‘Last of Us’ HBO Show Will Scale Back on Game’s Graphic Violence: ‘That Makes It Scarier’

The 2013 game “The Last of Us” is not for the faint of heart. Naughty Dog’s acclaimed action-adventure game features gruesome and extremely violent scenes, as protagonists Joel and Ellie explore the apocalyptic remnants of the United States and get into bloody fights with infected monsters and human militants. Now, the show is coming to television in a big-budget HBO adaptation — but, in an ironic twist for the premium cable channel, that bloodshed is going to be massively scaled back, according to game creator and showrunner Neil Druckmann.

In an interview with gaming magazine SFX Magazine (via Gamesradar), Druckmann explained that the violence of the original was to help connect the audience with the player character Joel, as they guide him through a variety of visceral situations.

“We need a certain amount of action, or violence, that we could use for mechanics so you could connect with Joel and get into a flow state,” Druckmann said. “Then you would really feel like you’re connected with this on-screen avatar and you’re seeing the world through his eyes.”

In the transition from interactive media to television, Druckmann said that his co-creator Craig Mazin and HBO spoke to him very early on about toning down the show’s graphic violence, saying, “Let’s take out all the violence except for the very essential.” Druckmann said he loved this idea, as he felt that this gave the violence present in the series much more gravity.

“That allowed the violence to have even more impact than in the game, because when you hold on showing the threat and you’re seeing people’s reaction to a threat, that makes it scarier,” Druckmann said. “And when we do reveal the infected and the Clickers, you get to see what brought down humanity and why everyone is so scared.”

“The Last of Us” premieres on HBO January 15. The series stars “Game of Thrones” actors Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as Joel and Ellie, while Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who played the characters in the original games, appear in new roles. Additional cast members for the series include Gabriel Luna, Anna Torv, Merle Dandridge, Murray Bartlett, Nick Offerman, Melanie Lynskey, and Storm Reid.

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