15 Fun Facts About “I Am Legend”

Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel “I Am Legend” is considered by many to be among the first examples of post-apocalyptic media.  Featuring a character who’s completely alone in a world full of monsters, it’s quite the horrifying story that also makes you think.

George A. Romero even cited the novel as a major inspiration for his 1968 zombie classic, Night of the Living Dead.  The 2007 film adaptation starring Will Smith was just as creepy but with an equal amount of heart and absolutely gut-wrenching scenes.  So in honor of its 15th anniversary today, here are 15 fun facts about I Am Legend!

1. I Am Legend marked the third cinematic adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same name.  It was the first adaptation to use the actual title of the novel, with the previous two being 1964’s The Last Man of Earth (starring Vincent Price) and 1971’s The Omega Man (starring Charlton Heston).  All three are vastly different in tone and approach.

2. This particular adaptation was in the works back in the 1990’s with Ridley Scott set to direct and Arnold Schwarzenegger set to star.

3. Guillermo Del Toro was also offered the chance to direct as he was Will Smith’s first choice.  He turned it down to instead direct Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

4. Initially the plan was to use actors in makeup for the “Dark Seekers”.  However, during makeup tests, producers felt that they looked too comical and thus decided to go with CGI via motion capture.

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We’ll never know what the movie would have looked like with practical makeup effects. But the CGI was one of the main areas of criticism for the movie. It looked way too smooth and unrealistic.

5. The role of Anna was originally written as an American character, but Alice Braga impressed producers so much that they rewrote the role to be Brazilian to match her real life ethnicity.

6. To prepare for the role of Robert Neville, Will Smith met with former prisoners who had done time in solitary confinement. They told him that the key to getting by in solitude is to have a strict schedule and stick to it.  This was all incorporated into his character and the script.

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We see Robert not just working as a scientist, but also having a recreational schedule, which included things like playing golf, and going to the video store.

7. One of the biggest logistical challenges was having to close entire streets of New York City, something with the locals did not at all appreciate.  Will Smith remarked that it resulted in “a lot of middle fingers”.

8. The evacuation scene at the Brooklyn Bridge alone cost $5 million and took 6 nights to film.  The production had a crew of over 250, over 1,000 extra, and over 150 National Guard troops in full gear.

9. For the scene involving the characters watching Shrek on Robert’s TV, Will Smith personally called the head of Dreamworks to ask permission to use footage from the movie.

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It makes sense that in a world as terrifying as this, Robert would repeatedly watch something light-hearted and funny like Shrek.

10. During the scene in which Robert spots the mannequin named Fred outside of his usual spot, Fred is played by a mime and actually does turn his head very slightly.  This was meant to make the viewer feel Robert’s sense of delusion and he’s not sure if he actually saw it move.

11. There is an alternate ending in which Robert Neville survives after he realizes that the Dark Seekers have maintained some form of humanity and he makes a trade with their leader, who allows him to leave.  This was much more in line with the source novel in which the vampires have created their own society and Robert Neville is the boogeyman to them.

12. The scene in Times Square shows a billboard ad for a Batman vs. Superman movie.  So in a strange way, it predicted that 9 years later WB would release Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Will Smith himself would then go on to appear in the follow up to that film, Suicide Squad.

13. After principal photography, Will Smith tried to adopt the dog who had played Sam in the movie, Abbey, as the two of them had grown very close during production.  However, her trainer didn’t want to give her up.

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For most of the movie, Sam is our main supporting character with just her and Will Smith. She’s very much her own character and none of us are over that incredibly tragic death of hers in the movie.

14. During the press junket, Will Smith accidentally let slip the film’s ending to an entire room of journalists in Japan.  The studio politely requested they not say anything, to which they obliged.

15. Will Smith would go on to win the Saturn Award for Best Actor and the movie itself was up for Best Sci-Fi Film, but lost to Cloverfield.

Which of these did you already know?  Which ones surprised you?  Let us know in the comments!

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