The Gay Love Story That This Director Had Worked His Whole Career Toward

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Peter Hoar had worked consistently in television for decades before signing on to direct The Last of Us’s third—and most redefining—episode, but it was a more recent experience that may have primed him for the delicate emotional balance of “Long, Long Time.” The veteran director helmed the entirety of It’s a Sin, the Max limited series revisiting the London AIDS epidemic that earned raves for its nuanced depiction of a tragedy, and won Hoar a BAFTA Award. “A show about the impending death of four bright young things in an era of devastation for the queer community—lots of people were thinking, ‘Oh, I dunno if I can do this? Can I watch this show?’” the director, who identifies as queer, says on this week’s Little Gold Men (listen below). “But what people weren’t expecting is the joy and the color and the laughter.”

That rich understanding of tone and pain can also be felt in The Last of Us’s pivotal turning-point of an episode, wherein Hoar spotlights the decades-long romance between survivalist Bill (Nick Offerman) and the man who shows up on his property, Frank (Murray Bartlett), deep into the apocalypse that’s engulfing the wider world of the show. There’s a profound sadness in the episode’s construction, wending its way toward their last days together. But Hoar’s touch, as well as that of writer Craig Mazin (both are now Emmy-nominated for their work on this episode), is hardly so grim. “Long, Long Time” stands as a portrait of two lonely people finding love before it’s too late, allowing viewers to bear witness to the power of that connection.

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“That was always part of the understanding of those two characters. Visually, when you see that happening in front of you, you go, ‘It’s never over, there’s always a chance I might find that person,’” Hoar says. “There are quite a few young, pretty queer stories around and I’m glad about that, don’t get me wrong. I love that. But I think there’s also less of the, you know, normal people falling in love—people with bellies and people going gray.”

How appropriate, then, that it’s The Last of Us which is finally bringing Hoar some industry recognition. His episode plays almost like a standalone film, running at a brisk feature length and of no immediate consequence to the series’ overall plot. Effectively, Hoar was allowed to make his movie, focusing on intimate performances and careful characterizations. 

He’s felt ready for something like that; the British director has been working in television for, well, a long, long time. Hoar started out helming individual installments of U.K. series like Mistresses and MI5 in the 2000s. Then he got a standout episode of Doctor Who, which opened more doors for him—Marvel series like Daredevil and Iron Fist, Netflix genre pieces like The Umbrella Academy and Altered Carbon. Those who work behind the camera in TV can tend to be invisible, relative to their film counterparts, but here Hoar was building up an impressive resume, maybe hidden in plain sight. That is beginning to change.

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“When I left college, everybody wanted to be Stanley Kubrick except me, because I just wanted to go and work in television,” Hoar says. “TV directors are often overlooked in terms of our skills. People say, ‘What’s the difference between directing a movie and directing a show?’ And of course I can’t answer that question because I haven’t directed a movie. But from what I understand, there is no difference. It’s just that certain hierarchies…the process of directing—the shot selection, the performance notes, the staying power of getting a job done—they’re the same. There’s nothing to hold us back. We have the same ambition.”

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