Some two years ago, many an eyebrow was raised when a report emerged claiming that Warner Bros. had begun development on a sequel to the sci-fi post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Legend as a new starring vehicle for Will Smith – seeing how his character from the first movie, scientist Robert Neville, was having trouble with things like breathing and being alive by the movie’s end (unlike in the alternate conclusion to the film that had been originally shot, but later discarded for the theatrical cut).
Cut to the present and I Am Legend‘s Oscar-winning co-writer/producer Akiva Goldsman has now confirmed that the proposed sequel, as well as the long-rumored prequel, are very much dead in the water. As such, Goldsman has spilled the goods and revealed a few of the ideas that were tossed around the writers’ room – including, how to resurrect Smith’s protagonist for I Am Legend 2.
Goldsman was being interviewed by io9 in connection to his directorial debut Winter’s Tale (which arrives in theaters this week), when the topic of the I Am Legend would-be franchise was broached. At first, Goldsman appeared to deny that there was ever “talk” of an I Am Legend 2, but he then clarified his real meaning – that neither a sequel nor a prequel was ever given an official green-light to move forward:
Oh no no, [there was] never a movie. I mean, we wrote a prequel [and] a sequel. We had a really interesting prequel, which was the first outbreak of the virus, during a Thanksgiving Day parade, which was awesome. We did a really interesting prequel that [took place] later. Which was right after the first… really right when the population of of humans became pretty decimated. And it was this sort of trek to Washington. Which included a dark seeker elephant that had broken out of the zoo.
As for the abandoned I Am Legend 2 story treatment, Goldsman added “That started with Neville again — and you realized that he was cloned.” He then emphasized that such a version of the project “will never happen,” but that he and his collaborators very much enjoyed the process of getting to try and crack that particularly hard nut.
Obviously, we don’t have all the details, but based on Goldsman’s comments alone, one can start to piece together why the proposed I Am Legend 2 might’ve failed to win studio heads over. For one, the clone explanation would’ve invalidated Neville’s sacrifice (as well as its thematic repercussions) in the first movie, through what sounds like a rather contrived plot device. Similarly, the theatrical cut of I Am Legend was by and large a self-contained story; ironically, the abandoned ending might’ve not only made a sequel with Smith a more logical extension of the narrative, but it would’ve also better preserved the significance (and meaning) of the title of Richard Matheson’s source material.
Then again, Smith never seemed all that interested in sequel-izing I Am Legend, for reasons similar to those behind his lukewarm interest towards the upcoming sci-fi tentpole installments Independence Day 2 and Men in Black 4 (neither of which he is expected to star in). So, all things considered, it might’ve always been that this is one franchise that just wasn’t in the cards.
Would you have liked to see the proposed (or a different) version of I Am Legend 2 and/or the prequel – or were you never that interested in seeing these projects happen?