‘I Am Legend’ Sequel Will Ignore the First Film’s Downbeat Ending

The second film will also take a page from “The Last of Us,” said producer Akiva Goldsman, who’s “obsessed” with the HBO series

Will Smith in "I Am Legend" (Warner Bros.)

The upcoming “I Am Legend” sequel will be based on the alternate ending of the first film, in which Will Smith’s character lives, producer and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman told Deadline this week.

In the theatrical version released in 2007, Dr. Robert Neville (Smith) sacrifices himself, but ensures the survival of the human race against the tide of bloodthirsty mutants. The alternative coda, in which Neville lives, was filmed and released on a special 2008 DVD.

Both Smith and Michael B. Jordan’s casting was announced last year, but how Smith’s character could return was left up in the air until now.

As Goldsman explained, he’s going back to the original ending in Richard Matheson’s much-filmed 1954 novel. “We trace back to the original Matheson book, and the alternate ending as opposed to the released ending in the original film,” he said. “What Matheson was talking about was that man’s time on the planet as the dominant species had come to an end. That’s a really interesting thing we’re going to get to explore. There will be a little more fidelity to the original text.”

He also said the series will “start a few decades later than the first,” much as HBO’s “The Last of Us” has a 20-year time jump from the beginning of the global outbreak of the parasitic fungal infection.

“I’m obsessed with ‘The Last of Us,’ where we see the world just post-apocalypse but also after a 20-30-year lapse. You see how the earth reclaims the world, and there’s something beautiful in the question of, as man steps away from being the primary tenant, what happens?” said Goldsman. “That will be especially visual in New York. I don’t know if they’ll climb up to the Empire State Building, but the possibilities are endless.”

Matheson’s novel was previously filmed as 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth” starring Vincent Price and the 1971 Charlton Heston film “The Omega Man.”