To date, there are three official film adaptations of Richard Matheson’s iconic 1954 sci-fi/horror novel, I Am Legend: 1964’s Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, 1971’s Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, and 2007’s I Am Legend starring Will Smith. (We’re not counting 2007’s I Am Omega, so don’t even ask.)
But thanks to a makeup effects expert’s recent Instagram post, we’ve just been reminded of the adaptation that could have been but never was.
Before the most recent adaptation starring Smith, Ridley Scott was working on bringing Matheson’s book to the big screen in the late-90s, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role of Robert Neville (the eponymous ‘Legend,’ if you will). But it was just never meant to be.
And for those still smarting that we never got Scott’s Legend (and never will), special effects and makeup artist Alec Gillis (It, The Nun) had to go and rub salt in the wounds by posting several awesome photos testing out the makeup effects. So, yes. Scott’s version would have most likely used makeup and practical effects, not CGI-created monsters. And that may have ultimately been the reason why the film got scrapped.
“Ridley Scott’s version of I AM LEGEND was to have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and featured ‘hemocytes’ realized as makeup characters,” wrote Gillis next to the image. “I think we did our design exploratory in about 1997 ( is that right @h2originals ?) Ridley was influenced by wax figures from the 17th century. We did a test on a single female subject to show her in a few stages of emaciation.”
Be sure to scroll through to see all the images.
Due in large part to the project’s budget ballooning out of control, the studio chickened out and shelved Scott’s version of the film in March 1998. Remember: this was the late-‘90s, when movies were moving away from practical effects and towards CGI (see: Mars Attacks!, Men in Black, The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace). So, fans wouldn’t see a new adaptation of Matheson’s novel until Francis Lawrence’s film starring Smith came out nearly a decade later.