Monday 26 January 2015

Casting Call: The Last of Us

The Last of Us is one of the most highly-acclaimed video games of all time. Upon its release in June 2013, Empire Magazine commented that The Last of Us "may also prove to be gaming’s Citizen Kane moment – a masterpiece that will be looked back upon favourably for decades." 

It is no surprise then that since Naughty Dog's best-seller hit shelves that a movie adaptation has been quietly brewing behind the scenes. Despite the release date not being confirmed yet, The Last of Us movie is definitely happening - and that got me thinking about who should play who in the movie that could finally prove video game adaptations don't have to be shit.

Here's what I came up with...

Character: Joel
Actor: Hugh Jackman

Possibly the easiest pick on this list is for Joel, the protagonist from The Last of Us. For me, only one actor has the look and acting ability to nail this tortured and hardened 50-something and that is Hugh Jackman.

Jackman, best known for playing the gruff renegade Logan from the X-Men series would suit this role down to the ground. We've seen time and again how he can handle himself in a fight (Wolverine is certainly not squeamish when it comes to blood) but it also occurs to me that Jackman would have no problem delivering a memorable and layered performance loaded with emotional nuance and depth - Joel is a complex character who undergoes a stark arc in the game and there is no doubt in my mind that Jackman would be able to mirror this on film. I mean, just take a look at his roles in Prisoners or The Prestige. He'd be perfect.

I've seen others suggest that Viggo Mortensen or Josh Brolin would also suit, but I think Jackman has the marketability to make this movie sell to wider audiences.

Alternatives: Viggo Mortensen, Josh Brolin, Russell Crowe - take your pick

Character: Ellie
Actor: Maisie Williams

The heart and soul of The Last of Us is Ellie, the troubled teen that Joel is trusted to protect - immune to the virus that has engulfed the world, she's the key to resolving it and restoring order. Plus, her relationship and arc alongside Joel makes the game what it is, a deep character-driven narrative rather than any other generic post-apocalyptic shooter.

We've heard time and again in the media that one actress in particular is lined up to play Ellie - Maisie Williams, best known for her role as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones. Hailing from Bristol in England, Williams has been linked more times than I can count and is currently the only name officially attached to the project - even if it is just a rumour.

So, how would she suit the role of Ellie? Well, I'm not so sure. First of all, she's already 17. Say the movie is rushed into production and starts shooting late 2015 - it'll be late 2016/early 2017 by the time it hits cinemas at the earliest, even later if we're being realistic. That'll make her 20 or 21 when the movie comes out, when Ellie is supposed to be just 14. See where I'm going?

Sure, Ellie is supposed to be wise beyond her years but I simply don't think Williams has the right look for Ellie. Plus, I don't watch much Game of Thrones so I can't comment on her acting ability.

My pick would be a new actress, someone completely fresh-faced and talented plucked from obscurity. But, it sounds as though the writing team at Naughty Dog are pretty smitten with Maisie, making any alternative unlikely.

Note: Anyone who says Ellen Page should play Ellie needs to leave right now. Whilst they do look similar, 27-year-old Page would be very unconvincing 14-year-old dont'cha think?

Alternatives: Chloe Moretz and Hailee Steinfeld, but both face the same age issue as Williams. Or, Joey King and Ariel Winter. 

Character: Tess
Actor: Lena Headey

Maybe I'm basing this one of looks alone, but c'mon - the resemblance is uncanny!

Yep, another Game of Thrones alumni would slot perfectly into The Last of Us movie as my pick for Tess, a tough as nails survivor and friend of Joel is Cersei herself, Lena Headey.

Headey has prior when it comes to playing badass women - the aforementioned Cersei, as well as Gorgo in 300, Ma-Ma in Dredd and Sarah Connor in the Terminator TV show a few years back. So, what're Sony waiting for? Snap her up right now!

Alternatives: Carrie Anne Moss, Eva Green

Character: Marlene
Actor: Rosario Dawson

After appearing in things like Sin City and Death Proof, Rosario Dawson is no stranger to grimy settings and strong female characters. It's for this reason that she jumped to the front of the queue for the role of Marlene, the spirited and take-no-prisoners leader of the Fireflies.

Marlene is the character whom sets Joel and Ellie on their path, convincing the former to smuggle Ellie across America to Salt Lake City and sanctuary. She also has a large role to play in the conclusion,

A strong alternative contender is Zoe Saldana, who like Dawson has played a lot of strong female characters in the past, such as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy or Uhura in Star Trek.

Alternatives: Zoe Saldana, Sonequa Martin-Green, Freema Aygeman

Character: Bill
Actor: Danny McBride

Wait, what?! Danny McBride!? That guy the pile of crap that was Your Highness? Wow, we must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel here...

Actually, no. I think McBride would be pretty good as Bill. Sure, he's best known as a funny man but plenty of comedians have set aside their whimsy and pursued roles that are a bit more serious. Think about Robin Williams in Insomnia or Good Will Hunting, Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine or Jonah Hill in Moneyball. Even recently, Steve Carrell has blown everyone away as John Du Pont in Foxcatcher.

McBride would be great as Bill, a lonely survivor who has literally fortified himself against the world to escape the virus. He looks the part and could capture that the sullen demeanour. Plus, McBride would be one of a few homosexual characters to sneak into a blockbuster film without coming across as the 'token gay guy'. Not the kind of role you'd want to pass on.

Alternatives: Sean Bean (I know, I couldn't have picked a more different actor to McBride as an alternative but hey, it's all good fun)

Character: Tommy
Actor: Josh Holloway

Tommy is Joel's better-looking and more charismatic brother. The first name that springs to mind is Josh Holloway, best known for playing the smooth hustler with a heart of gold Sawyer from Lost.

Holloway, like Headey, could've been the model for Tommy given that the likeness is so uncanny. He's a very smooth and charming guy, perfectly slotting into the role of Tommy and a great counterpoint to the gruff and ragged Joel.

Plus, he's not been in a lot since Lost dropped off the air - so c'mon Sony, get on the phone and sign him up!

Alternatives: Matthew McConaughey, Nikolai Coster-Waldau

Character: Henry
Actor: Donald Glover

Henry (and his younger brother Sam) are two survivors Joel and Ellie meet when passing through Pittsburgh. They may be fairly inconsequential on the overall narrative, but the emotional impact and resonance that they have on our main characters makes them an important inclusion in the final film.

My pick for the role of Henry would be multi-talented Donald Glover - best known for his rapper pseudonym Childish Gambino, Glover has also spent five years in the role of Troy Barnes on NBC's sitcom Community, as well as being a writer on 30 Rock and stand-up comic. On the face of it, not much about this would suggest a perfect fit for a post-apocalyptic film but I assure you, Glover has shown enough depth and sincerity in his time at Greendale Community College to secure his spot in my list.

He's a really talented actor (more so than rapper I daresay) and it'd be great to see him break into some big name movies. With The Last of Us, his character would certainly leave a lasting impression - even if his screen-time is fairly limited.

Alternatives: Michael B. Jordan, Harold Perrineau

Character: David
Actor: Gary Oldman

Okay, last but certainly not least - the character of David. Whilst there is no clear black/white distinction when it comes to the characters in The Last of Us, David is the closest you'd come to having a concrete villain throughout the story. He meets Ellie when she is on her own, forced to care and provide for an injured Joel during the height of winter. The player knows from the get-go that there is something not quite right about David - whether those suspicions come to roost is for me to know and any non-players to find out for themselves...

Anyway, safe to say that David is a meaty role for any actor to sink their teeth in - suave but menacing, David would suit an actor like Gary Oldman down to the ground. I'm thinking his take on the role would be a mix of what he's done previously in things like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Book of Eli.

Alternatively, acclaimed actors like Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln), Sean Penn (Milk) or Guy Pearce (Memento) would do an equally excellent job.

Alternatives: Daniel Day Lewis, Sean Penn, Guy Pierce

Bonus round!

Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Francis Lawrence, Sam Raimi

Alfonso Cuaron (left) and Francis Lawrence (right)
Given that The Last of Us is such a visually striking game, I decided to also include some quick thoughts on the ideal director for the movie.

The first name that popped into my head was Alfonso Cuaron, the guy behind the camera with 2013's Gravity and 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. However, it's his work on Children of Men (2006), a similar dystopia future film that the clear link emerges. Children of Men looks AMAZING with some really inventive and eye-catching camerawork going on. It's also similar to The Last of Us in terms of narrative, with Clive Owen's character tasked with protecting the last pregnant woman on Earth.

Another name I want to throw into the ring is Francis Lawrence, the director of Constantine (2005), I Am Legend (2007) and the final three Hunger Games movies (Catching Fire, Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2)

I've also read that Sam Raimi is attached to produce, so why not go one step further and just direct it? Just more Evil Dead than Spider-man 3 thanks. Although, knowing Sony, they'll probably hire Roberto Orci or someone crap like that.

Okay, so those are my thoughts on a cast for The Last of Us movie - I haven't gone into detail on every character (there are a fair few) so I'll leave those open to suggestions in the comments! Actors for Sam or Riley? What about Maria or James? Let me know what you think! 

Plus, I'm thinking of making Casting Call a fairly regular feature - what thing should I 'cast' next? Any suggestions?


  1. I've never played the game, but these actor matchups look perfect. I'm all for the concept, and Cuaron directing anything makes me happy.

    1. Get your hands on a copy right now mate! It's an amazing game, and one that already looks and feels like a movie :) Thanks for commenting!

  2. I love, love, love this post! Although I've never played Last of Us (far too busy saving Thedas with my Inquisitor) I've heard a lot about it, and your casting is spot on! I've heard too many people wanting Ellen Page to play Ellie, but Maisie would be brilliant!
    - Allie

    1. Yaay Dragon Age! I've just started Inquisition but have also got my head buried in House of Cards to get into it. I'll have to set aside some time to really delve into it :) Thanks for the feedback Allie!



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