When the video game The Last of Us was released in 2013, it looked like a perfect candidate for a big-budget movie or TV adaptation. Naughty Dog, the developer behind the popular Uncharted series (which is also getting the movie treatment starring Tom Holland as the Indiana Jones-meets-Benjamin Franklin Gates adventurer Nathan Drake), dreamed up the pummeling tragic story of the game, which follows a grizzled smuggler as he escorts a young girl across a zombie-packed wasteland, with a number of cinematic reference points like Night of the Living Dead and Sin City in mind. The game, which earned rave reviews, even being declared a masterpiece, and sold over a million units in its first week, fit right in with other early ’10s zombie favorites like The Walking Dead and World War Z.
Though the game’s publisher Sony announced in 2014 that it had signed on to distribute a Last of Us movie produced by Evil Dead and Spider-Man filmmaker Sam Raimi, the project got caught up in development hell and never came out. Now, HBO is producing a Last of Us series from Chernobyl producer Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, the game’s co-writer and co-director. Will this one actually come out? Yes, it looks like it actually will-barring a zombie apocalypse. Read ahead for everything we know about what will likely be one of the biggest genre shows of the next few years.
When will HBO’s The Last of Us be released?
HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us was first announced back in March 2020, months before the game’s highly anticipated sequel, The Last of Us Part II, was released in June 2020. The show received a series order from HBO in November 2020 and casting news has started to trickle out this year. So, when can we actually expect to see the show? Given possible delays in production due to COVID and how long it can take to shoot a big, ambitious project like this, it feels reasonable to guess this one won’t actually come out until 2022. But there’s no official word on the release date yet.
What will The Last of Us be about?
The Last of Us tells the story of Joel, a survivor of an apocalyptic event involving some deadly mutant fungi, and Ellie, a teenage girl who Joel agrees to smuggle out of a quarantine zone. The zombies-like creatures in the game are referred to as “The Infected” and the first game is set roughly 20 years after the collapse of civilization following the initial outbreak. In the game, you spend a lot of time avoiding and fighting your cannibalistic enemies with various, often makeshift, weapons, but, like with most ambitious zombie fare, there’s quite a lot about human frailty in there and plenty of ethical conundrums to face. The game itself was praised for its capacity for hope even in its dire scenario, subversions of tired tropes about women needing to be saved, and the story at-large-UK gamer magazine Edge called it “the most riveting, emotionally resonant story-driven epic” of the PlayStation 3 era. With so much charged material to work with, HBO’s adaptation should be able to turn the game’s bleakness into a powerful, unique take on a survival horror series.
Who has been cast in The Last of Us?
In February 2021, it was announced that Pedro Pascal would play Joel, the male lead in the series. Recently, he’s played the helmet-wearing title character in Disney+’s The Mandalorian and the wish-granting villain in Wonder Woman 1984, after his memorable stint as charismatic revenge-seeker Oberyn Martell in Season 4 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. So, The Last of Us will be a quasi-GoT reunion because the other main part, Ellie, will be played by Bella Ramsey, who played straight-talking fan-favorite Lyanna Mormont in the final seasons of the long-running fantasy epic.
There are other roles besides Joel and Ellie, like all of the other survivalists (sometimes cannibals) they encounter on their journey to safety, but HBO hasn’t made any additional casting announcements yet. At the very least, it will be exciting to see Pascal in a series where you see his face every episode.
Who are the creators behind The Last of Us?
HBO’s The Last of Us will be produced by Craig Mazin, the Emmy-winning writer behind the Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, one of the key creators behind the game and the co-president of Naughty Dog, the game developer behind The Last of Us. It’s rare to see the original developer of a game so closely involved in the writing of a Hollywood adaptation, but, from a creative standpoint, it sounds like Mazin and Druckmann hit it off.
“Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus,” Mazin said in a statement when the project was initially announced. “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 was equally complimentary of Mazin. “From the first time I sat down to talk with Craig I was equally blown away by his approach to narrative and his love and deep understanding of The Last of Us,” said Druckmann. “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.”
In June of 2020, Chernobyl director Johan Renck was announced as the director of the pilot and an executive producer for the series, but he had to leave the production because of a scheduling conflict. (Last year, it was announced Renck was directing a space drama starring Adam Sandler for Netflix.) Renck was replaced by Kantemir Balagov, the filmmaker behind last year’s acclaimed Russian drama Beanpole.
Also, in March of 2020, Druckmann announced that Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who created the music for both The Last of Us and its sequel, will handle the scoring duties for the series.
Will the show follow the story of the video game?
We’ll have to wait and see how closely the series follows the exact story beats laid out in the game. (As Game of Thrones fans know, adaptations can go all sorts of ways.) When the project was first announced, the Hollywood Reporternoted that the series “will cover the events of the original game, which was written by Druckmann, with the possibility of additional content based on the forthcoming game sequel.”
In an interview with BBC Sounds’ Must Watch webcast (via Syfy Wire), Mazin indicated that he’s aware of the fan expectations for the series. “One anxiety I think fans of something have is that, when the property gets licensed to someone else, those people don’t really understand it, or are gonna change it, or make it stupid,” he said in the interview. “And in this case, I’m doing it with the guy who did it. And so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand. Not to undo, but rather to enhance.”
Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.
Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.
What is special about the year of the Rabbit?
As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.
What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?
There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.
New South Wales
Darling Harbour Fireworks When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.
Dragon Boat Races When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.
Lion Dances When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.
Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.
Auntie Philter When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.
Lunar New Year Festival When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.
BriAsia Festival When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.
Chinatown Adelaide Street Party When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.
Crown Perth When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.