The first panel in Friday’s San Diego Comic-Con Hall H was listed solely as “Sneak Preview,” so the audience didn’t know what to expect. The lights dimmed, and the distinctive guitar of Gustavo Santaolalla filled the room.
A trailer for a remastered version of Naughty Dog’s groundbreaking PlayStation game The Last of Us played on the screens, ending with the text “Soon to be a major motion picture.” The crowd erupted as the house lights went up and Entertainment Weekly’s Dalton Ross came to the podium. He announced that this panel will be to discuss the film adaptation in development and introduced producer Sam Raimi and original video game writer and creative director Neil Druckmann from Naughty Dog to the panel.
Ross asked Druckmann what made him, as video game producer want to be directly involved in the movie adaptation? He said when he heard that Raimi wanted to get involved and that he really understood the journey of Joel and Ellie, he wanted to get involved. Raimi said Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper had the power to protect the integrity of the story, and he really believes in Druckmann and Raimi’s ability to deliver on that. Raimi said he hopes the adaptation will be a great character journey and really great love story.
Ross asked Raimi, “How close will you keep the movie to the original video game story?” Raimi replied that Druckmann is writing the movie script, and since he was the writer of the game, it’ll be very faithful. Druckmann said they’d talked about the challenge of condensing a 15 hour story down to a 2 hour movie, and potentially changing the ending, with the understanding that it doesn’t have to follow the exact story, as long as it keeps the tone. Ross asked, “Will the “Left Behind” expansion be part of the movie?” Elements will, Druckmann said, but he didn’t want to say more than that.
Ross noted that casting is super important, since the chemistry between Joel and Ellie is so moving, and wondered if they had anyone in mind for the two leads. Druckmann said that they’ve been talking to Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams for the role of Ellie. Raimi was asked, “Is there a part for Bruce Campbell?” Perhaps, he replied, as there’s plenty of roles in the story he could play.
Raimi noted there are so many great strengths in the story, that the real challenge is editing it into a solid story, but the key is to laser-focus the relationships between the main characters. He said that real actors can bring a dimension to the roles that CG characters can’t.
Druckmann said the next Uncharted will be really awesome, and they’re trying to do something really special for the PlayStation 4. Raimi was asked about a new Evil Dead/Army of Darkness, He said his brother and he are writing a new Evil Dead TV series with Bruce Campbell.
Questions were taken from the audience. “Will there be a part for Ted Raimi in the new film?” someone asked. Sam Raimi said “I hope so, because he’s so funny, but I won’t be directing it. I’ll leave Druckmann to choose the director.”
“How did you come to find The Last of Us?” another person asked. Raimi said that he himself was a gamer, and heard about it from friends, and wasn’t expecting to be emotionally moved, but was completely blown away and decided he needed to be involved to protect its integrity on film.
Druckmann noted that there’s never been a great video game adaptation for film. “What if we could make the first great one? There’s no better opportunity than this, since we’ve got Sam Raimi on board, let’s be the ones to do it!”
The panel ended with a surprise for Sam Raimi as Director of Programming at Comic-Con International Eddie Ibrahim came on stage to present Sam Raimi with an Inkpot Award for his contribution to the world of pop culture.