‘Last of Us’ HBO Series Finds Its Director (Exclusive)

HBO’s The Last of Us has found a new director.

Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov, the Cannes darling behind drama Beanpole, has been tapped to direct the pilot for the adaptation of the hit video game.

Craig Mazin, the creator of HBO’s acclaimed limited series Chernobyl, is writing and executive producing with Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of the game.

The project initially looked like it would reunite Mazin with his Chernobyl director, Johan Renck, but Renck had to drop out because of a scheduling conflict.

Last of Us is set 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed and centers on the relationship between Joel, a smuggler in this new world, and Ellie, a teenager who may be key to a cure for a deadly pandemic. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle the 14-year-old girl out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey as they traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

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The series is a co-production with Sony Pictures Television. PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint and game developer Naughty Dog produce. Also executive producing are Carolyn Strauss, Naughty Dog’s Evan Wells, and Asad Qizilbash and Carter Swan of PlayStation Productions.

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The marriage of Balagov and Last of Us shows that HBO is aiming for a serious dramatic tone for the adaptation.

Balagov, who is of Circassian origin, is best known for directing the somber Russian-language dramas Closeness and Beanpole. Closeness, about a poor family in a small town dealing with a kidnapping, was well-received when  it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, resulting in Balagov winning the festival’s FIPRESCI Prize in the Un Certain Regard competition.

Beanpole told of the twisty and dark relationship between two women in the aftermath of the Second World War’s Siege of Leningrad. The 2019 movie won Balagov the Un Certain Regard award for best director and his second FIPRESCI Prize.  The film was also selected as Russia’s submission in the best international feature film category for the 2020 Academy Awards.

Balagov is repped by CAA and managed by Jerome Duboz