HBO, Sky Atlantic and NOW are launching The Last of Us TV show this week. But hold on, wait a minute, wasn't this supposed to be a film?


If you've got a feeling in the back of your mind that there should have been a Last of Us movie, you're not wrong! And if you're wondering why it never happened, you've come to the right place to find out.

The original Last of Us game was released in June 2013, and was widely praised for its 'cinematic' storytelling by players and reviewers. Hollywood took the hint, with film plans being announced as soon as March 2014.

Sony's Screen Gems brand (the company behind the Resident Evil films) was announced to be teaming on the project with Naughty Dog (the developers behind the games) and Ghost House Pictures (a production company founded by Sam Raimi, director of the Evil Dead films and the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies).

At the time, Naughty Dog's Evan Wells was quoted by IGN as saying, "Our partnership with Sam Raimi, Ghost House Pictures, and Screen Gems to develop a film based on The Last of Us universe is a perfect fit." So, what went wrong? Read on to learn more!

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The Last of Us film: Why the movie didn't happen

To start with, things seemed to be pressing ahead. Neil Druckmann, the creative director of the game, told Game Informer in January 2015: "I just finished a second draft, and we did a table read with a bunch of actors."

At that point in the film's development, Druckmann said: "There are some big changes, but the tone and what the story’s trying to say is pretty faithful to the game." That was basically the last positive-sounding update.

By April 2016, Druckmann had changed his tune. He told IGN: "We had a table read, got the script to a good place and it kind of entered development hell like these things tend to do. There hasn't been any work done on it in over a year and a half."

Producer Sam Raimi spoke to IGN in November 2016, and he explained that there were differences of opinion between Druckmann and unnamed parties from Sony.

Raimi said plainly that "Neil's plan for it is not the same as Sony's". That sounds a lot like that age-old industry adage of 'creative differences', doesn't it?

Raimi added: "And because my company doesn't have the rights, I actually can't help him too much. Even though I'm one of the producers on it the way he set it up, he sold his rights to Sony, Sony hired me as a producer by chance, and I can't get the rights free for him so I'm not in the driver's seat and I can't tell you what Sony and Neil together will decide on. If they do move forward I'd love to help them again."

In answer to a follow-up question, Raimi clarified: "Yes, I'm attached to it. I'm not too sure what that means. Right now it's just sitting there. They don't want to move forward, and it's not my place to say why, and Neil, I think, is in a slight disagreement with them about how things should go so there's a standstill. And I don't have the power to move it."

Looking back on this period, Neil Druckmann told the Script Apart podcast in 2021: "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?' [...] I think that’s ultimately why the movie wasn’t made."

During a big interview with Druckmann, The New Yorker said in January 2023: "Druckmann respected Sam Raimi, who had been hired to direct The Last of Us, but he mistrusted the executives involved, who constantly asked for things to be bigger and 'sexier.' His aesthetic touchstone was No Country for Old Men; they wanted World War Z. He also began to fear that 15 hours of gameplay couldn’t be condensed into a two-hour feature."

Even more recently, in The Hollywood Reporter's latest cover story, Druckmann said: "Sam [Raimi] gave really solid notes, but it was an impossible task." He reiterated in this interview that "Think World War Z" was the sort of note he'd get from Sony about the movie.

The Hollywood Reporter summarised what happened next, saying: "Druckmann began hoping his film version would die. Eventually, he got his wish. The rights reverted back to Naughty Dog, where Druckmann was on his way to co-president."

Eventually, in March 2020, it was announced that Naughty Dog was partnering with HBO and Craig Mazin, who helmed Chernobyl, to create a live-action TV show based on The Last of Us, instead of the previous attempts at a film adaptation. Druckmann remained involved as a writer and executive producer on the show, which will see the light of day at the end of this week. And so, this particular apocalypse story has a happy ending.

Read more on The Last of Us:

The Last of Us will be available from 16th January on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW, with an Entertainment Membership for just £9.99.

Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to find out what's on this week.


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