I Am Legend (2007) is a science-fiction action film starring Will Smith a survivor of a deadly pandemic. In the alternate future of 2009, a genetically altered virus meant to cure cancer mutates with catastrophic consequences. By 2012, the virus kills most of the world’s population, and those who survive infection become highly aggressive nocturnal creatures referred to as Darkseekers. Robert Neville (Smith) has immunity to the terrible virus, and he does his best to search for a cure as the last human survivor in New York City. Neville’s only companion is a German shepherd named Samantha (Sam for short).
I Am Legend performed extremely well upon its release on December 14, 2007. The film earned about $77 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend, giving it the best opening weekend in December ever at the time. In the years since its release, I Am Legend is fondly remembered by fans for its well-developed concept, its heartbreaking moments, and Will Smith’s wonderful performance (not to mention Sam’s performance as well).
Obviously, a lot goes into making a blockbuster movie of this scale. From behind-the-scenes facts to Easter eggs and details you may have missed, this article collects the most interesting trivia for I Am Legend. Fair warning, there will be unavoidable spoilers, both major and minor, scattered throughout the article.
Source Material & Alternate Versions
1. I Am Legend is the third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name. The previous film versions are The Last Man on Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price, and The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston. In addition to the novel, the 2007 movie also credits the screenplay for The Omega Man as source material.
2. Richard Matheson came up with the idea for the novel I Am Legend after seeing Dracula (1931) as a teenager. He thought that if one vampire is scary, then a world filled with vampires would be even more scary.
3. The vampires in The Last Man on Earth inspired the zombies in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968).
4. I Am Legend (2007) differs from the the novel in some significant ways, starting with the infection. In the book, the infection is caused by bacteria, and Neville is immune most likely because of a bite he received from a bat years prior. In the movie, the infection is caused by a genetically altered and mutated measles virus (named the Krippin Virus after the doctor who developed it). Will Smith’s Neville has an unexplained immunity.
5. In the novel, infected people become vampires. They are referred to explicitly as vampires throughout the novel, and they display symptoms in line with the classic monster: sharp teeth, aversion to garlic and crosses, weakness to wooden stakes, inability to see themselves in a mirror, extreme sensitivity to light, and a thirst for blood. Despite showing some vampiric symptoms in the movie (attraction to blood, sensitivity to sunlight), the cast and crew often make a point in interviews to say that the Darkseekers are not vampires. Nor are they zombies. They are living, infected humans. In the novel, some of the vampires are alive, and some are reanimated corpses.
6. There is a dog in the novel, but it is not a faithful companion to Neville like Sam is in the movie. The dog in the novel is a nameless stray that Neville discovers about halfway through the story. Like in the movie, the dog plays an important role in affecting Neville’s state of mind, but it is featured much less in the novel than Sam is featured in the movie.
7. Another major way the movie differs from the novel is in the ending. In the theatrical release of I Am Legend, Neville sacrifices himself when he, Anna (Alice Braga), and Ethan (Charlie Tahan) are trapped in his lab by Darkseekers. Having discovered the cure for the virus, Neville gives it to Anna and tells her to take it with her in her search for other survivors. Neville then takes a conveniently placed grenade and blows himself up along with the Darkseekers that are hunting him.
8. In the novel, Neville is taken prisoner by intelligent vampires who are forming a new society. Neville is set to be executed for the murder of countless members of the new vampire society, but he chooses to commit suicide while in captivity. Before he dies, Neville realizes that, to the vampires, he is the monster. Though Neville kills himself in both endings, the context makes his sacrifice feel very different.
9. In the alternate ending of the movie (contained on most home video releases), when Neville, Anna, and Ethan are trapped in his lab, Neville realizes that the Darkseekers aren’t as mindless as he thought. He understands that the alpha Darkseeker is just trying to rescue the female that Neville had been experimenting on. Though it isn’t stated, it also looks as if Neville realizes that, to the Darkseekers, his experiments amounted to murder. At the risk of his life, Neville gives the female back, and the Darkseekers leave him unharmed. Neville then leaves New York with Anna and Ethan in hopes of finding other survivors.
10. The alternate ending is the one that was originally planned for the movie, but director Francis Lawrence stated that audiences at test screenings “wildly rejected” it.
11. The alternate version of I Am Legend also contains additional scenes showing Neville, Anna, and Ethan getting to know each other in the city. Even more scenes of the trio roaming through New York were shot, but they didn’t make it into either version of the film due to the scenes disrupting the pace of the movie.
12. The alternate version also shows Neville going back and inspecting the snare trap he was caught in outside of Grand Central Terminal. Neville insists that the Darkseekers aren’t smart enough to set up the trap despite recognizing the materials used as his own and knowing he didn’t set up the trap himself. Anna isn’t convinced that the Darkseekers didn’t do it, but Neville is adamant that they can’t plan, hate, or love. The scene plays directly into Neville’s realization later that he was wrong about the Darkseekers.
13. Prints of I Am Legend were distributed to theaters using the fake title Blood Allies.
14. In the 1990s, Warner Bros. hired Ridley Scott to direct a version of I Am Legend written by Mark Protosevich. The movie would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it would have featured practical effects for its infected people. The film’s monsters, referred to as Hemocytes, would have ranged from pale people with translucent skin to more emaciated figures who appear to have rotting flesh. Scott’s film was cancelled prior to production.
15. At one point, Michael Bay was also attached to direct I Am Legend.
16. Both a prequel and a sequel (featuring a clone of Robert Neville) were considered for I Am Legend, but neither made it into production.
Behind the Scenes
17. Director Francis Lawrence initially wanted the Darkseekers to be played by real people. About 50 dancers and traceurs (parkour practitioners) were hired, and they were made up in pale makeup. Upon seeing footage of the Darkseekers early in production, Lawrence said “it looked like a bunch of mime artists running across Washington Square Park.” As terrifying as the thought of being chased by a group of mimes in the middle of the night is, the decision was then made to switch to digital effects for the Darkseekers. The previously hired actors were then used for motion capture.
18. Lawrence wasn’t entirely happy with the digital special effects in the movie. While he loved some of the visual effects, he stated that more time was needed to complete certain shots. Some shots ended up never working for him. In retrospect, Lawrence says it may have been a better idea to keep the Darkseekers hidden in shadows for longer, only revealing them more in the later stages of the film.
19. Most of the outdoor (and some of the indoor) locations were shot on location in New York City. Certain streets and locations would have to be shut down for up to a few days at a time for filming to take place. Francis Lawrence has stated that he did hear complaints from citizens, but most people were very welcoming to the cast and crew.
20. The flashback sequence near the Broklyn Bridge reportedly took at least $5 million to shoot.
21. Will Smith and Francis Lawrence did extensive research in preparation for I Am Legend, including interviewing and spending time with scientists at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
22. Plants used to dress the streets of New York City were brought in from Florida.
Sam the Dog
23. Just about everyone who sees I Am Legend will fall in love with Samantha, Robert Neville’s faithful and adorable companion. Sam was played by two German Shepherds, Abbey and Kona. Abbey was the “hero” dog and was used in the majority of Sam’s scenes.
24. Abbey was discovered at a kennel in California by the film’s animal trainer Steve Berens just weeks prior to shooting. Abbey didn’t have much in the way of formal training (and reportedly didn’t even know her own name), so it took about a month of intensive training to get her ready for the film.
25. Despite Abbey’s remarkable ability to take to training, apparently she had no interest in playing fetch. Director Francis Lawrence has said they needed to use Kona for scenes where Sam fetches a ball.
26. Steve Berens initially wanted to buy Kona from her owner Steve Corioso, but Corioso refused, having been given Kona as a birthday gift from his wife a few years earlier. Corioso stated he just wanted Kona to be in the movie, but no amount of money could make him give her up for good.
27. There was a rule on set that no one other than Abbey’s trainer and Will Smith could touch Abbey during production. At the end of the shoot, Abbey was showered with affection from the cast and crew who had been dying to pet her.
28. Will Smith and Abbey would go on “dates” set up by her trainer in order to get the two actors used to each other. It was a big deal for Smith to open his heart to Abbey, since he had refused to allow himself to get close to any dog since tragically losing a pet dog when he was about 9-years-old. The dates worked though, and Smith and Abbey shared a mutual affection for each other that can be felt on camera.
29. Will Smith reportedly wanted to adopt Abbey after production wrapped on I Am Legend. He didn’t get to take Abbey home, but there are conflicting reports about why. Smith claims he begged Steve Berens for Abbey with no luck. However, in an interview with LADbible, Berens says he knew Smith wanted Abbey, but Smith never asked him directly. Either way, Berens stated that he had become attached to Abbey during their training, and he would have been hesitant to let Abbey go even if Smith approached him about it.
30. As of 2018, Abbey was reported to be alive and well. Abbey’s owner and trainer Steve Berens stated that she is enjoying retirement from acting while living with Berens’ daughter and her children.
References, Hidden Details, & Easter Eggs
31. The Batman/Superman billboard was added as an Easter egg when the filmmakers were trying to think of a fun fictional movie that could believably come out a few years into the future. They didn’t just pull the idea out of nowhere though. In 2002, Akiva Goldsman, cowriter and producer of I Am Legend, had worked on a rewrite for a Batman vs. Superman script (which can be found online under the working title Asylum). The movie was scrapped in favor of separate Batman and Superman films, but Goldsman and Francis Lawrence thought it would be a good in-joke to include a reference to the film that never got made.
32. The date on the Batman vs. Superman billboard is May 15, 2010, just under six years before Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in the United States on March 25, 2016. Also, May 15, 2010 was a Saturday, making it an odd day for a movie release. Another comic-book movie, Iron Man 2 (2010), topped the US box office on the real May 15, 2010, having been released the previous week.
33. The logo on the Batman vs. Superman billboard is strikingly similar to promotional artwork for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). The look of the logo in I Am Legend didn’t necessarily influence the 2016 film though, since it is also essentially the same as the logo used for the Superman/Batman comic book published by DC Comics starting in 2003 (four years prior to the release of I Am Legend).
34. The video store Neville frequents is an important part of helping to explain how Neville maintains his sanity after years with no human contact. In preparation, Will Smith studied transcripts describing the experience of prisoners of war, and he spoke with Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt who had been held in solitary confinement during a wrongful 27-year conviction. Smith says that a common element throughout his research was the need to create a schedule and a routine to help maintain sanity while in extended isolation. In the film, Neville’s comments indicate he’s been visiting the store repeatedly at the same time of day.
35. The video store is also full of fun bits of trivia, including some of the posters on the walls (like the Teen Titans and Green Lantern posters shown above), and the DVDs Neville interacts with. Viewers never see the front covers of the DVD cases, but the titles can be found by the back covers (as shown above and below).
36. The video store Neville visits is located at the corner of East 4th St. and Lafayette St. in New York City. At the time, the location was a Tower Records. In real life, the store is just a few blocks away from Neville’s house across from Washington State Park.
37. When Neville spots the mannequin named Fred from across a bridge, Fred’s head moves very slightly to look towards Neville (and the camera). The mannequin was replaced by an actor for the shot. It’s very subtle and easy to miss, but Fred’s movement is there to help illustrate Neville’s deteriorating state of mind.
38. The news ticker at the beginning of the movie during new footage of Dr. Alice Krippin predicts that Shaquille O’Neal would retire from basketball in 2010. The movie came close; O’Neal retired in 2011 while playing for the Boston Celtics.
39. Another sports prediction made by the ticker are that the New York Knicks would beat the LA Lakers in an overtime game. However, the Lakers beat the Knicks in both of their regular season games in during 2009.
40. The ticker also predicts that the New York Giants would lose to the New England Patriots twice in the 2009 season. The Giants didn’t play the Patriots in the regular season that year, though they did lose to the Patriots in the preseason.
41. Robert Neville’s story about Bob Marley being shot and performing a concert two days later is true. In fact, the song Neville sings to Anna in the movie, “I Shot the Sheriff,” was the song Marley and his band were rehearsing at the time gunmen entered their studio and opened fire.
42. The Bob Marley concert Neville is referencing in I Am Legend is the Smile Jamaica Concert which took place on December 5, 1976. In February of 2008, just a couple of months after the release of I Am Legend, another Smile Jamaica Concert was held. Damian Marley, whom Anna thought Neville was talking about at first, performed at the 2008 Smile Jamaica Concert.
43. Famous paintings can be seen in Robert Neville’s home. This gives the movie great depth, hinting that, similar to “renting” DVDs from a local store, Neville “borrowed” the paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other museums in New York. Paintings seen include The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (aka Whistler’s Mother) by James McNeill Whistler, Portrait of Pardy by Amedeo Modigliani, Between Ways by Brad Durham, and No. 3/No. 13 by Mark Rothko.
44. As reported before the film’s release, Will Smith spoiled the ending of I Am Legend while on a promotional tour in Japan. Warner Bros. stepped in and asked reporters not to publish the plot details Smith had revealed.
45. The jacket Robert Neville wears throughout the movie is a Belstaff Trialmaster jacket.
46. Will Smith drives a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 in I Am Legend. Charlton Heston drives a blue 1970 Ford Mustang in The Omega Man (in addition to a red 1970 Ford XL convertible).
47. Singer, songwriter, and sometimes actor Mike Patton provided the voices for the Darkseekers. In an interview, Patton says that the process of recording involved essentially just improvising vocalizations while watching scenes from the film. Patton is known for being a member of various bands, including Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, along with extensive solo work.
48. Robert Neville’s daughter Marley is played by Will Smith’s daughter Willow. I Am Legend was her first film role.