By Alex Florez
Last year, Will Smith starred in an update of Richard Matheson’s future shock novel I Am Novel, which became the second-biggest non-sequel of 2007, and ever since then, there’s been a lot of rumors and speculation and curiosity whether Warner Bros. would try to do some kind of prequel or sequel to it. (Note: If you haven’t seen it or read the book, the next sentence will probably spoil both.) A prequel would be the most obvious because it would mean that Will Smith could return as Dr. Robert Neville, and we’d be able to see more of the time in between the virus being unleashed in New York and where the first movie picks up the story.
Francis Lawrence was at Comic-Con International to talk about the new NBC series “Kings” for which he directed the pilot and the first couple of episodes, and we had a chance to ask him a few questions about the rumor about a prequel, which he confirmed he would definitely be involved with. “Yes, yes, absolutely, we’re actually trying to crack that. We’re trying to figure out some ideas for it, but yes, it would be a prequel.” He did confirm that Will Smith, who’s done a couple of sequels in his career, would definitely be into doing more with the character.
The pilot for “Kings” has a lot of great aerial shots of New York City, which is doubling for the city of Shiloh, and talking about that lead to us talking about how it was portrayed in Legend. “Akiva and I really wanted to do ‘Legend’ in New York, because it’s such an iconic city and it’s just more striking to see it abandoned than Los Angeles, ’cause honestly, parts of Los Angeles can look abandoned in the middle of the day.”
We asked him whether he’d have go through the same things in creating an abandoned New York as he did for I Am Legend and whether it would be easier for a prequel, having already figured out how to do it. “Well, even as we went through them with the movie itself, it got easier. The first time you got out there and shut down 6th Avenue, it’s like, ‘How are we going to do this day after day after day?’ but by the end, it’s just like you know how to do it. You got the P.A.’s who know how to shut it down, how to let the traffic through in between set-ups and you just sort of get the routine down, so that’s not the issue.”
That led directly into Lawrence sharing some interesting ideas that might go into making the proposed prequel: “In the prequel, it’s slightly different because it’s earlier. We were three years later so we did a lot of research into the way nature would have sort of overtaken the city, with the cracks in the streets and the weeds, so if it’s just back earlier, it’ll be slightly different so the approach will be different. We’re not positive of the time of the year, because if you go in winter, you can do some entirely different kinds of things.”
As far as getting Richard Matheson’s blessing on this prequel, Lawrence commented, “I’m sure we’ll definitely keep him involved in the prequel just in terms of updating him and inviting him to read the script and see what he has to say. Matheson was very happy (with the first movie). It was a great moment when we showed him the movie. He had read the script and I invited him when we were done to see the movie and he brought his family, and I called him when we were on the international junket in Japan and I was really nervous, because it’s an adaptation and it’s different, and he knew along the way, it’s Richard Matheson. He really loved it and I had this great letter from him about it.”
As far as some of the other things on Lawrence’s slate, he told us, “There’s something on my IMDb page called ‘Eddie Dickens and the Awful End,’ which is not happening. That was an animated project that I was going to do alongside with ‘Legend’ and that we sort of decided with the studio not to do. Then there’s a Disney thing called ‘Snow and the 7’ that I’m still working on which is a modern retelling of the Snow White story.” He said that it would be a family movie in the sense of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. “It’s in that kind of a vein. It’s 19th Century China, a British girl is discovering who she really is, and it’s a great action-adventure story. That one’s a ways away but we got this great writer in and we’re working on the script. This great world and great ideas.”