Will Smith Has The Last Of Us To Thank For His Comeback, Here’s Why

Will Smith's upcoming I Am Legend 2 was inspired by HBO's The Last of Us adaptation.

By Sean Thiessen | Updated

the last of us

It has been one year since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during the Academy Awards, and the actor’s career has since been in slow recovery. But with scores of sequels on his slate, it seems studios are ready to bank on the Fresh Prince again. Will Smith will star with Michael B. Jordan in a follow-up to 2007’s I Am Legend, and as reported by Total Film, the sequel is inspired by The Last of Us.

News that Will Smith would return in an I Am Legend sequel was reported in early 2022, but something big has happened since then: HBO’s The Last of Us. Adapted from the Naughty Dog video game series, The Last of Us has been a cultural phenomenon. Its first season had barely begun when it was renewed for a second.

I Am Legend and The Last of Us have a lot in common. They both follow rough-and-tumble men navigating a post-apocalyptic America while bearing responsibility for a cure to a plague that has morphed humanity into monsters. I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who will also pen the return of Will Smith in the sequel, highlighted a key component of The Last of Us he hopes to incorporate into his sequel.

will smith i am legend 2

He explained that I Am Legend 2 will find Will Smith decades after the first film, and that’s where The Last of Us comes in. “I’m obsessed with The Last of Us, where we see the world just post-apocalypse but also after a 20-30-year lapse,” Goldsman said. “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?”

That all sounds good and well, but there is one small problem: Will Smith’s character died at the end of I Am Legend. Goldsman has a solution to that, too.

Will Smith died at the end of the theatrical cut of I Am Legend, but survived in an alternate ending that many fans consider to be a superior conclusion. The sequel will use the first film’s alternate ending as its jumping-off point, propelling Will Smith into an apocalypse decayed by the decades, just like The Last of Us. As Goldsman said, “The possibilities are endless.”

Will Smith, in addition to surviving in a world inspired by The Last of Us, is set to star in several sequels to his popular films. The actor has set to work on Bad Boys 4, is prepping for Aladdin 2, and is developing Hancock 2 and Hitch 2. Smith will also produce and star in a remake of the 1987 film Planes, Trains, & Automobiles alongside Kevin Hart.

While Will Smith is hard at work on a set of sequels, The Last of Us universe is also expanding. In addition to the show’s second season, follow-ups to the video games that started it all may also be on the way from Naughty Dog studio. Details about the games are sketchy, but it is rumored that the studio is working on The Last of Us: Part III, along with an online multiplayer game.

Whatever Will Smith and Michael B. Jordan face in I Am Legend 2, the DNA of The Last of Us will be present. Thanks to its HBO adaptation, The Last of Us has spread like cordyceps, and it will find its way into similar projects for years to come.