You might be shocked to learn that Ridley Scott once developed a version of I Am Legend for Warner Bros. back in 1997 with Arnold Schwarzenegger set to star. This of course was before studio replaced them with director Francis Lawrence and Will Smith to work on it years later.
The film apparently got too costly and the studio was concerned about it creatively as Scott was considering very little dialog in the film making it purely atmospheric and visual experience. It’s script was penned by John Logan who would eventually work with Scott on Gladiator, becoming a huge missed opportunity. Warner Bros. would give the axe and the project didn’t off the ground until Will Smith got involved with it.
Schwarzenegger likely wasn’t on the best of terms with Warner Bros. after the release of Batman And Robin which tanked the franchise and could have played a part in the project getting shutdown. It would be six years before the studio would release another film with Arnold. He’d eventually take a crack at the horror genre with End of Days.
One of the biggest disappointments for horror fans like myself is when genre pioneers like Ridley Scott are hindered by studio’s lack of confidence, since Ridley hadn’t at the time touched the genre since 1979 with Alien. It would have been fascinating to see the direction Scott’s take on the material, considering the lousy film we got instead.
I actually thought Smith’s performance was fine in the film but was completely turned-off by the CGI created creatures in the film. Now knowing that Scott was aiming for practical effects it’s upsetting that Warner Bros. went with the inferior digital effects instead.
Director Francis Lawrence confirmed to Den of Geek that the original plan was to use real people and the end result was also disappointing to him as well. It also sounds like the studio wasn’t planning on using the effects team Ridley had put together for his version.
“I wanted to do it with real people in the beginning,” Lawrence said. “We actually cast this huge group of people, like, 50 dancers and parkour guys. And we shaved their heads and they worked with movement coaches and we created this behaviour for everybody. And we built these suits, this guy called Christien Tinsley built them.”
“We actually started to shoot with them. Second unit started first, and we were doing stuff with them running across Washington Square Park towards the house, and I was really worried about it, because they needed to be fast, and we were going to have to augment them and duplicate them. They had to be aggressive, and I just wasn’t convinced it was going to work. “When I saw the dailies, I broke out into a cold sweat. They were very pale, and covered in this chalky powder to protect their skin, which was a really interesting concept, but it looked like a bunch of mime artists running across Washington Square Park. It didn’t work at all.”
“And one night, we shut that all down and decided we were going to go for CG. We basically postponed anything we were going to shoot with creatures until much later. We went to a whole other design process. We used the same actors, but now they were in these speed skater suits with dots, and it was all performance capture, which would be translated to these things.”
Luckily, we have an idea of the what the in-camera creature effects would have looked in Ridley’s film thanks to Studio ADI who have posted a couple of videos showing-off their concept work for the film. The first video is newer as it was posted back in November and second has already made the rounds online. The Stan Winston School has also provided a couple of high resolution images of the make-up tests as well.
Warner Brothers is currently trying to develop a new version of the film without Will Smith, having a script put together which might allow it to become a franchise. There’s no word on a director but hopefully they’ll at least try to approach Ridley about making it or at the very least consider some of these design concepts.
SOURCE: STUDIO ADI