Will Smith’s 2007 blockbuster I Am Legend brought in over $500 million at the box office worldwide and remains one of the Oscar winner‘s most beloved works to this day. In it, Smith’s character, Robert Neville, is the last surviving man in New York City after a mysterious virus turned the rest of humanity into zombies.
A sequel to the hit film starring Smith and Michael B. Jordan has been in the works since last year. But the upcoming post-pandemic flick will be more in line with other versions of the I Am Legend story besides the one fans became familiar with over a decade ago.
Akiva Goldsman, the project’s producer, spoke to Deadline about revisiting the I Am Legend universe and the source material that will inspire the new movie. The original story is based on Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic book, published in 1954. The continuation will stay closer to the book and start “a few decades” later than the first, resembling desolate worlds like those in the smash series “The Last of Us.” In addition, the follow-up will more closely resemble the alternate ending specially released in 2008 rather than the final scene shown in theaters.
“You see how the earth reclaims the world, and there’s something beautiful in the question of, as man steps away from being the primary tenant, what happens?” Goldsman said of the environment Smith will find himself in on screen. “That will be especially visual in New York. I don’t know if they’ll climb up to the Empire State Building, but the possibilities are endless.”
Goldsman went on to explain how the plot in the sequel will deviate from the first. “We trace back to the original Matheson book and the alternate ending as opposed to the released ending in the original film,” he said. “What Matheson was talking about was that man’s time on the planet as the dominant species had come to an end. That’s a really interesting thing we’re going to get to explore. There will be a little more fidelity to the original text.”
When it came to bringing back I Am Legend for a second round, Smith admitted to Entertainment Tonight last year that he hadn’t planned on ever touching it again. “It was one of those ones I was gonna leave alone,” he said. But after he was approached with an interesting concept, created in part by Jordan, he was sold. “‘That might work. I think we can do that,’” he recalled thinking about the proposed storyline. “I can’t talk about it yet, but it’s a really, really cool concept, and [Jordan] was a part of creating the idea.”