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I Am Legend Press Conference

< 3BlackChicks Review™... I AM LEGEND - The Interviews (The Diva)

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Francis Lawrence, Akiva Goldsman,
and Alice [Ah-Lee-Cee] Braga
Director, Writer, and Star of
I Am Legend (2007)









Question: Akiva, we understand that you were a big fan of the original story.

Akiva Goldsman: I came onto this screenplay - wow, I'm totally ambivalent about talking as a writer. I think I might have to mostly talk as a producer. So I hired the writer, me, about two years ago? Two and a half years ago? Warner Brothers had yet again decided that the movie was in the broken toy pile, which Warners has a tendency to do with this screenplay. It had had about a zillion incarnations. So, as is their wont, they sort of said, ‘Anybody want it?’ And I raised my hand. And that was probably mark 719th draft or some such number.

Question: Can you talk about the changes you made to the book? This movie is being billed as one of the more accurate adaptations of Richard Matheson’s book, but clearly you made some changes.

Akiva Goldsman: : “Well, if you look at the source credit, you'll see that it really is adapted both from Matheson’s novel and from Omega Man, which is really an intact work of its own. It's a little bit of a hybrid. I don't want to sort of say specifically what we did and didn't change. We tried to stay true to the spirit. Obviously, one of the most contentious issues always in the development of this property has been the ending. So I leave it to others to determine to what degree they find it faithful. “

Question: How did Alice Braga get involved and what you can say about this part?

Francis Lawrence: “Alice we cast, she was actually the first and only person we had read with Will. The reason we cast her is we found something very warm and authentic about her, and there's something very believable about her. She had really strong qualities of a survivor that I think impressed all of us. The other thing is being from a different country instantly made our story more global as soon as she showed up in New York City. It felt like our issue wasn't just in Manhattan, that, you know, [it was] all across the globe.”

Question: Was it written as a woman from Brazil originally?

Francis Lawrence: “No.”

Alice Braga: Alice Braga: “Thank you. That's the first time I heard it. No, I read for the casting director here when I was in L.A., as lots of actresses get materials. Then I read the sides, because you don't get the script, and I remember the sides, I was really curious about it. I did the reading and I loved the reading. But then I flew back to Brazil and then they called me and said, ‘Well, Francis would like to meet you and would like to put you to read with Will.’

When I came in the room it was really magical because you're like, ‘It's not Will Smith, it's not Will Smith…’ How can you read with that, with passion. So it was pretty interesting because they made me so comfortable in the room. They really wanted to pull it out, the most that they could, you know?

I did the reading; I got the part. It was wonderful, the creation of the character and all of those things. Francis was really with me all the time, trying to build that and trying to inspire me to understand that we're all [alike]. I read the book. I didn't want to just take notes with the book, I preferred to be talking with Akiva and Francis all the time. It was a great challenge. I think it's the type of character that when you're trying to portray someone and it's an extreme situation, it gives you a lot of work and a lot of room to play around. And they completely opened the door for us.”

Question: And how would you describe her?

Alice Braga: “She's a really strong character in a way that she… We talked a lot about having hope, and having hope not just in life, but in love and everything else. So I think it's wonderful to be able to portray that, not just stick her with one particular thing, like believing in one thing or the other. But just believe in yourself and life and in love.”

Question: Francis and Akiva, there are a few hints that this is a New York of the future, like the Superman/Batman poster and the gas prices, but otherwise it is the New York of the present that we're all familiar with. Can you talk about the decision to keep it in that setting instead of a really post-apocalyptic distant future?

Francis Lawrence: “Sure. You know, we did a lot of conceptual work on this world before we got started, while Akiva was working on the script. What we didn't want to do is exactly what you're talking about. We didn't want to do the same grim world we see in movie after movie after a situation like this. And so we started to do research and we talked to scientists and ecologists and people, and really started looking into what would happen to a city once the population disappeared. The truth was nature would start to reclaim the city. And there have been since our film, not because of our film but since our film, there have been scientific studies, and we're sort of in line with the types of animals that would start to repopulate, the types of plant life that would start to repopulate. How, you know, the air would start to get cleaner. The water would start to get cleaner. It actually would probably start to become a slightly more beautiful place.”

Question: You really got great access to close down part of Manhattan. How difficult was that and did you have any problems with the fact that so many New Yorkers maybe thought you were doing 9/11 all over again?

Akiva Goldsman: : “We didn't have the 9/11 problem. We had almost every problem you would imagine you would have in New York when you try to shut the streets down. I am a New Yorker. By the end of the shoot, which was endless, none of us would tell anybody what we did for a living because you'd be at a cocktail party and you would hear across the room, 'Oh, you're that motherf------.' There was not someone that we hadn't stopped from getting somewhere by the end. But, New York actually, they were great. I don't think they saw us coming, but once they sort of took us in, they were really amazing.”

Francis Lawrence: “Yeah, the city was really helpful. I mean, they let us shut down pretty much everywhere we wanted to shut down. You name it, we shut it down.”

Question: How long did you shut down the streets?

Francis Lawrence: “40-plus days just because, you know, we did 6 days alone up by Grand Central and the viaduct. And there's the whole chase through the city at the start of the film. That's 57th Street, 6th Avenue, Herald Square, Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, 42nd Street… I mean all of those sections have to be, for a minimum of a day or two, shut down for a while. It was tricky.”

Question: What did you have to cut out to get it to a PG-13?

Francis Lawrence: “We were always aiming for a PG-13. We didn't have to cut anything out. You know, it's tricky when you want to try and make a movie that's intense and scary. It was never our intention to have any overt sexuality or of gore or extreme violence, but sometimes you get into that gray zone of intensity. We just hope that that didn't push us over the edge, but we didn't have any problems.”

Question: What was done to shape the project beforehand into Will Smith's star persona?

Akiva Goldsman: : “Well you know, Will was actually associated with this project before we were. Will has had a long courtship, relationship, affinity to - Will has been attached and unattached to I Am Legend for quite a while and had a very specific sort of game plan to have done the movie years ago. So we all sort of came to it with very strong ideas about how to construct the object and reconstruct the object. It wasn't so much how do you remake it for Will, but how did Will's point of view and all of our point of views sort of come together in order to create this version. Which is really sort of a hybrid of some stuff I did, some stuff Mark [Protosevich] did, stuff Will brought to it, and stuff Francis brought to it.”

Question: And working with Will Smith?

Francis Lawrence: “Working with Will… Now I know all of you guys have heard stories so it's a bit of a cliché, but Will's a pretty great guy to work with. He's as professional as can be. He’s as positive as can be. His energy is always fantastic. He's very smart [and] he's really good with story. He's a really good actor. He's very inventive and creative and has great instincts, you know? You can't ask for a better person to work with - other than Alice.”

Question: Akiva, every adaptation to date has the catalyst for the virus as being indicative of the times. Omega Man was a nuclear thing. Last Man on Earth also dealt with nuclear issues. This film deals with something very simple: a cure for cancer that mutates. Why didn't you lean toward something that might have been more terrorist-related or something more timely, I should say?

Akiva Goldsman: : “Well, we actually, and this also is reflected in the casting of Emma Thompson in that cameo at the very beginning. Francis and Will, this would be chapter one on nerds on parade, spent an unbelievable amount of time at the CDC. I'm pretty sure [they] are probably infected right now with something, so you should all wear masks. But I think that [we] finally came to this idea that it's too easy to always assume that things will go wrong because someone was twirling their mustache. That, in fact, sometimes things go wrong out of people trying to do right. That was sort of trying to take a different turn on it. So that was where I think we came out. You really liked that. That was really you.”

Francis Lawrence: “Yeah, I really liked that. I mean, it was also just interesting in talking with people at the CDC, that this is how a lot of things happen. These horrible diseases and viruses that come around can pop up out of nowhere. It's not just bio-terrorism and things like that. It can be a change in the environment that brings unseasonable rain to an area, which attracts an animal and they have a disease and suddenly something's borne and spread. That kind of stuff is interesting to me, where it comes [from] when it's unexpected.”

Question: How was working with the dog?

Francis Lawrence: “The dog was fantastic. The dog--that was Abbey, and Steve Berens is the trainer. We all wanted a German Shepherd and he sent me some pictures. I saw some German Shepherds that he had trained, but their faces were very dark and I wanted a dog that felt a little friendlier. So he went searching and he found a dog, a two year old German Shepherd at a rescue, which was Abbey. She had never been trained, never worked in film before, and he only had a couple of months. So he started working with her, introduced her to Will, and I had to say she was fantastic.”

Akiva Goldsman: : “Tell the story about petting.”

Francis Lawrence: “Oh yeah. There was a rule on set that nobody could interact with her other than the trainer and Will. And that was so that, everybody was dying to pet her because she was the most beautiful, friendly dog that I had ever seen, but nobody could touch her, except Alice told me today that she touched her all the time.”

Alice Braga: “I read an interview and I was like, ‘Oh my god, the guy never stopped me!’”

Francis Lawrence: “But what was great was when she was finally wrapped, and you know when an actor wraps, the crew gathers around. She was finally wrapped and it was the one day that everybody could finally go and pet her. And she was very excited that she got all that attention from everybody that she had been dying for.”

Akiva Goldsman: : “She's a star.”


Copyright Kamal "The Diva" Larsuel-Ulbricht, 2007 - Present
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