The Last of Us: the film that was not, the forbidden word on the set, the Argentine wink and other curiosities of the successful HBO Max series

Based on the homonymous saga of video games for PlayStation, The Last of Us became one of the first television phenomena of 2023. The series imagines an apocalyptic future, in which a strain of the Cordyceps fungus decimated the population and turned millions of humans into bloodthirsty zombies. But the heart of the story is set in Joel (Pedro Pascal), a man who bears a heavy loss, and the relationship he establishes with Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a girl who could be key to ending this pandemic. .

To celebrate the end of its first season, here’s a review of some of the most interesting secrets behind this HBO Max hit.

Pedro Pascal as Joelhbomax

Given that the history of The Last of us is widely known in the world gamer, the series does not keep too many secrets for those who enjoyed the two installments of that saga. And perhaps for that reason, Neil Druckman, creator of the series, and showrunner Craig Mazin they asked their two main stars, Pascal and Ramsey, not to go anywhere near the video game but to focus strictly on the scripts of the series, probably hoping that they would be able to create their own versions of Joel and Ellie.. And although Bella respected this request, Pascal confessed that he could not comply and that he tried the first of the games (luckily, his null abilities as gamer prevented him from going too far).

Sam Raimi (center) with Spider-Man and Mary Jane

After the release of the first video game in 2013, Sony’s film division launched a film version. The director chosen was sam raimiresponsible for the initial trilogy of spider-man and of the recent Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness. But Although Neil Druckman was very enthusiastic about the adaptation, when he began to develop the plot with Raimi, the two found themselves with irreconcilable differences. Apparently, Druckman wanted to keep the almost intimate tone of his story, while Raimi was looking for something large-scale along the lines of World War Zdownplaying the dynamic between Joel and Ellie. Shortly thereafter the project stalled, and the film The Last of Us it was forgotten until it came into the hands of HBO (but that’s another story).

Anna Torv as TessCapture

In the dystopian future in which the plot takes place, Joel has a very close relationship with Tess (Anna Torv), a valuable ally in smuggling efforts, and a kind of partner behind closed doors. But she quickly meets a tragic fate, when she chooses to put Joel and Ellie’s mission above her life. Although Tess is one of the most noble characters, within the framework of a story full of betrayals, the original plans posed her as a villain. In the initial treatment of the story, Druckman had thought that she was going to feel betrayed by Joel after choosing to care for the child. For that reason, Tess was going to tirelessly pursue them, but at the climax of the plot she was going to be killed by Ellie.

Pedro Pascal (and baby Yoda) in The MandalorianDisney+

Since 2018, Pascal has been in charge of The Mandalorian, one of the most important titles of Disney +. Because of this, when Druckman and Mazin confirmed that they wanted that actor for their project, the Chilean had to request authorization from the leadership of the Mickey Mouse company. Luckily for the fans, who celebrated the choice of Pascal for Joel, the actor received light to see and from Disney they allowed him to star in said project. Interestingly, both Mando like Joel they agree that they are cold and distant characters, but with a heart of great nobility that makes them a kind of adoptive parents. By the way, each chapter of The Last of Us The interpreter means an estimated 600 thousand dollars, a figure that makes him one of the highest paid television stars today.

The Last of UsLiane Hentscher

It is enough to watch an episode to verify that The Last of Us It is a proposal in which there is a strong investment. Although the natural landscapes are great protagonists of the story, the multitudinous battles, the innumerable scenarios and the digital effects require no less than a sum of money. And that was confirmed through an article published in The New Yorker, where it was detailed that “HBO gave this series a budget that exceeded the first season of game of Thrones”. That way, taking into account that the first five years of this fiction had an investment of six million dollars per episode, it is estimated that this first season of The Last of Us could count on each episode, with a budget close to ten million dollars.

From Arya Stark to Ellie? It could have happened… Archive

When the first game was released, the resemblance was undeniable. Ellie was a carbon copy of Elliot Page (at that time, identified as Ellen Page), and for this reason fans asked that star for the adaptation project directed by Sam Raimi. But when that film stalled, that wish never came to fruition. When years later HBO launched its version, some of the actresses who expressed interest in playing Ellie were Maisie Williams (Arya in game of Thrones) and Kaitlyn Dever. For her part, the actress Ashley Johnson, who played Ellie in 2011 during the scenes performed in the video games, due to being much older than that character, could not be taken into account to compose the protagonist in the series. (although he did make a cameo that savvy fans were quick to spot).

Ellie with Dina, in one of the most moving episodes of the first season.Capture

Neil Druckman, Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are active activists in favor of the rights of the LGBT community. In this sense, the series (and the video games) contain numerous elements that make this fight visible, and the nature of many romantic ties in the story escape heteronormative representations. Faced with this, the usual haters that flourish in networks shared innumerable hate messages against the inclusion of these themes, and Bella Ramsey did not take long to establish her position. “If someone does not want to see the series because it has a plot that revolves around a gay character, or because a trans protagonist appears, it will be their fault and of course they will be choosing to stay out.”, pointed out the young actress.

Joel and his daughter SarahCapture

The popular myth that says that “everywhere there is an Argentine” is of course also true in The Last of Us. When he was making the first video game, Neil Druckman summoned Gustavo Santaolalla to compose the incidental music. The Oscar winner dyed the epic of Joel and Ellie with melancholic melodies, and gave his imprint to a story with enormous dramatic charge. in dialogue with THE NATIONDruckman himself confessed that the musician also worked on the series, and explained that “Santaolalla is part of the DNA” of The Last of Us. “I think this story without him would be very different. We knew it was going to bring authenticity to this adaptation,” he noted. But The local connection does not end there because, as a tribute, the author of the video game dedicated one more detail to our country: in the game you can see a photo of Joel with his little daughter wearing a national team shirt. According to him, this was a way in which Druckman thanked Santaolalla for his invaluable collaboration.

Pedro and Bella, on a filming break, trying not to say “zombie”Capture

During filming there was an expression that the producers did not want to hear, an expression so hackneyed that they demanded that the actors and crew not use it: the word “zombie”. Firm in their intention to distance themselves from similar proposals, and making it clear that The Last of Us It goes way beyond just killing undead, Mazin and his team asked all collaborators that no one refer to the humans taken by the Cordyceps as “zombies” during filming..

Although the series presents new layers of history and a polished character evolution that perfectly enriches and complements the saga presented on PlayStation, the number of nods to the video game that each episode has is remarkable. Unlike most adaptations, which tend to ignore the source material, Mazin and his team copied countless details and sequences from the game. From the harrowing opening scene in which Joel and his family escape in a truck, going through details such as Ellie not knowing how to swim, to that imposing scene that finds the protagonist shooting from the top of a window, the series The Last of Us claims and submits to the gaze of the video game that precedes it, confirming that this visual language is just as rich as that of a traditional television narrative

The season finale of The Last of Us premieres this Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max.

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