In a local Alberta CTV news story discussing the filming of HBO’s The Last Of Us and the effect it has already had on small businesses in the province, one line raises eyebrows: a little detail about the massive budget. The post-apocalyptic video game series adaptation will apparently cost much more than $10 million dollars per episode, with a total budget in the hundred of millions, according to IATSE 212 president Damian Petti.
“This project well exceeds the eight figure per episode mark,” Petti says, “so there is a multiplier effect on our economy in terms of its impact. There are hundreds of related businesses benefitting from the plethora of work.”
A budget this large will place the series high up on the list of most expensive television shows ever made, among fellow HBO productions like Game Of Thrones and The Pacific, as well as recent Disney+ series like The Mandalorian. By its eighth season, Game Of Thrones’ budget had moved from $10 million per episode to upwards of $15 million, dropping major bucks on battle scenes and animating those dragons. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks helmed the 2010 miniseries The Pacific for HBO, with a combined budget of $200 million. The series leveled out at $20 million per episode to create the perfect WWII battle scenes.
With 10 episodes slated for the first season of The Last Of Us, its first season budget will exceed that of the final season of Game Of Thrones. As expensive as each episode was in the final chapter of Game Of Thrones, there were only 6 of them, costing $90 million at the most.
“The Last of Us which commences photography this week is indeed a monster,” Petti says. “It has five art directors and employs an army of hundreds of technicians. It has had six months of prep and shoots (in Alberta) for 12 months.”
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey—who both also appeared on Game Of Thrones—should feel right at home at The Last Of Us’ costly set as leads Joel and Ellie. It will be interesting to see how HBO uses that big budget to bring to life the destroyed, zombie-infested United States the pair will traverse in search of a cure.