'I Am Legend' Director Reveals He Wished He Had Been More Faithful to Original Story
Richard Matheson's 1954 novella I Am Legend is a seminal tale of a man facing a lonely and horrific existence, as a virus has not only wiped out much of humanity, but it has also turned them into vampiric monsters. The novella inspired movies like The Omega Man, The Last Man on Earth and a direct adaptation of the property in 2007 starring Will Smith. The film was a relative success, yet, looking back on it, director Francis Lawrence revealed he wished he had stuck closer to the source material.
"Looking back at it now, I think that we could have just done basically the story of the novella straight up and made the same amount of money in terms of ticket sales because people went, I think, for the last man on earth," Lawrence shared with ScreenRant. "They would have accepted the nihilistic ending, they would have accepted vampires instead of people with infections. We could have literally made the book, which I would have been much happier with, but you know when you're spending that much money you're panicking that you're making this weird little kind of art film about a guy alone with a dog in New York and you're trying to, you know, sort of create that spectacle."
In the original story, the creatures don't pose immediate threats to the main character, who spends his days going from house to house to murder them in their sleep. The story even proposes that the man should just give up and succumb to becoming one of these creatures, as he is regarded to be as deadly to them as they are to him, with the exception being he's the one going on to destroy them one at a time.
The film, on the other hand, plays up the monstrous nature of the creatures, robbing them of all their former humanity.
Lawrence's original ending for the film did involve Smith's character realizing these monsters had sentience, but audiences didn't approve and a new, more traditional ending was included that played up the main character's heroism in the face of the monsters.
"I agree it's the better ending. I mean, it's the more philosophical version of the end, but in terms of story math we're doing everything you're not supposed to do, right?" the filmmaker explained of the original ending. "The hero doesn't find the cure, right? They drive off into the unknown and the creatures you've been saying are the bad ones the whole time you learn actually have humanity and aren't the bad ones – the hero's the bad one. And so you've basically turned everything on its head. We tested it twice and it got wildly rejected, wildly rejected, which is why we came out with the other one."
Rumors have surfaced involving a sequel, a prequel and a reboot, yet none of those plans have come to fruition.