After the departure of pilot director Johan Renck, Craig Mazin‘s adaptation of the hit post-apocalypse video game The Last Of Us won’t be the Chernobyl reunion we expected. But! HBO has settled on one very exciting replacement: THR reports Beanpole director Kantemir Balagov will helm the pilot, which Mazin co-wrote with the original game’s writer and creative developer, Neil Druckmann.
Balagov coming aboard the project means The Last of Us is about to feel somber as hell, a fitting vibe for a game that makes you feel terrible for pretty much its entire runtime. (It’s awesome, 10/10, would recommend.) The filmmaker first came to prominence with the dark Russian-language drama Closeness, but really made a splash when he brought the meditative war drama Beanpole to the Cannes Film Festival and nabbed the Un Certain Regard Best Director Award. The film, which follows two women navigating the trauma of a post-WW2 Leningrad, was selected as Russia’s entry for Best International Feature Film at last year’s Academy Awards.
If you’ve never played The Last of Us, congrats on having a lower blood pressure than anyone who has. The pulse-pounding, often devastating series kicked off with the first entry in 2013, telling the story of a man named Joel who develops a fatherly bond with a young girl named Ellie in a world ravaged by a terrifying, contagious disease. The follow-up, 2020’s The Last of Us Part II, upped the drama and the emotional stakes and emerged as undisputedly one of the year’s best experiences.
HBO gave the adaptation a series order back in November 2020, with Executive Vice President of HBO Programming Francesca Orsi saying, “Craig and Neil are visionaries in a league of their own. With them at the helm alongside the incomparable Carolyn Strauss, this series is sure to resonate with both die-hard fans of ‘The Last of Us’ games and newcomers to this genre-defining saga.”