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The Last Of Us Creator Unsuccessfully Pitched His Concept To George A. Romero In 2004

Nearly a decade after its initial release, Naughty Dog's magnum opus "The Last of Us" continues to hold a spot in the upper echelon of video game royalty — mainly due to the game's emotional storyline and its revolutionary style of cinematic storytelling. Indeed, where most games receive praise for their unique mechanics or thrilling combat (both of which "The Last of Us" has in abundance), what truly separated the game from its peers was its story; a gut-wrenching father-daughter tale with an epic scale, that saw protagonists Joel (Troy Baker) and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) traveling across a post-apocalyptic United States while battling swarms of zombified Infected.

Now, this beloved story is being adapted for the silver screen, courtesy of HBO and series co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann — the latter of whom actually created the video game itself. HBO's "The Last of Us" will star "Game of Thrones" alums Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as Joel and Ellie, respectively, and is set to premiere on January 15th, 2022. Regardless of whether or not this upcoming HBO series can replicate the impact of its source material, it's clear that Joel and Ellie's story has continued to captivate audiences around the world for almost ten years — which is why it may surprise some fans to learn that legendary horror director George A. Romero actually shot down Druckmann's original pitch for this story.

Druckmann pitched the story for a contest, where it was shot down by Romero

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann revealed that he originally created his pitch for "The Last of Us” while he was studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in 2004. Assigned to craft a zombie story that would later be judged by George A. Romero, Druckmann's proposed concept saw a man who lost his daughter teaming up with a daughter who lost her father, and took direct inspiration from the Playstation game "Ico" and Frank Miller's graphic novel "Sin City."

Druckmann's professor submitted the pitch to Romero, where the iconic "Night of the Living Dead" director promptly rejected it. "He didn't like it," said Druckmann. "He picked something else." Druckmann would go on to join Naughty Dog shortly after that and would later expand this initial zombie pitch into the form of a graphic novel — deciding that the story ought to be more about the core relationship between its protagonists rather than the zombies themselves.

"What if it's about intimate relationships?" Druckmann said. "An exploration of the unconditional love a parent feels for their child and the beautiful things that could come out of that and the really horrible things that could come out of that?" The result is perhaps the greatest video game story ever told, and one of the preeminent zombie stories of the 2010s. Regardless of how the HBO adaptation turns out, it's clear that Romero missed the mark when he rejected Druckmann's original pitch back in 2004 — as it would later spawn one of the greatest zombie stories of all time.