01x00 - Making of The Last of Us

Episode transcripts for the TV show, "The Last of Us". Aired: January 15, 2023 - present.
American post-apocalyptic series based on the video game as it follows Joel & Ellie across the US.
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01x00 - Making of The Last of Us

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One of the things that we
talked about for a while...

"How do you start this show?"


CRAIG MAZIN: It was an enormous
undertaking for everyone.

I wouldn't want it to deliver
CG pew-pew
(IMITATES expl*si*n),

but to deliver... reality.


CREW MEMBER: Two, one, action!

Negative degree temperatures,

with the wind machine
going like this...


(CHUCKLES) Yeah, so
that was hard. (LAUGHS)

And fun. It was so fun.

The amount of detail is incredible.

The color schemes, the textures,
how things would flourish.

- There's everything on this show.

From big scopes of airplanes
to smaller tendrils.

NICO PARKER: You're immediately
just so immersed in

The Last of Us world.

JASON NOLAN: sh**ting in Canada,
we're not doing anything small.

It was quite the endeavor.




when the game came out,

there were so many people saying,

"This needs to be made
into a live action."

I was in conflict with it at first
because I was like, "We've already done it.

We've sh*t it, we've
performed it, we've edited it.

Why do we need to go
in and do this again?"

Neil said, "At the end of the day,

there are people out there that
will never pick up a controller,

and they will never
experience this story.

And I think our story is special
enough to bring it to them."


uh, I don't remember when
I first heard about it,

but when I did, I was like,
"Mommy want that." (LAUGHS)

'Cause I knew it was
gonna be spectacular,

especially when I heard
that it was a collaboration

and that Neil would also be involved.

When you're casting
these iconic characters,

these characters are iconic
in a cinematic way already.

So now, it's like,

we need to find someone
that can elevate it

or make it their own in
a really interesting way

so it doesn't feel like
they're just duplicating

this other medium.

I learned very quickly

the massive fanbase that
I was stepping into.

I called my sister

to tell her about the
possibility of the job.

And she was in the car with my nephews.

I didn't even get the S and
T out from the word "Last"

when I said it.

"There's this job, it's
based on a video game.

It's called The La... "

And they were like, "The Last of Us?!"

And I was like, okay, I
definitely have to do this.

BELLA RAMSEY: I was actually
advised not to play the game,

so that I wouldn't try and like copy

Ashley Johnson's version of
Ellie, which is incredible.

But I just watched some
of the gameplay though,

secretly, on my own.

JOHNSON: When I met
Bella for the first time,

I was so excited because, obviously,

I'd seen her in Game of Thrones.

And seeing her in person

and even just seeing her
on set and doing scenes,

she has the essence of
Ellie already in her.

Seven, eight, f*ck... you.

PASCAL: What's incredible
about what they've done

with these scripts,

was to be able to explore and
nourish things that I think

are very much a part of
the experience of the game.

One of those things

is the internal life
of these characters.

And to really get into the flesh

of what's happening inside of them.

You want to know what
the biggest surprise

of adapting The Last of Us is?

It's the Neil Druckmann,

the genius who made the
game in the first place,

who created this story,
these characters,

the whole world,

he was so generous
and flexible and smart

about how to re-present The Last of Us

in a different format
to a whole new audience.



The scientific vision that
the show presents to people

is based absolutely in reality.

That fungus is real, it does
those things to insects,

and if it were to be
able to infect humans,

it would go like that.

It's terrifying.

We want people to feel the
reality of the science here.


Cordyceps, it's a fungus.

And what that fungus does

is it attaches to the
brain stem of an ant,

takes motor control of the ant's body,

and then att*cks the
rest of the ant colony,

spreading the disease and
devouring the other ants.


MAZIN: Fungus is a funny word,

but there's so much more
of it than we realize.

Pretty much anywhere you see grass,

there's fungus right underneath it.


They're connected.

More than you know.

MAZIN: One of the changes
that Neil and I felt

we needed to make early on

was the way the fungus would spread.

We loved the idea of biting.

We thought that that
was primal and violent.

But we started looking at
something called mycelium,

which are these threads
that make up fungus.

And those threads,

if they get into an
insect, for instance,

that's what starts to worm its way

towards the insect's brain.

Barrie Gower and his team
did this beautiful work

to mesh humans and fungus together.

BARRIE GOWER: Initially, we'd
created various practical tendrils,

which was basically like a dental plate

that we had inside the
infected character's mouth,

which had all these little
silicon cords joined to.

As soon as you pulled away,

everything started to...

Practically, it looked great.

I think the reality of it

was going to be the
resettability on the day.

Having huge, big fungal
pieces all over the head,

as soon as you took the eyebrows away,

you started veering
into zombie territory.

has more of a human side,

more of a beautiful side,
it makes it even scarier.

As a person, you can relate to it more.

infected point of view,

we had the first-stage infected.

Very shortly after they've been bitten,

there's a lot of redness,

a lot of tenderness around the skin.

Stage two, tiny little things
start breaking through the skin.

They're a bit like the cordyceps
you actually see on ants

or spiders when they've
taken over by the fungus.

Stage three is a slightly
bigger version of that

where you've got real mushrooms
that you can begin to see.

Until you get to stage five,

where the head shape is distorting.

GOWER: Just basically
breaks through the cranium

and just splits the
skull down the front,

and you have these huge sort of blooms,

these sort of petals.

No, I didn't want to look at them.

I didn't want that in my
head to go home and sleep,

and then you have to be kind of,

you're like, "Hi! How are you?" (GROANS)

And it's not just kind
of what they look like,

it's the physicality and
the way that they move

is what makes them so
creepy. But impressive.

Not just the prosthetic, obviously,

but the inhabiting of it.



ALEX WANG: Coming from visual effects,

I think the clicker performances
can be quite challenging

just 'cause they're very specific.


He just had this really
amazing performance

and movement study to him.

Those are the type of things

that is quite difficult
to reproduce digitally.


GOWER: These are a lot of our
very early concept and busts.

We're following real
reference and real nature

of real fungus and real mushrooms.

And just down to the
shapes of the petals.

Underneath, you've got all these
slits which are called "gills,"

and we always had to make
sure that the orientation

was as such that all the
gills were facing downwards.

And occasionally,

you'd have a piece which
looked really, really great,

but the mushroom's around the wrong way,

so it's just like... (WHISTLES)

Just move that over a little bit.


The sound of the clickers,

we worked so hard to make sure
they sounded just like the game.

MAZIN: Why don't we try some

good, old-fashioned
clicking in the dark?


- Let me just practice a few so we can make sure...
- AUDIO ENGINEER: Yeah, sure.


KOVATS: Misty was the
originator of the sound itself,

and she did these amazing
like throat sounds,

which were like, "That's it!"

And they were like, "Now
we gotta find somebody

who can do it too, like a guy."

- SPEAKER: Right.
- KOVATS: And then I was like, "I figured it out."

Mr. and Mrs. Clicker. The original.

The Adam and Eve of clicking.

- (VOCAL RUN) Yeah.
- It's also here, like...


MAZIN: I think it's that
first little bit, right?

It's just the initial...

Which I think isn't bad here,
I just want the real thing.

- Sure.
- Let's do some clicking.


- That was good stuff. I like that.
- MISTY LEE: Thank you.

MAZIN: I love sound, but it's like...

I don't actually think I've
ever had anything like this

where there was somebody who knew

how to do this incredibly
specific thing,

and I have the incredibly
specific thing people

doing the incredi...
Oh, this is so cool.

All right, I think it might be time

to go to the bullpen and
bring in the ol' lefty.

- Oh, that was a good one.

MISTY: Yeah, that was a good one!

- I was back here going, "Oh!"
- That felt juicy.



DRUCKMANN: When we made the game,

we don't make any physical things,

it's all digital.

It's all two-dimensional on the screen.

The first time I walked on
set, it was Joel's house.

There's Sarah's room,
there's their living room,

there's the sheets that
are just like the game.

And you already got to
see the love this crew had

for the original material.

And I was like emotionally moved by it.

ANNA TORV: The sets have just
been so f*cking incredible.

I mean, you just don't
even appreciate it

until you're in the
space that you can like,

just f*cking sh**t things in

because everything is like magic.

PASCAL: In the practical sh**ting of it,

there was strangely little
left to the imagination

because of the quality
of its production.

The game is beautifully realized

and has a beautiful tone and story.

The Last of Us is about a journey,

going across the United States.

And so, having that variety of landscape

really helps make it feel
as authentic as possible.

JOHN PAINO: Fort Macleod was a
good stand-in for Austin, Texas.

We really tried to go
to town there with neon.

Colors you wouldn't see
once the infection starts.

The QZ, that was a
challenge to make the wall.

You know, built it
out of actual concrete

and I could have people walk on it.

I think it really lended a
lot to the realism of things.

NOLAN: Edmonton was a
key for the statehouse.

PAUL HEALY: The Fireflies'
set was stunning.

'Cause now we're outside the
QZ, it's way more run down.

TORV: When we're going
through the tunnel,

like the underground,
and up to the office,

and we're standing behind,
about to get through the door,

and I look down,

and there's like little sesame seeds

to look like mouse poo on the ground.

The detail is, like,
from this to like...

That you put that there, I just...

It's... It's... It's just amazing!

They created a village! I mean...

NOLAN: Bill's town, the way it
was written was very particular.

The action involved
and the look of the town

and the feel of the town.

And I kind of had in the back of my mind

that this location existed

after the floods in High River in .

It's on the... kind of the
wrong side of the berm,

and they had to tear all the homes down.

And what was left was all the streets

and the sidewalks and
the infrastructure.

PAINO: There's a town here, Canmore,

that stood in quite nicely
for Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

This is a town that's self-sufficient.

My favorite part of that

was building the paddock and
the stables and everything

in the parking lot right
in the middle of town.

I was just like,

"There's the bank!
There's a zoo! Lights!"

I was like... (LAUGHS) I
was like... Everything was...

I was like, "They got everything!"

GABRIEL LUNA: I was really impressed
with our production design.

Everything was just so
faithful to the game,

and so detailed and specific.

But the mall was, I think, one
of the most amazing sets there is.

You know, we had to get a carousel,

we had to do a Halloween store,

we had to do a Victoria's Secret store.

Even though this was an
abandoned mall before,

the authenticity of what
the mall looks like,

it's really cool.

RAMSEY: Plants growing
everywhere, there's algae.

It's just a mess.

This location has been
perfect to sh**t in

because they were gonna
tear down this mall anyway.

So, that's given the
amazing art department

like free reign to completely destroy it

and make it their own.

So, as soon as we finish
this, like, this mall is gone.

DIRECTOR: And let's cut.

MATT PALMER: Okotoks, the challenge was

that we needed a cul-de-sac neighborhood

to situate this big action scene.

And it's actually a bit freaky,
in terms of how perfect it fits

within the visuals within the game.

When we scouted, it was
exactly what we wanted.

We had extreme winds where literally,

you could almost...
you couldn't stand up.

When Craig was there, I mean, it was
just like, "This is what I wrote."

And that's the best
compliment you can get.

We went to Waterton
because it was known to have

a massive amount of snow.

And what happened
was, there was no snow.

There was drifts up
against some buildings,

but all the roads, all the grass,

everywhere that you
looked, the snow was gone.

You couldn't bring in snow
from outside the park.

I had to use whatever was in the town.

So in three days, we did
dump trucks of snow.

Shoveling, brooming,
raking, snow blowers

to cover ten city blocks.

That night, it snowed.

There was a day of sh**ting,
and we were out in the elements,

and there was snow everywhere,

and we were on the side of a mountain,

and it was really cold,

and there was a trek through the snow.

And there were three or four
house-sized wind machines.

I loved it. I love it. I wanna go back.



SPEAKER : How do you want it?

- For me.
- SPEAKER : Sí, for you.

Gustavo Santaolalla, our composer,

has such a different way of working.

The way I worked with Gustavo,

starting with the game, and
now continuing with the show,

is pitch him the story.

I think Gustavo as well is
very much about minimalism.

Like what's the least we need to do

to achieve this moment?

Which is very much mine and
Craig's philosophy as well.

The whole thing in the music of
The Last of Us from what I do

is to preserve this organic element.

Kind of minimalism because
I have to play less.

The pipes, the cans, all that
has a little bit to do with

the reality of a post-disaster world

of found objects, broken things.

But it's very organic.

It's almost like in
primitive folk instrument.

Like a modern primitive folk.

The beginning, you
know, was trying to find

how do we translate the language
from the game to the series,

but I think we have found now
something that kind of flows.

DRUCKMANN: He would go off,

and he's come back with
an hour or more of music.

And we'd just sit here listening.

And he's just like, "Here's this
moment that you talked about

that has inspired this theme.

And that's very much what
it's like working with Gustavo.

It's like starting with a lot

and then continuing to
trim it down, trim it down,

and find the right
elements and how they fit.


that was created for the game

that you can just take it and put it,

and it works fantastic.

Which, for me, says a lot
also about what they have done

'cause it means that
there is a connection

between the game and what the series is.


SEAN NOWLAN: Visual effects
is a big part of this show.

Every sh*t that we sh**t

needs to be touched in
some way by visual effects.

There's such an effort to
really push the boundaries

on both what is practical
and what is a visual effect.

Right from the get-go,

the impetus was to try and do
as much practical as possible.

Alex understands that the dovetail

between practical and visual effects,

when you make it seamless,
that's the magic.

GOWER: It is very interesting
working with Alex and the VFX team.

The visual effects department
is probably the one department

we work probably the closest with

on any given show or film.

They benefit a lot more from
having something there on the day,

which they can either
manipulate or augment in post

or they've got something
there that needs a touch.

There's everything on this show,

from airplane crashes,

to big environments,

to w*r-torn destruction in a big city,

to smaller tendrils.

So, there's a lot for
visual effects to work on.

Because there's a lot of environments,

we've actually used a
lot of drone scanning,

so that we're able to
recreate it digitally.

BLAINE LOUGHEED: On this show, we used

a combination of drones and LiDAR.

LiDAR scanning is light
imaging distance ranging.

And it basically gives you a D
model of what you're scanning.

We knew that there would be
a lot of environment work,

in line with the game.

There's a lot of overgrowth,
and everything's deteriorated.

And we knew that we
would have to pretty much

help out in every
episode in that respect.

So, there's a couple of
different types of scanning

that we're doing on the show.

One of them is cyber scanning.

It's a circle of cameras and lights

that flash simultaneously.

We scan every character
that's on a show,

in case we need to build
a digital version of them.


For all the gamers,

I know everyone knows the
scene when they're escaping.

And they're in the car,

and you can watch everything,

what's happening from
Sarah's perspective.

WANG: The amazing thing with that scene

is that it's very true to the game.

We feel like we're with Sarah and Joel

in Tommy's truck the entire time.

And because of our desire working ,

it was a big challenge
how should we do that.

So, the car was built
with a stunt pod on top.

So, the stunt drivers were sitting
on the rooftop driving a car

while actors could do their thing.

Tilt up. (CHUCKLES)


JEREMY WEBB: The cul-de-sac
sequence was certainly

the toughest sequence that we had to do.

The combination of
VFX, the choreography,

and the explosions.

Just the kind of craziness
of it all, really.

used to just be a field.

This was nothing but grass.

Craig wrote this amazing sequence

where our cast,

they walk their way onto this
seemingly innocent cul-de-sac

and come under att*ck.

(b*ll*ts FLYING)

And then behind them,
a whole convoy of rebels

come up behind them.

So at that point, we
actually opened this up

into the main road behind,

and that gave us all that extra distance

out there in the real
world, on a real road

for the convoy to get up to speed

and start chasing them.

These trucks come through,
there's a "run" truck

that just plows through
all these vehicles,

knocking them all over the place.

WHIST: Yeah, it was a big deal

plowing through all these
cars, making it look realistic.

We had to reinforce the plow

because the first night, it broke.

And then it was the
driving into the house

without destroying the building

because the building
was prepped for f*re.

Meaning that post-crash,
we would pull the truck out

and put another truck in
there that would then explode.

Special effects did an amazing job

piping those houses and
vehicles with propane,

but we'll go in there and just
add the finishing touches.

NOWLAN: In the big,
climactic battle scene,

most of that was done practically

with real performers.

However, we felt like we
needed to triple that amount.

So, everything in addition
was visual effects.

When we need to make
these creatures in CG,

it's always good to have a reference

from the actual performers themselves,

so an animator doesn't have
to do it frame-by-frame.

Mocap is a methodology of
capturing movement of characters.

We did a mocap session,

tried to record as many
different movements

from the stuntmen as we possibly could.

We had multiple cameras set up.

WANG: So much of what we
do in post with animation

depends on the performances.

We sh*t a library of their movements,

and we selected the best
ones that we could have.

NOWLAN: Of course, we try to do
as much practically as possible.

The makeup people were awesome.

The design work from Barrie
Gower's team was complete.

We took these designs
and we scanned them,

and this helped create
visual assets for us in post.

GOWER: With the infected,

we started exploring all
these other paint schemes.

SPATERI: Once we knew
what the colors were,

then we would paint a suit to match.

We would glue all the mushrooms
and everything onto the suits,

and then the suits would go
over to Sage and her team,

and they would cut the costumes

for the mushrooms to be growing through

and sort of dripping stains

as they kind of came through the skin

and the flesh broke down.

Each clicker is designed individually.

And the costume had to be durable enough

to go through all of the crazy
contortionist sort of moves

that the clickers have
in the fight scenes.

STEVE HOLLOWAY: Then they run
through the breakdown department,

so it looks like they've
been rotting and molding

for months or years.

And so, when you see the
whole thing together,

with the prosthetics

and the sort of muddy, drippy
costume that's coming off them,

it just looks so amazing.

into battle with one costume,

but these guys did.

So, you know, makeup,
effects, and costumes

would be sitting on
set, biting their nails,

just hoping that
everything stays together.

GOWER: So, one thing we
did for a lot of our sh*ts

was we actually had a little area

that we could remove from the crown

of the clicker's appliance.

We would either have complete
vision for the actors

and you'd see their
eyes looking through,

which would then be replaced in post,

or we'd be able to do
some more close up stuff

and put that plug back in.

NOWLAN: The amount of
work they had to do

just to get the we had in there,

it was amazing.


NOWLAN: There are several creatures

that we had to make the
decision fairly early on

whether they'd be done
practically with prosthetics,

in visual effects entirely,

or if it might be a hybrid
approach of the both.

In the case of the bloater itself,

because it's an enormous creature,

it's meant to stand
about seven feet tall,

you can get a man and put
him in a prosthetic suit,

which they did.

At the end of the day,

there's only a certain
amount of mobility

in this prosthetic suit.

As good as it looked, he
just couldn't do the things

that he needed to do as the bloater.

Very early on, we kind
of planned for doing it

practically on set,

in a prosthetic suit
that Barrie Gower made.

But we reserved the option and
sh*t a lot of clean plates,

which means we took the
bloater, the physical bloater,

out of the sh*t so that we
had a clean background to use

in case we wanted to go the CG route

in some or in all cases.

WANG: Barrie Gower and his
team did a fantastic job

creating the bloater
suit with so much detail.

However, we found that what we needed

was the bloater to be
a little bit bigger.

And it needed to move a
little faster, as well.

NOWLAN: This CG creature is doing
some very fantastical things.

Things that a normal human couldn't do.

We ended up just feeling like
it was necessary to create

a full digital version of the bloater.



NOWLAN: In the case
of the child clicker,

very much like the bloater early on,

what we did was we sussed out

a person that could play the role.

And in this case, it happened to be

a girl from Toronto called Skye,
who was also a contortionist.

So she could move her body
very, very effectively

and do all sorts of clicker-y,
kind of stutter-y motions.

What we did was we sh*t Skye
on set, like the bloater.

And then we also decided to
sort of change the design

just ever so slightly, in
terms of the prosthetic makeup.

We wanted to feel
frightened by her character,

but also have a sense
of sympathy for her.

We had more of her face exposed,

we could see her long
hair, her pigtails.

These were all the aspects that
were important to Craig and Neil.

NOWLAN: What started
out as just replacing

Skye's head as a CG element,

we realized we might as well
go a full CG body on it.

And then we can get
this child clicker to do

exactly what we want it to do.

So, now she's able to do that
in a much more fantastical way

because we went CG with it.

LOUGHEED: The fight at the
Silver Lake Steakhouse,

special effects did an excellent job

of essentially piping the entire set.

Of course, we can see
some of this piping,

which, this is where
visual effects will come in

and remove the piping and
also blend in more flames.

WHIST: At one point, we were not
going to do any practical f*re

because the discussion was
that it was too much money,

and we couldn't do it
in the time we had.

That's where I come in to
say, "No, we can do it."

Basically, I said, "You can have...

Of this size set, you can
have a quarter of it on f*re."

NOWLAN: Joel Whist, our
special effects supervisor,

is amazing,

and he designed that entire set

to be fireproof in the areas
that we needed it to be.

And that helped immeasurably for us.


PALMER: sh**ting with Nabo the giraffe

will certainly be one of
my favorite experiences.

What I quickly learned after
doing the research on the game

was just how critically important

this one moment is to the
whole story of the game.

Giraffes are pretty massive.

It's like a spiritual experience almost,

being so close to such
a magnificent animal.

Yes, you can create a
giraffe in visual effects,

but it's just not the same.

Fortunately, the one thing Alberta
does have is a zoo with giraffes.

And we spent quite a while
putting things in the enclosure,

so that we could sh**t it and
getting the giraffes acclimated.

Like panels with blue screen,

so that we could go in there
and just sh**t the giraffe

and have Ellie feed the giraffe.

PALMER: And then, visual effects
in all the other pieces around it.

Something that was so fascinating

about this experience was that

the visual effects and
the special effects

and all of the departments
working together,

building all of these
practical elements.

To be able to actually see it
in front of you was everything

in terms of the playing
of these characters

and the being in this fungus apocalypse

years in.


DRUCKMANN: I don't know how to
describe this feeling of pride.

And I can't wait for
everybody at Naughty Dog

that worked so hard on the game

and realize that the first
time to see this version

does all their work justice.

There's something really
beautiful and moving about that.

When people talk to me about the game,

we are the same.

We understand each other.

We have a shared language.

Arts are so important

because it holds a mirror
to our social condition,

and it helps us have
better understanding

for someone who doesn't
look or act like us,

who might come from a different culture,

and I think that we'll be able
to jump over some of these

skyscraper-high hurdles

that we have in the
things that divide us.

And that will never end.

That right there is the crux
of The Last of Us.

PASCAL: One of the most
exciting experiences of my life

was getting this job.

To come back to HBO,
which basically raised me,

to meet Craig, to meet Bella,
all of our different actors,

there was something of where
I knew this was going to be

the hardest and the best
experience of my life.

And weirdly, there was something

that I knew was special and terrifying.

And it all came true. (LAUGHS)

On the first day, I set
a fairly reasonable goal

to make the best television show ever.

That was our reasonable goal.

I just want to say thank you.
I love you guys. Thank you.



And that's the end of this story.
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