Peter Hoar (‘The Last of Us’ director) on connecting to ‘moments of magic’ in Bill and Frank’s love story [Exclusive Video Interview]

“What was really gratifying is people didn’t expect it,” reveals “The Last of Us” director Peter Hoar. He helmed Episode 3 of the hit HBO drama, titled “Long, Long Time,” which broke viewers hearts with an unexpected love story in the middle of the apocalypse. “What happened in Episode 3 was fundamentally life changing to some people,” notes Hoar. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

This installment breaks away from the core action of the series to detail the unlikely, epic love story of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). This episode marks the first “fundamental departure” from the story in the game, as writer Craig Mazin believed there was a new story to tell with these characters. “In the game, Bill’s town is for you to get a car. That’s really all it is,” notes Hoar. Survival is a constant theme in “The Last of Us,” but the director elaborates that this episode takes that concept “in a totally different framework” compared to the rest of the series. “Because survival for no reason other than just survival, it is not interesting,” states Hoar. “And so we have to give people a purpose.”

SEE Heartbreaking ‘The Last of Us’ episode could finally score Nick Offerman his first Emmy bid for acting

With little time available for rehearsal, casting actors who could instinctively bring the characters to life was key. Hoar says that he scored the jackpot by getting to tell the story with Offerman and Bartlett. “Both men have got incredible souls and hearts,” expresses the director. He admits that at first he wondered how interested Offerman would be in the role, and how he would perform the more vulnerable aspects of Bill. “Nick Offerman’s perfect for 90% of this role,” he thought, “It’s just that 10% of the part of it that you’re like, is he going to go for that?” Indeed, Offerman was nervous about nailing the emotional elements of the script. But life imitated art in a sense, as Bartlett became a calming figure for Offerman on set. “Murray was helping Nick in the same way Frank helps Bill. So I think a lot of that comes through.”

The connection between the actors frequently brought out the waterworks in the crew. “I felt gratified when I would look to my right and to my left, and there would be Craig Mazin…and his producer Jacq Lesko, and they were both in tears most of the time,” reveals Hoar. “And so I was like, if they’re crying this much, it has to be good. And Craig knew what was coming!”

WATCH Murray Bartlett interview: ‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Welcome to Chippendales’

One of these impactful scenes is the tender moment Bill and Frank share in a strawberry patch, one of many “moments of magic” as Hoar calls them. The sequence is notable for Bill’s lovestruck giddiness and his admission to Frank that “I was never afraid until you showed up.” The director had been chasing the sun on the day of the scene, which was hiding behind clouds most of the day. They ultimately only had a 20 minute window in which to capture the scene. He shot it with multiple camera setups at once so the actors could focus on being in the moment. “We could have spent a lot longer, but sometimes something magic happens when it isn’t about overshooting and it’s about finding a moment,” explains Hoar. “And that moment just fell into place. It felt beautiful. The light was beautiful. They were beautiful.”

This episode of “The Last of Us” is the latest queer storyline for Peter Hoar, after he won a BAFTA Award for the acclaimed limited series “It’s a Sin.” Embarking on projects which he can connect with as a gay man has been a life changing experience for him. “I actually said this to Russell T. Davies (writer of “It’s a Sin”)…I felt truly myself for the first time ever, and I’m not young anymore. And that was sort of a bit of a thing,” divulges Hoar. “I had a story I could speak to.” The director was able to feel his way through Bill and Frank’s story in a similar way. “It was not just a romance, a love story set in this sort of apocalypse. It was a middle-aged one. They were two gray bearded men that fell in love,” he explains, pointing to his own graying facial hair as a sign of recognition. Communicating this story in an authentic manner in turn makes the themes feel universal to whomever is viewing the episode. “It’s finding love wherever, against all the odds,” says Hoar, “and knowing what love is when you find it and leaning into it.”

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