Dog Announce ‘The Last Of Us’ TV Series In Development

Acclaimed studios HBO and Naughty Dog team up for what may prove the best video game adaptation yet.

Promotional work for ‘The Last of Us’. Photo Credit: Naughty Dog.

The hit PlayStation video game ‘The Last of Us’ is finally out of development hell and is coming to television, and what’s more to HBO. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Neil Druckmann, the writer of the game, is working with HBO breakout Craig Mazin, the writer of the award-winning mini-series ‘Chernobyl’, to adapt the multiple Game of the Year winner into an HBO show.

Already attached to develop the show is producer Carolyn Strauss, who previously produced ‘Chernobyl’, ‘Game of Thrones’, and ‘Deadwood: The Movie’, and Evan Wells, president of Naughty Dog. PlayStation Productions and Sony Pictures Television will also be involved in production. Along with Ruben Fleisher’s adaptation of ‘Uncharted’ starring Tom Holland, this marks Naughty Dog’s second adaptation in development.

‘The Last of Us’, a 2013 PlayStation 3 exclusive, followed Joel and Ellie as they navigated a post-apocalyptic America to find a group of resistance fighters who could develop a cure for the mutated Cordyceps virus that has rendered a substantial portion of the world into The Infected. 14-year old Ellie, who may contain the answer to a cure, is escorted by Joel, a world-weary smuggler, as they travel from Boston, Massachusetts to Salt Lake City, Utah.

The game was met with universal acclaim, according to Metacritic, and was awarded over 200 game of the year awards. Nowadays, ‘The Last of Us’ is considered a modern classic of gaming and sold over 1.3 million units in its first week and 17 million units after five years. The long-awaited sequel ‘The Last of Us Part II’, is being released May 29 this year.

HBO has confirmed that this series will follow the events of the original video game and possibly some of the story from the unreleased sequel game. Mazin said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, “”Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus. Getting a chance to adapt this breathtaking work of art has been a dream of mine for years, and I’m so honoured to do it in partnership with Neil.”

Druckmann, too, had kind words to say about his co-writer, “With Chernobyl, Craig and HBO created a tense, harrowing, emotional masterpiece. I couldn’t think of better partners to bring the story of The Last of Us to life as a television show.”

Before his work on ‘Chernobyl’, Mazin had primarily worked as a comedy writer for films such as ‘Scary Movie 3 and 4’, ‘The Hangover Part II and III’, and ‘Identity Thief’. ‘Chernobyl’ marked his first foray into television writing, where he also served as executive producer.

A still from ‘Chernobyl’. Photo Credit: HBO.

Druckmann, before helming The Last of Us, had helped write and design ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’, ‘Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’, and ‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’. ‘The Last of Us’ developed out of an idea Druckmann had during university, stemming from the film ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Following a cop with a heart problem protecting a young girl in the apocalypse. The cop’s heart problem allowed the player to switch to the young girl when it began to affect him.

HBO and Sony have been vocal about their excitement for the project. Casey Bloys, president of programming at HBO, said, “This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to partner with Craig, Neil, Carolyn and the teams at Sony, Naughty Dog and PlayStation to bring the virtual world of this acclaimed game to life.”

Co-president of Sony Pictures Television Studios, Chris Parnell, said “This is the first of many shows we intend to develop with our friends at PlayStation Productions. The Last of Us is a brilliant achievement in storytelling and character development, and we are lucky to have the opportunity to work with this team to adapt it.”

A scene from ‘The Last of Us’. Photo Credit: Naughty Dog.

‘The Last of Us’ series marks an unusual precedent in video game adaptations with the involvement of Druckmann coming in to help convert his work to television. However, there is sense to this choice as Naughty Dog has repeatedly attempted to bring a cinematic quality to their games.

A cast has not yet been announced and whether the original voice cast, Troy Baker as Joel and Ashley Johnson as Ellie, will have some role in the adaptation remains speculative. The most likely reprised role would likely be that of Bill, a paranoid business partner of Joel’s who the duo goes to. In the original game, Bill was played by veteran actor W. Earl Brown, whose previous work as Dan Dority on the HBO classic ‘Deadwood’ makes him a shoe-in to return. Potentially, the composer of ‘The Last of Us’, Gustavo Santaolalla, whose work on ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Babel’ has netted him two Oscars, may also return to score the adaptation.

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