What happened to Sam Raimi’s ‘The Last of Us’ movie, explained

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us
Image via Naughty Dog

HBO’s The Last of Us has taken the world by a fungal storm, pulling in some fantastic numbers for HBO Max. But, a long-form series was not always the plan for Naughty Dog’s iconic video game series, having originally being conceived as a feature-length film with Sam Raimi attached to direct.

Neil Druckmann ultimately managed to find success adapting the game as an HBO series together with Craig Mazin, but why was a Sam Raimi movie not made? After all, he is an acclaimed director and could have delivered an excellent if truncated interpretation of the video game.

What happened to The Last of Us movie?

Where can I play ‘The Last of Us?’
Image via Naughty Dog

The project was first announced in 2014, one year after the game was released. Many names were rumored to have been in consideration for Ellie, including Maisie Williams and Kaitlyn Dever. Dever later appeared in a Naughty Dog game, playing Nathan Drake’s daughter in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Not much is known about why the film fizzled out other than what Raimi and Druckmann have said on the issue. It definitely doesn’t seem like there was anything between the pair of them that stopped the film from being made. Instead, it seems like there was a conflict between the producers of the movie and Druckmann. The producers were a subsidiary of Sony called Screen Gems, perhaps best known for the Resident Evil franchise. 

According to an interview with the New Yorker, Druckmann wanted a film more akin to No Country for Old Men, while Screen Gems wanted a movie resembling World War Z. Ultimately, the film entered development hell as Druckmann realized that adapting the project into a two-hour film based on a 10-16 hour game was not the best idea, especially seeing as The Last of Us is quite a story heavy title. 

Ultimately, Screen Gems gave up the rights, and that’s when Druckmann met Mazin. Raimi did express interest in helping Druckmann and Sony with the film if the project did move forward, but it didn’t and it turned out to be an HBO series instead. It probably worked better this way, as the show has premiered to critical success, and it has done well with audiences as well. In fact, most of the complaints seem to concern pacing issues, which would have been even worse if the game was condensed into a film.

You can watch the first season of The Last of Us on HBO Max.