Warner Bros is currently working on a new project based on I Am Legend, the much-adapted science fiction novel by Richard Matheson. The most famous (and most recent) version starred Will Smith in 2007, though it was an enormous box office hit, was also criticized for its narrative changes. It is not currently known how the studio might be developing a new version of the influential post-apocalyptic story, but they might have more issues getting it set up than they intended. Warner Bros is currently being sued by film distributor Village Roadshow, with the latter alleging that the studio is actively damaging profits on properties shared by the two. While the lawsuit is still ongoing, it may slow down new projects like I Am Legend that have long been owned by both.
I Am Legend was originally published in 1954 by Richard Matheson, a legendary science fiction writer who worked on the original Twilight Zone show and had many of his works adapted into film and television. The novel centered on the single human survivor of a deadly pandemic that has turned the rest of the population of the world into vampires. That survivor spends his days researching the infected and monotonously killing them during their slumber, and his nights shielding himself from relentless attacks. As befits a man behind many of the classic episodes of The Twilight Zone, there is a twist: as it turns out, the infected have been slowly evolving from their animalistic state and view him as an inhuman monster who nightly wreaks havoc on their loved ones. The Will Smith version removed this twist, though it survived in an alternate ending. The previous versions, The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, and The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, retained the original intent of the author to some degree, but had less impact on pop culture than Will Smith’s.
As it is, whatever new version of I Am Legend that Warner Bros may be developing might already be dead in the water. The lawsuit from Village Roadshow is claiming that Warner Bros is actively shutting them out of projects like an I Am Legend reboot, to ensure greater financial rewards for Warner Bros. It is becoming an increasingly heated legal battle between the two companies, who have previously collaborated for over 25 years. In particular, the lawsuit claimed that the recent turn by Warner Bros to release films like The Matrix Resurrections simultaneously in theaters and on their HBO Max streaming platform is actively damaging Village Roadshow’s finances. This is similar to actor Scarlett Johannesson’s suit against Disney for its similar release strategy with Black Widow; that suit has since been settled out of court.
Any new I Am Legend project probably will be delayed at the very least until the lawsuit comes to some conclusion. Will Smith is currently producing a different reboot with a dramatic take on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so it would be unlikely to see him involved, but given the evergreen quality of I Am Legend, who can say? Much like a vampire, this particularly story just seems never quite dead.