Films

15 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About I Am Legend

Boasting some fine understated acting from Will Smith and a refreshingly bleak tone for a film of its scale, I Am Legend was a monstrous hit on release in 2007. The tale of a violent infection and the one man left to fight it almost made it to the screen in many different iterations before director Francis Lawrence came onboard.

The full details of those attempts and many other surprising facts are collected for you here.

(Images: All Star, Rex Features)

  • 15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About I Am Legend

    1.

    Will Smith originally approached Guillermo Del Toro to direct but he decided to make Hellboy II instead. However, Del Toro's influence can still be seen in the finished film. "Some of the notes about their biology actually came from me going to Warner Bros. to show them my ideas," he revealed. "I found it quite nice that visually the vampires in that movie had some passing similarity to those from my movie Blade II." 

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    2.

    Willow Smith, hair whipper, spiritual prophet and daughter to Will, has a brief appearance in the film.

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    3.

    About a week into the shoot, director Francis Lawrence felt that the prosthetics used on the infected were unconvincing and decided to go with CGI instead, which meant that the budget leaped up and the film had a longer production. "When I saw the dailies, I broke out into a cold sweat," Lawrence later revealed. "They were very pale, and covered in this chalky powder to protect their skin, which was a really interesting concept, but it looked like a bunch of mime artists running across Washington Square Park. It didn't work at all."

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    4.

    There's a rather fascinating alternate ending to the film which puts an entirely different spin on the film. During the climax, it's revealed that the infected male is actually just trying to save the infected female  being used for experiments in Neville's basement. You can watch it here.

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    5.

    It wasn't always going to be the Fresh Prince in the lead role. Other actors who were mooted for the part included Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson and Michael Douglas.

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    6.

    But the closest that I Am Legend ever got to the screen pre-Will, came from Ridley Scott who was set to make the film with Arnie back in 1997. Production was prepped to go with a script from Mark Protosevich (The Cell) with no dialogue in the first hour and a bleak ending. But after the budget ballooned and Scott and Arnie were seen as box office poison at that time, it was cancelled. You can see the early infected design which was scrapped here.

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    7.

    Will Smith developed a dog crush on his co-star Abbey, aka one of the dogs that played Sam, and even tried to adopt her but the dog's trainer refused to let her go. She has since starred in a film called Sex Pot, about weed that makes women horny.

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    8.

    The epic flashback scene involving the collapse of the Brooklyn Bridge cost a whopping $5 million. It involved 14 government agencies, a 250-plus crew, 1,000 extras and 160 members of the National Guard. It took six nights to film.

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    9.

    There's an oddly prophetic in-joke during a scene in Times Square where a billboard for a Batman and Superman movie can be seen in the background. You can see the whole clip here.

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    10.

    At the time, the film managed to break the record for the biggest box office opening in December in the US ever with $77.2 million. It lasted up until 2012 when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened with $84.6 million, with some help from 3D and 400 more cinemas.

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    11.

    Mike Patton, lead singer of Faith No More, provided the creepy screams of the infected.

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    12.

    After numerous attempts to try and create a prequel or a sequel, it's finally been announced that a reboot is on the way. A script called A Garden at the End of the World is being rewritten to fit the existing mythology.

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    13.

    The script was originally set in Los Angeles but it was changed to New York. "There’s something about the iconic images of New York being deserted that immediately jolts you into the film," Will Smith explained. "It almost seems like Los Angeles could have ruined what was created. I don’t even know where you would get that feeling in Los Angeles."

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    14.

    During promotion for the film in Japan, Will Smith accidentally revealed the ending of the film to a set of reporters. They were then politely asked to keep this a secret until the release.

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    15.

    As well as Ridley Scott previously circling the project, other directors who were attached at some stage or another included Rob Bowman (The X Files, Reign of Fire) and Michael Bay.

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