Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is one of the most critically acclaimed video game franchises of all time. Both games in the series (and DLC spinoff Left Behind) received glowing reviews, provided some tense post-apocalyptic action, and inspired millions of words of online debate. Now HBO is hoping to tap that with its TV adaptation, which is currently filming in Canada.
This will be among the biggest shows HBO has ever produced, with the producers confirming that the budget for each episode is at least eight figures. Industry insiders predict the cost could end up somewhere in the ballpark of $200-300 million, all told.
And it seems a hefty chunk of that is going to star Pedro Pascal, who will be playing troubled antihero Joel in the show. A report in Variety says he’s earning $600 thousand per episode, meaning he’ll walk away with $6 million for the ten-episode first season. This puts Pascal ahead of stars like Henry Cavill, who is apparently making 400 grand per episode of The Witcher.
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But Variety put this in context, noting that at the peak of network television, stars could get hugely lucrative back-end deals based on syndication. For example, the casts of Friends and Seinfeld have made an obscene amount of money from their shows constantly being aired over the years, whether it be on television or streaming. That potential doesn’t apply to streaming shows intended to remain exclusive to networks, but, let’s face it, it’s still a nice payday for Pascal.
I can’t wait to see what this megabudget adds up to. Craig Mazin (who wowed everyone with Chernobyl) is the lead creative force on the show: executive producing, developing, and writing the series. He’s joined by original creator Neil Druckmann, whose forthright and uncompromising storytelling has made The Last of Us stand out amidst a sea of other “zombie apocalypse” media.
The shoot began last month and is expected to end in June 2022, meaning The Last of Us will likely premiere in late 2022. Let’s hope we get some images or a teaser sooner rather than later for a taste of how they’re bringing the games to life.