If you ask the director of I Am Legend, a movie about the last man on earth is a pretty hard act to follow. In a sit-down with the Happy Sad Confused podcast to promote his latest flick, the Jennifer Lawrence spy thriller Red Sparrow, Francis Lawrence was asked whether a reboot of I Am Legend could ever happen, considering the 2007 blockbuster grossed nearly $600 million worldwide.
And in his mind, the answer is a firm no for some very obvious reasons—like the fate of star Will Smith's character.
"[Warner Bros.] was really, really into coming up with something, and I just didn't know how to do it," the filmmaker said. "I saw very quickly after the movie came out, and I went, 'People went to go see the last man on earth. We've done the last man on earth, he died at the end of the movie, we can't do it again.' But people weren't in love with him as a character. It's not Indiana Jones, like this kind of iconic character that you just want to see again and again and again."
Lawrence, who knows a thing or two about franchises, having directed the last three Hunger Games installments, also dismissed the idea of a prequel.
"It just felt forced to do a prequel," the helmer added. "We would have been doing Contagion. And to do something that's a follow-up either doesn't have him in it, or you have to do something really dumb, which is, you know, 'Scientists have taken his DNA and reanimated him somehow!' And that would have been really dumb, and so I just kind of bowed out very quickly."
Reflecting on his post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror hit, Lawrence admitted he would keep the first hour but "throw the rest out and redo it" – including his preferred more nihilistic ending, which would have seen Smith's Col. Robert Neville realize the vampires were sentient and it's the the humans who are the bad guys for hunting them down. But test audiences thought that was a downer, so Lawrence and company ended up with Smith heroically sacrificing himself so others could live.
"It was very successful and I'm very grateful for that," he said, but noted that he, Smith, and writer-producer Akiva Goldsman were "really attracted to the weird little sort of character art film in it … dealing with social deprivation and survivor's guilt. That was what I loved. I could give a s—t about the infected people swarming his house."
Lawrence acknowledged the creative team ended up piling on the horror and digital vampires to justify the film's $150 million budget. But ultimately that decision spoiled it, noting "people went for the last man on earth, and they didn't go for the horror and the zombies."
One movie of his, however, that Lawrence is already at work on writing a sequel for is Red Sparrow, which isn't even out yet. That flick hits theaters March 2.