The Last of Us: 9 surprising things you might not know about HBO's computer game adaptation

Check out our list of trivia, surprising facts and Easter Eggs for HBO's The Last of Us - one of the most highly-anticipated TV shows of 2023.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 13 January 2023 - 11.37pm
The Last of Us key artwork

Stream The Last of Us weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW from 16 January

The Last of Us TV series has finally arrived on our screens a decade after becoming one of the most played and loved computer games of all time.

Early reviews for the series suggest that the HBO show has broken the computer game curse and managed to capture the horror and heart of the original in its adaptation.

Starring Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) as the two leads Joel and Ellie, the apocalyptic drama mixes horror with emotional personal stories. You’ll be hiding behind your sofa in one scene and sobbing uncontrollably the next.

Here are some surprising facts about the HBO series – which you can stream weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Monday 16 January – that you might not know…

1. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey have starred in a HBO smash hit together before

Although Pedro and Bella had never met before making The Last of Us, they both starred in HBO's global phenomenon Game of Thrones.

Pedro had a memorable short-lived role as Oberyn Martell in the series, before he met a head-squashing ending. And Bella would go to star as fan favourite Lady Mormont in later seasons.

“I fell in love with Lady Mormont like everyone else, I was a little fanboy. Don’t say you watched my scenes?” Pedro told Rotten Tomatoes, in a joint interview with Bella.

His co-star joked: “I didn’t. But I did hear you get your eyes squashed out!”

2. There were plans to make a Last of Us movie, but it didn’t work

This HBO series isn’t the first attempt to bring The Last of Us to screen. The game's huge success initially sparked plans for a movie and Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) was signed up to direct.

Neil Druckmann, the creator of The Last of Us game and executive producer for the TV series, said that the film failed to get off the ground because it was losing the essence of what made the game great.

Rather than following the source material, the movie was cutting out chunks of the story and trying to turn the story into a big blockbuster.

"A lot of the thinking and notes were like 'how do we make it bigger?' Druckmann told the Script Apart podcast.  "I think that's ultimately why the movie wasn’t made."

3. Other star names were considered to play Ellie

Neil Druckmann admits that casting Ellie required “dozens and dozens” of auditions.

He told The Hollywood Reporter that when he was working on the movie he spoke with Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams and Booksmart actress Kaitlyn Dever did a table read.

When the audition process restarted for the TV series, Ramsey blew the producers away with her tape.

“It was like Ellie realised in live action,” said Druckman.

4. Creator Neil Druckmann hit back at casting criticism from game fans

It feels like a right of passage for every TV adaptation these days to face criticism before an episode even airs about “woke” casting and minor changes from the source material. It happened on House of the Dragon and there have also been complaints online from a more toxic element of the The Last of Us fanbase.

Druckmann has responded to the complaints, describing the fans as “misguided”.

"They're hanging onto superficial things and think that if those things change, somehow we've got it wrong,” he told Yahoo.

“But I would like to ask them: When you first played the game and [you met] Sarah, was it her relationship to Joel [that affected you] or that she had blonde hair? What's important versus what's not?

“To me, it was more important to capture the essence of those characters when we cast them.”

5. The Last of Us isn’t going to turn into The Walking Dead

The Last of Us will inevitably face comparisons with another phenomenally successful apocalypse survival series The Walking Dead.

However, one key difference between the two shows will be their duration.

The Walking Dead ran for 11 seasons and is still alive through various spin-offs that are coming in the next couple of years. The Last of Us, however, is going down a very different route and will just do a single season for the first computer game and a second season for game 2.

“We have no plans to tell any stories beyond adapting the games,” said Druckmann.

“We won’t run into the same issue as Game of Thrones since Part II doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.”

Craig Mazin added: “I don’t have any interest in a spinning-plates-go-on-forever show.

“When it becomes a perpetual motion machine, it just can’t help but get kind of … stupid. Endings mean everything to me.”

6. Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal were told NOT to play the computer game

But did they listen? Bella says she followed the advice of the producers, who didn’t want her to copy the performance of Ashley Johnson in the game.

Pedro was a little cheekier and ignored them.

“I tried to play the game, and I was very, very bad at it,” Pedro told Wired.

“It was important to me to play notes that were directly related to what was originally in the game - physically, visually, vocally.”

7. Fans of the game can look forward to loads of Last of Us Easter Eggs

Although writer Craig Mazin didn’t want to spoil and give anyway any details to fans, he has promised fans of the game that they can look forward to lots of little Easter Egg references they will enjoy.

“There are so many throughout,” he told Radio 1.

“All I will say is, our philosophy was everything needed to have resonance. Even for those who don’t play the game. But we were always looking for opportunities to reward people.

“It’s love. I love the game. They love the game. We want to take care of them as we bring it to the rest of the world.”

8. The Last of Us TV show will sound familiar

One of the most important signings for the TV series was composer Gustavo Santaolalla.

Gustavo is a two-time Academy Award winner for Brokeback Mountain and Babel, but more importantly he’s also the man behind The Last of Us computer game soundtrack.

He will be bringing some familiar haunting music to the series and expanding upon it for the TV show.

9. The Last of Us might get a third computer game

Druckmann has been quite busy getting the TV show launched, but there is still hope and constant rumours of a third Last Of Us computer game. The relaunch of the game on PS5 reignited rumours last year that plans are afoot for a sequel, and demand is likely to increase when the TV shows earns the game even more fans.

The creator told Script Apart that he had worked on a story outline for TLOU 3 with Halley Gross.

He said that the important factor was to feel “jazzed” and challenged by a storyline in a third game. Fingers crossed we’ll hear more soon, because another game means another potential season of the TV show.

Stream The Last of Us weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Monday 16 January

The Last of Us image credit: © 2023 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.