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Johan Renck to Direct ‘The Last of Us’ Pilot for HBO After ‘Chernobyl’ Success

Johan Renck won an Emmy for his work on "Chernobyl." Now, he's preparing to tackle the adaptation of the popular video game.

Johan Renck

Johan Renck stands with his award at the 72nd Annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles in January 2020.

DAVID SWANSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Johan Renck’s acclaimed directorial work on HBO’s “Chernobyl” won him an Emmy last year. Now, Renck is planning on bringing his talents to “The Last of Us,” HBO’s highly-anticipated television adaptation of the hit video game.

Renck revealed that he will direct “The Last of Us” pilot in an interview with Discussing Film that was published Friday. He will re-team with “Chernobyl” creator Craig Mazin, who will write and executive produce the adaptation. Renck discussed the complexities of adapting characters from the video game into television characters, given how well-fleshed out they were in the game.

“You have for instance ‘The Last of Us’ with Craig, in which you have a video game character who’s very much top of mind with anybody who’s ever played that game. More than that, they know exactly what he looks like, how he talks, how he acts, and so on and so forth,” Renck said in the Discussing Film interview. “We’re having weekly calls, Craig and I, and also Neil [Druckmann] who created the game, about various approaches and how to deal with that. How to deal with the fact that a video game character is way further than a character from a book. But also it’s more different to deal with than a real person. For instance, Valery Legasov from ‘Chernobyl’ — because nobody had ever seen or heard of him — it wasn’t pivotal to honor anything of that.”

IndieWire confirmed the Renck news with HBO.

Per HBO, “The Last of Us” series takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival. Druckmann and Evan Wells of Naughty Dog, which developed the original game, will serve as executive producers on the HBO series. Druckmann will also serve as one of the writers.

The upcoming series’ synopsis closely mirrors the original video game’s plot, which is widely beloved among gamers as one of the best post-apocalyptic stories in the medium in recent memory. “The Last of Us” is one of the all-time best-selling video games and helped raise the profile of game developer Naughty Dog, which also created the popular Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted franchises. Naughty Dog will release “The Last of Us: Part II” June 19.

In other Naughty Dog gaming news, Rubin Fleischer is set to adapt “Uncharted,” which follows the adventures of a treasure hunter Nathan Drake, into a feature-length film.

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