Главная страница «Первого сентября»Главная страница журнала «Английский язык»Содержание №19/2008

Amazing Stories from the Web

continued from No. 18

Part 3


Pre-Reading: Discussion Questions

1. Do you prefer to read a book, or to watch a screen-version? Why?

2. What is your favourite film genre?

“I Am Legend” was a surprise box-office hit released in December, 2007, and starring Will Smith. The story behind the film is rather like the well-known children’s rhyme about the house that Jack built.

The film is based on “I Am Legend”, a 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson. He was born in 1926, and his very first published story “Born of Man and Woman” (1950) immediately brought him fame in the science fiction genre. Other writings followed quickly. When his first novel, “I Am Legend”, appeared, Matheson moved from New York to Hollywood and became one of the most successful script writers ever, contributing to various films, as well as to such celebrated series as “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek”. His most prominent theme has always been Warning, and naturally his whole fiction is based on the premise “What if…” Thus, what if a miracle cure will have unexpected side effects, like vampirism or zombie effect?

“I Am Legend” is a story about exactly such a situation, when a drug considered to be the modern panacea rapidly eliminates mankind. The last man alive in a future Los Angeles, California tries to find a counter-cure. The story is notable as influential on the developing modern vampire genre as well as the zombie genre, in popularizing the fictional concept of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease, and in exploring the notion of vampirism as a disease. The novel was a success, and was adapted to film as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, as The Omega Man in 1971, and again in 2007 as I Am Legend.

I Am Legend – 2007 is a post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film. It was directed by Francis Lawrence. Will Smith plays virologist Robert Neville, who thinks he may be Earth’s only surviving human not affected by a vicious man-made virus. He works to create a cure while living in a city inhabited by mutant victims of the virus.

Warner Brothers have owned the film rights to Richard Matheson’s novel since 1970. They began developing the new film project in 1994. Various actors and directors were attached to the project, though production was delayed due to budgetary concerns related to the script. Actors Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas had been considered to star in the film, with Ridley Scott, the famous creator of “Alien”, as director. By 1997, the studio decided to invite Arnold Schwarzenegger for the leading role, and to shoot the film in Houston. However, when the projected budget escalated to $108 million, doubts as to the validity of the project surfaced. For about five years the production languished.

In 2002, Arnold Schwarzenegger offered to be the producer of I Am Legend. He also suggested that Will Smith play the main role, saying that Will was the only actor who could hold the audience’s attention throughout the film. Finally, after many discussions and changes, the production began in 2006 in New York City, filming mainly on location in the city. Warner Brothers launched a tie-in comic and an online multiplayer game as part of its marketing campaign. I Am Legend was released on December 14, 2007 in the United States. It opened to the largest ever box office for a non-Christmas film released in the U.S. during December. The film’s commercial success cemented Will Smith’s standing as the number one box office draw in Hollywood.

Akiva Goldsman was asked to produce, and Francis Lawrence to direct the film. Lawrence said that he was fascinated by the chance to shoot empty urban environments. He also wanted a chance to direct a great actor who was to to portray a huge loss and total loneliness, as well as hope and determination to save the remains of mankind from complete elimination by the virus.

Due to the improvisational skills shown by Will Smith, some changes were introduced into the script even during the production. The actor said that Neville was his toughest acting challenge. While doing research for the role, Smith visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. He also met with a person who had been in solitary confinement and a former prisoner of war, to learn about the effect of loneliness and isolation on a human being. Smith compared Neville to Job, who lost his children, livelihood and health. Like the Book of Job, I Am Legend studies the questions, “Can he find a reason to continue? Can he find the hope or desire to excel and advance in life? Or does the death of everything around him create imminent death for himself?” Smith also cited an influence in Tom Hanks’ performance in Cast Away (2000).

Abbey, a three-year-old German Shepherd, played Neville’s dog Sam. Another dog, Kona, was used for scenes where Neville plays fetch with his companion, as Abbey refused to perform these scenes. The rest of the supporting cast consists of Salli Richardson as Zoe, Robert’s wife, and Alice Braga as a survivor named Anna. Willow Smith, Will Smith’s daughter, makes her film debut as Marley, Neville’s daughter. Emma Thompson has an uncredited role as Dr. Alice Krippin, who appears on television explaining her vaccine for cancer, that later mutates into the virus.

The film creators experimented with various noises to produce that horrible inhuman shriek of the mutants which scares the audience throughout the film. Finally, somebody heard rock singer Mike Patton live, and the studio approached him with the offer to provide the guttural screams of the infected “hemocytes”. Special effects specialist Dash Mihok provided the character animation for the “Alpha Male” infected.

The location was New York City. Though New Yorkers loved to watch the actual shooting with Will Smith, they complained about the inconveniences it caused. A bridge scene was filmed for six consecutive nights in January on the Brooklyn Bridge to serve as a flashback scene in which New York’s citizens evacuate the city. Shooting the scene consumed $5 million of the film’s reported $150 million budget, which was the most expensive shot in the city to date. The scene, which had to meet requirements from fourteen government agencies, involved 250 crew members and 1,000 extras, including 160 National Guard members. Filming concluded on March 31, 2007.

I Am Legend earned four nominations for the Visual Effects Society Awards, and was also nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Outstanding Film and Actor at the Image Awards, and Best Sound at the Satellite Awards.

guttural adj. uttered deep in your throat, as a roar

To find more information about I Am Legend, you may either use a search engine at: <yahoo.com>, <google.com>

Or you may simply type any of the names direct into the address line, and you will get zillions of links.

to be continued

By Nina Koptyug ,