The final product of Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend starring Will Smith could have been a very different film. During development, which began in 1995, the film’s script had been modified many times; lead actors were subbed in and out; who would ultimately direct the project was always in question. Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas and Mel Gibson were all up for the role of Dr. Robert Neville, though the studio wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger to be cast. Future Skyfall writer John Logan was hired and worked hard on a number of drafts. According to a few sources on the web, his film combined science fiction with inspired elements from psychological thrillers. In fact, in the film’s first half hour, there was no written dialogue.
By 1997, Ridley Scott was hired and promptly asked Amalgamated Dynamics’ Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. to conceptualize the film’s monsters. Like many projects of this type, the budget ballooned as the merchandising quotient was questioned by the studio. Following four months of involvement, Logan, Gillis, Woodruff and Scott all left the project. It remained in this development hell for years until the Lawrence / Smith team struck a chord.
I love these kinds of stories because they always make you consider the number of variables that can suddenly change an executive’s mind, thus altering the course of the film’s development forever. I came across a video on YouTube yesterday and it features some of the lost make-up designs for the “barbaric monsters” featured in the Logan / Scott script. You can see how these designs would ultimately influence the final versions in the 2007 film.
Source: Studio ADI