The Last of Us has become one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time, thanks in no small part to its memorable characters and gripping storyline. At the center of it all is protagonist Joel, a grizzled survivor in a post-apocalyptic world who becomes a father figure to a young girl named Ellie. The Last of Us Part II, released last year, continued Joel and Ellie’s journey with even more heart-wrenching moments and shocking twists.

When it was announced that The Last of Us was getting a TV adaptation, fans were understandably skeptical. Would the actors be able to capture the nuance and emotion of the game’s performances? Could the showrunners find a way to make the story work in a different medium? But as more details have emerged about the series, including the casting of Pedro Pascal as Joel, fans have become increasingly excited to see how it all turns out.

Recently, during an appearance on The Big Picture podcast, the actress who plays Ellie, Bella Ramsey, revealed some interesting information about the show’s early development. She said that the original choice to play Joel was someone who had already won an Oscar, but that they ultimately had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. While Ramsey didn’t reveal the actor’s identity, the news has sparked plenty of speculation among fans.

So who could it have been? There are plenty of big-name actors who fit the bill, but a few stand out as particularly likely candidates. Here are some of the most popular theories:

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman has won numerous awards over the course of his career, including a Golden Globe for his role in Les Misérables and a Tony for his work in The Boy from Oz. He’s also no stranger to the action genre, having played Wolverine in the X-Men movies for over a decade. Jackman has expressed interest in video game adaptations before, saying in a 2018 interview that he’d be open to playing Joel in a Last of Us movie. However, he’s been busy with other projects like Reminiscence and The Music Man, so it’s unclear whether scheduling conflicts would have been an issue.

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe is another actor with plenty of awards under his belt, including an Oscar for his performance in Gladiator. He’s known for his ability to play tough, rugged characters with heart, making him a natural fit for Joel. Crowe has also shown interest in video game adaptations, having been attached to a planned movie version of the game Master and Commander. However, he’s been less active in recent years, so it’s possible that scheduling conflicts could have been an issue.

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson is a veteran actor with a long list of acclaimed performances, including an Oscar nomination for his role in Schindler’s List. He’s also no stranger to action roles, having starred in the Taken franchise and numerous other action movies. Neeson has a gruff, commanding presence that could have made him a great choice for Joel. However, like the other actors on this list, he’s been busy with other projects in recent years, so scheduling could have been a problem.

While it’s fun to speculate about who could have played Joel, it’s important to remember that Pedro Pascal has already been cast in the role and is poised to give an incredible performance. Pascal is known for his work on shows like Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian, and has the acting chops to bring Joel to life in a powerful way. Plus, he’s already shown a great chemistry with Bella Ramsey in Game of Thrones, which bodes well for their dynamic in The Last of Us.

Ultimately, the identity of the Oscar-winning actor who almost played Joel may remain a mystery. But with the talent already assembled for the TV adaptation, fans have plenty to look forward to. The Last of Us has always been a masterclass in storytelling, and it seems that the showrunners are pulling out all the stops to do the series justice. With Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey taking on the lead roles, this could be the definitive version of Joel and Ellie’s journey through a world gone mad.