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The Last of Us Star on Sam Raimi’s Scrapped Movie Adaptation

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The Last of Us is the HBO hit that almost wasn’t. In 2014, Sony’s Screen Gems — the genre label behind the Underworld and the live-action Resident Evil franchises — was announced as the distributor of a live-action movie adaptation of the PlayStation video game from Naughty Dog. Spider-Man and Evil Dead director Sam Raimi was to produce via his Ghost House Pictures banner, which backed such films as The GrudgeDon’t Breathe, and Slender Man. Co-creator Neil Druckmann, who wrote the video game, was hired to write the script. Nearly a decade later, The Last of Us would make its way to the screen — the small screen — as a nine-episode series on HBO.

In 2016, Druckmann said the project was languishing in development hell, with work coming to an 18-month standstill. Raimi later explained Druckmann’s plan for The Last of Us movie was “not the same as Sony’s.” (In a 2023 profile with The New Yorker, Druckmann named No Country for Old Men as his “aesthetic touchstone,” while the studio wanted a zombie blockbuster like Brad Pitt’s World War Z.)

“As good as it was, it was never gonna be a great movie,” Jeffrey Pierce, who played Tommy Miller in the video game and Kansas City rebel Perry on the TV show, recently told EW of the movie treatment. “In a two-hour runtime, how are you gonna tell 14, 17 hours of story? Then I think that there was some conversation about it maybe being an animation motion-capture movie series at some point, and that seemed like a good idea, but we’ve been down that road.”

Screen Gems hired Pierce to read Tommy’s part in a secretive script read-through for the planned movie adaptation that was scrapped and reworked as a television series from Druckmann and Chernobyl Emmy winner Craig Mazin. 

“The second that I heard that Neil and Craig had lunch together — I had just watched Chernobyl in a hotel room in Vancouver or something and was floored by this historical event — I knew that the two of them were gonna make something just about perfect,” Pierce said.

HBO’s The Last of Us premiered in January to rave reviews from critics and record ratings. The series premiere scored the network’s second-biggest premiere in more than a decade, behind only Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon, and subsequent episodes have only increased in viewership each week. HBO has already renewed the series for season 2.

New episodes of The Last of Us premiere Sundays on HBO and HBO Max. Follow for more The Last of Us on ComicBook.

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