TV & Movies

HBO's 'The Last of Us' Loses 'Chernobyl' Director, Hires 'Beanpole' Filmmaker as Replacement

HBO’s highly anticipated television adaptation of the mega-hit video game The Last of Us has made a change behind the camera.

Johan Renck, the Chernobyl and Breaking Bad director who was previously hired to helm the pilot for this series, apparently had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. Now a new report says the show’s producers have found his replacement in Kantemir Balagov, the director of the acclaimed Russian drama film Beanpole.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Renck, who was set to be reuniting with his Chernobyl collaborator Craig Mazin on this series, had to drop out of the show due to a scheduling conflict. It’s worth noting that “scheduling conflict” and “creative differences” are the most oft-cited excuses used when a person steps away from a production, but Renck is legitimately an in-demand director who has worked on The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Vikings, Bates Motel, Halt and Catch Fire, Bloodline, and many more shows. Last October, it was reported that he’s attached to direct an Adam Sandler science fictin movie called The Spaceman of Bohemia, so perhaps that’s the project that’s causing the conflict here.

Mazin, who created the Emmy-winning Chernobyl and previously wrote The Hangover sequels, is serving as a writer and showrunner on The Last of Us TV series, where he’ll work alongside Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II.

The Last of Us is a “tale of the post-apocalypse, centering 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.” The first game, which was released in 2013, took on a surreal resonance last year when a real-life pandemic swept the globe, so I imagine the series, which is set decades after a disease ravages humanity, will feel just as odd when this show finally premieres.

I haven’t seen any of Kantemir Balagov’s films myself, but the 30-year-old filmmaker has earned praise for his sobering and bleak movies that have a tactile, grounded approach, so it seems like he’ll be able to perfectly capture the broken, desperate society that’s found at the heart of this story. Here’s the trailer for Beanpole, which we reviewed from Cannes in 2019:

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