I Am Legend Prequel Green Lit

It appears that Will Smith will be fighting more CG-animated zombies, even though his character met his demise in the theatrically released version of the Warner Bros. surprise hit I Am Legend. Daily Variety reports that the studio has committed to a Legend prequel that will explore the days leading up to the mass evacuation that left scientist Robert Neville the sole surviving human in New York City.

Francis Lawrence, who helmed the first film, is reportedly on board to direct the followup. A script is being penned by relative newcomer D.B. Weiss, and the film will be produced by Akiva Goldsman through his Weed Road, along with Will Smith’s Overlook Ent. partner, James Lassiter.

Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend, was first brought to the screen in 1964 with the Vincent Price vehicle The Last Man on Earth, followed by the 1971 Charlton Heston cult favorite The Omega Man. The Will Smith version features character animation and other effects by Sony Pictures Imageworks under visual effects supervisor Jim Berney.

Warner Bros. actually shot an alternate ending in which Smith’s character survives, and included it on the DVD release. Many fans prefer the alternate conclusion, not only because it’s a bit more upbeat, but because it preserves the complex pathos of Richardson’s novel. When the film raked in more than $584 million worldwide, Warner execs no doubt wished they had gone with that ending, as they suddenly had a tent pole on their hands and had to think up a way to bring Smith back.