Matthew McConaughey was in talks to play Joel on The Last of Us

The co-showrunner of HBO's The Last of Us met with Matthew McConaughey to discuss playing Joel... but it didn't work out.
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Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

HBO's hugely ambitious adaptation of Naughty Dog's beloved post-apocalyptic video game The Last of Us was a huge success when it premiered in 2023. The main duo of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) had fantastic chemistry, perfectly bringing their video game counterparts to life in live-action.

In the beginning, when fans were dream-casting the role of Joel, Pedro Pascal wasn't a name you heard often. More common were names like Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman, Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and of course, Matthew McConaughey. With his southern drawl, fans thought McConaughey would make an excellent Joel. That said, Pascal has always had a particular affinity with playing father figures (see The Mandalorian), so his casting wasn't too much of a surprise.

Turns out, popular fan-cast Matthew McConaughey was actually in the running to play Joel. Speaking on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, co-showrunner Craig Mazin revealed that he had light discussions with McConaughey over a role in The Last of Us.

"I did talk to Matthew," Mazin said. "I can't say that it was serious, it was more of just like, 'Hey, here's something we can talk about. It's one of those things where I'm sure there's an alternate universe where it's a different guy."

""Look, Matthew McConaughey is an amazing actor, I'm sure it would've been great, but it would've been different and I like the one that we made.""

We can't complain about ending up with Pedro Pascal. Sure, he might be a bit overexposed in Hollywood nowadays, collecting big franchises like Infinity Stones, but his excellent work speaks for itself.

The Last of Us was renewed for season 2 after just three episodes had aired, and filming has recently commenced. Season 2 will begin adapt the events covered in Naughty Dog's The Last of Us: Part II. Don't expect to see new episodes hit screens this year. Sometime in 2025 seems pretty likely. We will wait... impatiently.

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