I Am Legend Movie: Cast, Crew, Special FX, and a Whole Lot More

Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend movie was based on a 1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson. The story is about Robert Neville, a scientist who thinks he is the last living man in the world; people everywhere either died or have turned into monsters.

I Am Legend Movie

Events in the film are set in a devastated New York City where houses are abandoned and the streets are empty, except for the occasional wandering Darkseeker-like creatures at night. Neville spends his days with a German Shepherd named Sam, sneaking around the neighborhood for food and supplies. At home in his basement laboratory, he works to find a cure for the Darkseeker epidemic.


·      Will Smith as Robert Neville

·      Alice Braga as Anna

·      Charlie Tahan as Ethan

·      Dash Mihok as Alpha Male Darkseeker

·      Joanna Numata as Alpha Female Dakrseeker

·      Salli Richardson as Zoe Neville

·      Willow Smith as Marley Neville

·      Darrell Foster as Mike (the military escort)

Dr Alice Krippin is portrayed by Emma Thompson (uncredited). Samantha is portrayed by Abbey and Kona. 


·      Director                       : Francis Lawrence

·      Screenplay                  : Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich

·      Executive Producers   : Bruce Berman and Dana Goldberg

·      Producers                    : Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, David Heyman, and Neal H. Moritz

·      Cinematography         : Andrew Lesnie

·      Fil Editor                     : Wayne Wahrman

·      Music                          : James Newton Howard

·      VFX                            : Sony Pictures Imageworks

Notes on Special Effects

Events in the novel are set in Los Angeles, but the film puts Robert Neville in New York City. Director Francis Lawrence believed NYC would make for more striking imagery of a city in ruins compared to LA. The director knew from the beginning the film needed hundreds of special-effect shots, but he did not want to rely too much on CGI for the ghost-town look and feel. According to the director, extensive computer imagery in a live-action feature film could make the background appear like a painting. The number of computer-generated objects had to be limited. 
I Am Legend Movie

One of the first scenes filmed involved Neville walking on the streets of Manhattan brandishing an M-16. Lawrence was pleased because the location helped build the psychology of the character. The result could have been much worse if Neville actually was in a studio in front of a green screen. The special effects team from Sony Pictures Imageworks did quite an extensive post-production process to remove any other signs of life from the scene. The destroyed Times Square and bridges were of course computer-generated.
Among the trickiest sequence was the scene where Neville drove around the city. It was not difficult from a CGI standpoint, but it was a bit of a handful because Lawrence wanted to include real windblown leaves all over. Big elements like the deer, rabid Darkseekers, and fire were CGI. To achieve the desired effect, the only effective option was to get the shots done before the leaves disappeared from the location. It turned out to be a massive rush job, yet the result was as good as expected.
The overall VFX approach to the Darkseekers’ appearance took a drastic change during the principal photography. Lawrence initially intended to create the monsters using real people in prosthetic makeup. They had to be aggressive, menacing, and basically scary. Many things went wrong in the costume and cosmetic applications, and Lawrence thought the monsters were just too pale to be horror-inducing. Much of the failure could be attributed to the lack of development time. In the end, the finished makeup could not capture the director’s vision. A decision finally came to ditch the generic approach and resort to CGI instead. Since the decision came a little late, the special effects team at Sony Pictures Imageworks had to make some serious adjustments to resources and schedules.
I Am Legend Movie

Every shot that included Darkseekers was postponed until much later in the production timeline. When the production was finalized, the pitfalls became apparent. The VFX team had the freedom to design the creatures, but they didn’t have the time to perfect them. As a result, the hordes of Darkseekers ended up being too artificial-looking. They failed to introduce any real sense of dread. The Darkseekers were portrayed by the same group of actors, however, they were now wearing skater suits with plenty of dots rather than organically-designed outfits and makeup; everything was designed for performance capture. 

The CGI worked well to deliver the illusion of a devastated city devoid of life, but it fell short in the Darkseeker creation. Bear in mind, the computer-generated monsters were created near the end of the production schedule. A final rush resulted in the variability of VFX quality. Using CGI seemed like a better (and more time-efficient) idea at the time because some of the Darkseekers’ action sequences were simply too difficult, if not impossible, to do with prosthetics. As the production went on, the CGI modelling for the Darkseekers had to be treated as a rush job.

There is no denying that I Am Legend proved to be a huge success, earning a worldwide total gross of more than $585 million against a production budget of $150 million. It did not change the fact that Lawrence himself felt the CGI aspect, particularly on the Darkseekers, was a big downfall. With the sole exception of the Darkseekers—which had extensive screen time—everything in the film, even the lab rats, was beautifully created and shot throughout.

We really enjoyed the I Am Legend movie, despite its storyline being so drastically different from the book. Admittedly, though, the Darkseekers did seem fake. What do you think? How ’bout those Darkseekers?

Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know about.

What are the movies that used the best CGI?

According to stuff.tv here is 25 of the best movie CGI effects ever.

  • District 9 (2009)
  • Transformers (2007)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Tron (1982)
  • Gladiator (2000)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • The Last Starfighter (1984)
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007)
  • Hollow Man (2000)
  • Westworld (1973)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  • Starship Troopers (1997)
  • Labyrinth (1986)
  • The Abyss (1989)
  • Looker (1981)
  • Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Willow (1988)
  • The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
  • Death Becomes Her (1992)

Go to stuff.tv to read more details about each of these movies. The article is called 25 Best movie CGI effect ever written by Dan Grabham.

What do we know about Frances Lawrence?

According to rottentomatoes.com Lawrence was born in Vienna and raised in Los Angeles since he was three. He began his career making music videos and shooting movies on Super-8 while in high school. He went to Loyola Marymount University and majored in filmmaking. He continued producing his own projects. After graduation, he began shooting music videos for a friend who owned his own independent label. Five years later, he was making videos for Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Will Smith and Gwen Stefani.

His most notable works are Constantine (2005), I Am Legend (2007), Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the sequels.

Go to rottentomatoes.com to see more details about Frances Lawrence and his films.

What are some interesting facts about Will Smith and I Am Legend?

According to cinemablend.com here are 10 facts about the Will Smith movie I Am Legend.

  1. An early version of I Am Legend was to star Arnold Schwarzenegger and be directed by Ridley Scott.
  2. Michael Bay was set to direct Will Smith at one point.
  3. I Am Legend was moved from LA to NYC because it was easier to make the Big Apple feel empty.
  4. The I Am Legend crew went to great lengths to make NYC look devoid of human life.
  5. Director Frances Lawrence made a push for silent scenes after watching a movie with no sound to not awakened his newborn son.
  6. The actors playing the Darkseekers were replaced with CGI partway through the production.
  7. The Brooklyn Bridge flashback scene alone cost Warner Bros. $5 Million.
  8. The Batman V. Superman Easter Egg was included to honor Akita Goldsman’s unproduced DC crossover.
  9. Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton helped bring the Darkseekers to life in I Am Legend.
  10. The I Am Legend production assistants were so aggressive that even Frances Lawrence had trouble getting back on set.

Go to cinemablend.com to read more details about each of these facts about I Am Legend. The article is called I Am Legend: 10 Behind-the-Scenes Facts About the Will Smith Movie by Phillip Sledge.

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