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The heart and soul of 'I Am Legend'

By Leslie Morgan     December 14, 2007

The 'I Am Legend' film had circled development hell for some time and Warner had continually shelved it. Both producer/screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and director Francis Lawrence came onto the project much later than Will Smith.

Smith had been involved in the project for over a decade as it had gone through various other writers and directors before settling in with Writer Akiva Goldsman and Director Francis Lawrence.

"Will had a very specific game plan to have done the movie some years ago. We all came into it with very specific ideas. It wasn't so much how do you re-make it for Will, but how did Will's point of view and our point of view come together to make this version. This is sort of a hybrid version that I brought to it, [screenwriter Mark Protsevtch] brought to it, Will brought to it and Francis brought to it."

Working with Smith proved to be a dream come true for Lawrence.

"This is totally cliché, but Will is a great guy to work with. He is as professional as can be, he is as positive as can be, his energy is always fantastic," the director said. "He is very smart, really good with story, a really great actor, and is incredibly inventive with great instincts. You can't ask for a better person to work with other than Alice."

Lawrence is referring to actress Alice Braga, who is best known for her role in City of God. In 'Legend' she plays Anna, a vital role opposite Smith.

"She was the first and only person to read with Will. There was something very warm and authentic about her. There is something very believable about her and she had really strong qualities of a survivor that impressed all of us," Lawrence said. "The other thing was being from a different country made our story more global. Our issue wasn't just in Manhattan it was global."

In fact in the original script the character was not meant to be Brazilian. Braga read for the casting director in Los Angeles. "Francis said he would like to meet you and when I went into the room it was so magical. It was pretty interesting because they made me so comfortable in the room."

Braga said she found her time on the set with Smith rewarding.

"I loved what Frances said and as an actress playing opposite him, it was a pleasure to work with someone that wants to give you more and more and more. He wants to open the door for you and make you feel really comfortable," Braga enthused. "He just all the time pushes me harder and harder. He pushed me somewhere where he wanted me to go. For me it was my first American movie and it was an enormous and pleasurable opportunity."

Braga had read Richard Matheson's book, on which the film is based, and felt the role was incredibly challenging.

"I think it's the type of character that when you portray someone in an extreme situation, it gives you a lot of work and a lot of room to play around," Braga said, adding that she saw Anna as, "A really strong character in the way that she...we talked a lot about having hope and having hope not with just life, but in love and everything else. So it's wonderful to be able to portray that."

'I Am Legend' opens in theaters today.

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