Maisie Williams and Kaitlyn Dever were reportedly considered for Ellie in a Last of Us movie

The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

Though Pedro Pascal has always been a fan-favorite casting choice for Joel, Bella Ramsey wasn't always the first choice to play Ellie in HBO's adaptation of The Last of Us.

According to The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab), the studio saw "dozens and dozens" for the role of Ellie in the initial attempts to adapt The Last of Us. They needed someone "tough and vulnerable and wise beyond [their] years and also have a potential for violence," creator Neil Druckmann said. Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams, who played Arya Stark for all eight seasons, reportedly met with Druckmann when the video game adaptation was first imagined as a movie. Kaitlyn Dever, star of Booksmart, and Rosaline, also did a table read.

Other popular fan castings included Sophia Lillis (Stephen King's IT), Elsie K. Fisher (Eighth Grade), Cailee Spaeny (The Craft: Legacy), and even Kiernan Shipka (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina).

By the time HBO had greenlit the project, any actor who was formerly considered had "aged out of the role" (Dever is now 26 and Williams is 25) and a new search was set. Ramsey, 19, had previously starred in Game of Thrones, His Dark Materials, and most recently Lena Dunham's Catherine Called Birdy.

"It was like Ellie realized in live action. It didn’t feel like watching an actor," Druckmann said upon viewing Ramsey's self-tape.

The Last of Us premieres Sunday, January 15 on HBO and January 16 on NOW TV and Sky Atlantic. For more, check out our list of upcoming video game movies and TV shows.

Lauren Milici
Senior Writer, Tv & Film

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more. Her first collection of poetry, "FINAL GIRL," sold out of print. Her second collection, "Sad Sexy Catholic," is forthcoming in 2023.