Fans of The Last of Us can spend nearly as many hours watching the show as they did playing the video game on which it is based. Executive producer and co-writer Craig Mazin has revealed on the Scriptnotes podcast that the first season of the HBO series will consist of 10 episodes.
Mazin told co-host John August that like his previous show for HBO, Chernobyl, he had a straight-to-series order for The Last of Us, which comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, they can’t go back and “retool” certain things after they’ve started, which is what HBO did with the Game of Thrones pilot, as August pointed out. Mazin and his crew are currently filming the first episode in Alberta, Canada, with Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal in the lead roles as Ellie and Joel, two survivors who travel across a post-apocalyptic United States.
Mazin stated that the show will have “five directors across 10 episodes” and that “the writing for the first three episodes, and to some extent the first four episodes, is kinda done.” Mazin also admitted that he certainly has “budget challenges” on the show, but that being said, he described the budget as “healthy,” saying “we have the budget to make an excellent show, and so we shall.” Additionally, Mazin gave further insight into the production timeline:
“On a television show that has multiple episodes, individual episodes will have prep going on while you’re producing other episodes. The time you spend in advance of shooting, in prep, varies from project to project. The rule of thumb for an average feature film, for a $40 million movie, typically you’re looking at 3-4 months of prep. For a show like the one we have been doing, we’ve been prepping for many, many, many months. And we will continue to prep as new episodes come up.”
Mazin is developing the show along with Neil Druckmann, who co-wrote the video game and its sequel. Wunderkind Russian director Kantemir Balagov (Beanpole) is helming the first episode, after Mazin’s Chernobyl collaborator Johan Renck was forced to drop out. Joining Balagov on the roster of directors are Jasmila Žbanić and Ali Abbasi, which means that the names of two more directors have yet to be announced.
In a prior interview, Druckmann revealed that the show will “deviate greatly” from the video game in certain respects. “For example, in the game, there’s so much action you have to have to train the player about mechanics,“ Druckmann said. “You have to have more violence and more spectacle to some degree than you would need on a TV show because you don’t need to train people on how to use a gun.”
The Last of Us (2013) and its sequel, The Last of Us Part II (2020), are among the most celebrated video games of the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4 eras, with both titles winning multiple end-of-the-years awards. There is no current release date confirmed for the upcoming HBO series.