The original I Am Legend trilogy plan involved Will Smith’s Neville reluctantly teaming with the Darkseekers; here’s why this concept was scrapped.
I Am Legend was once set to be a trilogy that would have seen Will Smith’s Neville teaming up with the Darkseekers – here’s the abandoned plan explained. I Am Legend was adapted twice before the Will Smith movie; once with 1964’s The Last Man On Earth starring Vincent Price and again with 1971’s The Omega Man with Charlton Heston – the latter of which is one of Tim Burton’s favorite horror movies. Will Smith’s I Am Legend had something of a tortured road to production. It was originally set to be helmed by Ridley Scott and star Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Scott’s expensive and dark, R-rated vision caused Warner Bros to cancel it.
In the years that followed, directors such as Rob Bowman (The X-Files) and Michael Bay circled I Am Legend, with the project going through numerous revisions. Finally, Smith signed on as Robert Neville, seemingly the last man alive in a world where a virus has wiped out most of mankind and turned the rest into nocturnal creatures known as Darkseekers. Francis Lawrence signed on to direct, and I Am Legend’s eerie depiction of an abandoned New York combined with Smith’s affecting performance saw the movie become a blockbuster
In contrast to I Am Legend’s superior alternate ending, the theatrical finale saw Neville sacrificing himself to save two other survivors – Anna (Alice Braga) and a boy named Ethan – he encountered, alongside a potential cure. The originally shot ending, however, revealed the creatures were actually sentient and capable of emotion and only attacked Neville’s shelter to rescue one of their own. The Darkseekers allow him to live, and Neville, Anna and Ethan are seen leaving the city for parts unknown. Screenwriter Mark Protosevich was once tasked by producers by taking off from this more hopeful ending and creating a potential trilogy of I Am Legend movies.
Recalling his version of I Am Legend 2 to Money Into Light, Protosevich stated his sequel screenplay opened with Smith’s Neville – who may return for the upcoming I Am Legend sequel if the original ending is used – and the others searching for survivors and finding them at Attica prison. According to the writer, “Neville comes to realize that despite the other survivors’ desire to create an all-American ‘hometown’, there is a dark underbelly to their world. There is no true individual freedom and many of the citizens in leadership roles subjugate dissenters and enjoy torturing captured Infected.” Neville himself would later be left for dead in New York, only for I Am Legend’s alpha male Darkseeker to save him. The Darkseekers are establishing their own civilization, but as their children are dying, they need Neville’s medical expertise. He and the Darkseekers would then team to save those trapped in Attica from its evil human rulers.
Protosevich’s I Am Legend 3 plan would have circled back to the key theme of the book. The end of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend revealed that vampires were the next evolutionary step and Neville – as one of the last remaining humans – would eventually come to be seen as a myth as vampires had once been. The third film would have focused on the vampiric Darkseekers becoming this next step, and the conflict inherent in that with mankind. Of course, when I Am Legend’s reshot ending killed Neville, that trilogy plan was scrapped. While plot details for the upcoming I Am Legend 2 starring Smith and Michael B. Jordan have yet to be revealed, it seems unlikely it will swing back to this original sequel plan. Protosevich’s follow-up picked up shortly after the original, and as the writer pointed out in the same interview, The Walking Dead has already covered the idea of survivors building a new life inside a prison.
Next: Everything We Know About I Am Legend 2
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