Life long ago dissipated into a grim Groundhog Day for folks involved in Warner Bros.’ adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel I Am Legend. Over the last decade, at least five different director-producer-writer-star combos have been attached to the project, making Legend one of the most delayed films in history. But with a new director (Constantine’s Francis Lawrence) and star (Will Smith), and an actual release date, the long fanboy nightmare seems to finally be ending.
So what took so long? The story starts in 1997, when Mark Protosevich (The Cell) penned an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s book about a man’s struggle in vampire-infested, postapocalyptic Los Angeles. ”I felt passionately about [it],” says Protosevich, who was hired four times to write the project. ”Unfortunately, I’m not involved anymore.”
Protosevich started out with Ridley Scott as director and Arnold Schwarzenegger the star. ”Ridley brought in a [new] writer and took the project sideways,” says an insider. ”It was not a good draft. It was actually [worth] throwing away.” (Scott disagrees, saying the claim is inaccurate.) The movie sputtered along regardless: Rob Bowman (The X-Files) replaced Scott, and Schwarzenegger went from starring to producing, while the budget ballooned to $108 million. In 2002, Will Smith entered talks to star, with director Michael Bay said to be involved, but WB president Alan Horn ”read it and hated it,” according to sources. Shelved.
If Horn disapproved, he’s clearly changed his mind. About a year and a half ago, Oscar-winning scribe Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) began reworking the long-dormant project for a fall 2007 release. Now the creatures are more generic monsters than bloodsuckers, and the action takes place in New York. The locale switch was made because ”L.A. at two in the afternoon can look deserted,” explains Goldsman. ”But a New York without human life is a pretty striking environment.” Actually, riding the subway free of mortals sounds pretty relaxing. Can we be extras?