I Am Legend: 30 Easter Eggs And Other Tidbits From Will Smith's Apocalyptic Thriller

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At the time of its release, I Am Legend received widespread critical acclaim. The majority of it focused on its depiction of a desolate Manhattan, now being reclaimed by nature. Lions and deer roamed Times Square. Vegetation poked out of the concrete. Glass facades of buildings had collapsed, exposing their steel underpinnings. The emptiness of the City That Never Sleeps was enough, on its own, to create an uncanny, creepy atmosphere.

But bring up the movie today, and most of the dialogue concerns the ending, which was different from the novel’s and different from the filmmakers’ original intentions. Thanks to DVD / Blu-Ray extras, we can watch the filmed alternate ending and decide for ourselves: Is this a more sophisticated, impactful ending to the movie? Or had I Am Legend simply not earned this ending, by not laying the necessary groundwork for it?

I Am Legend is currently available on HBO Max and Netflix. Here are 30 trivia facts and Easter eggs you might have missed the first time around.

1. Dr. Alice Krippin

At the beginning of the movie, we see a news report about Dr. Alice Krippin, who created a genetically altered measles virus to cure cancer. She is played by Emma Thompson, who is uncredited in her role.

2. Shaq Attack

The movie has several tongue-in-cheek references to future events scattered throughout its runtime. If you look at the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen, you see an announcement that Shaquille O’Neal is retiring from basketball at the end of the 2009-2010 season. In reality, the prediction wasn’t far off; Shaq retired after the 2010-2011 season, capping a 19-year career in the NBA.

3. Filming Permits

The film cost $150 million to make, and $40 million of that was used to depopulate Manhattan, showcasing it as a landscape being reclaimed by nature. Some of this work was done via CGI; the filmmakers used lasers to map the buildings, and then used thousands of digital photos to graft details onto the scene. Other parts were filmed using soundstages with recreated NYC streets.

But major parts of the movie were filmed the old-fashioned way: by moving pedestrians out of the way, and filming on the Manhattan streets themselves. Among other prominent locations, the production shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, Herald Square, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue to film key scenes. They used approximately 500 production assistants, traffic police, and traffic enforcers to hold people back from the cameras. Smith approximates that he received more middle fingers shutting down NYC than at any other period in his career.

4. Religious Butterfly

Butterflies are a recurring visual motif in I Am Legend. This is the first butterfly image, on a crumbling poster that says “God Still Loves Us.” This foreshadows the religious themes that dominate the final third of the movie.

5. Sick Ride

Will Smith drives a 2007 Mustang Shelby GT500 in the opening scene, when he’s hunting deer in Times Square.

6. Gas Prices

One of the fun things about the movie is that we can see evidence of a societal breakdown before all the humans either evacuated or died. If you look at the Mobil gas prices, they reached $6.63 a gallon before shutting down. Scarcity of resources certainly makes them valuable.

7. Containment Efforts

You can also see massive plastic sheets draped over some of the buildings. Perhaps this was a rudimentary attempt at containing an airborne virus, which clearly failed.

8. Batman vs. Superman

You can also see a billboard for Batman vs. Superman in Times Square, which was an insider movie joke in 2007. German director Wolfgang Petersen was originally scheduled to film the movie in 2003. But his efforts were delayed and eventually canceled, after disagreements about creating separate franchises for both superheroes. Warner Bros. would eventually release Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2013, which was a separate creative effort.

9. Washington Square Park

Will Smith’s character, Robert Neville, lives in a townhouse near Washington Square Park; you can see the iconic Roman arch in many of the establishing shots.

10. Made The Cover

We see Neville on the cover of Time Magazine at the beginning of the film, establishing that at one time, he was a well-known person, considered “Savior, Soldier, Scientist” to onlookers. The white question mark next to “Savior” appears to be Neville’s addition.

11. Doggie Bath

In Zombieland (2009), when Woody Harrelson’s character is giving his dog a bath (later revealed to be his son), it is framed and lit very similarly to the scene in I Am Legend when Neville gives Sam a bath. A homage, perhaps?

12. Daughter Butterfly

The butterfly visual motif occurs during the movie’s first flashback scene. When Neville is trying to evacuate his family off the island, his daughter tries to get her parents’ attention by making a butterfly with her hands.

13. Dog Butterfly

We can see a monarch butterfly during Neville and Sam’s daily patrol; it hovers around Sam’s head before fluttering away.

14. Vampire Dog Foreshadowing

While Neville forages in people’ homes, you can read some interesting newspaper clippings hanging on people’s walls. One of them states that unlike infected humans, infected dogs can come out at dusk. This establishes a later scene where the infected humans sic their dogs on Neville after the sun sets, but before it’s completely dark. Apparently, the infected dogs have a higher tolerance to light than the infected humans do.

15. Golf Outing

The ship where Neville practices his golf swing is the USS Intrepid, an attack carrier that was built and used during World War II. The fighter plane he’s standing on is a Lockheed A-12 Blackbird.

16. Fishing Expedition

The pool where Neville fishes is part of the Temple of Dendur exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The temple was commissioned by Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar and completed in 10 BC.

In behind-the-scenes footage, the filmmakers discuss their research in social deprivation. They learned that the best way to maintain mental health is to have a routine and stick to it, which is why we see Neville maintaining a rigorous schedule.

17. Abandoned Bank

The building that Sam runs into when chasing after the deer is an abandoned bank, as demonstrated by the classic vault door and the money strewn about the floor. It’s a nice visual that shows the degree to which society has broken down: currency no longer holds any purpose or function. There is a visually similar sequence in the video game The Last of Us: Part II (2020), where Ellie and Dina explore a bank in downtown Seattle.

18. Willow Smith

Neville’s daughter is played by Willow Smith, who is Will Smith’s daughter in real life.

19. Real Mannequins

The mannequins that Neville interacts with are sometimes real mannequins. But other times (as seen in backstage footage), they are actors disguised as mannequins; you’re never quite sure what you’re looking at. This creates an uncanny vibe, and it takes us into Neville’s deteriorating mindstate, where he’s not always sure if what he’s seeing is real.

20. Chew Toy

The filmmakers made good efforts to ensure that the dog playing Samantha was comfortable at all times, including keeping her away from gunfire and using a CGI dog during the action scenes. During the scene where Samantha becomes infected and lunges at Neville, she’s actually lunging at a chew toy on Will Smith’s shoulder. Her eyes were then edited in post-production to give them their infected, red appearance.

21. The Worst Scene

The scene where Neville kills Sam is frequently cited as one of the most heart wrenching scenes in movie history. When Ranker polled its audience to determine the saddest animal death scene in movies, this scene polled at #1, ahead of the death of Marley in Marley & Me, and the death of Old Yeller in Old Yeller.

22. Shrek on the TV

When Neville wakes up after Anna rescues him, Shrek is playing on the living room’s TV. It’s the scene where Shrek and Donkey are fighting after rescuing Princess Fiona. It’s when Shrek is at his lowest point, just as Neville is at his lowest point; he’s lost Samantha, the last member of his old family, and he’s paranoid about his rescuers.

23. Family Flash

When Neville sees Anna and Ethan in the kitchen, there’s a shot where he sees his dead wife and daughter, sitting in the same positions. It’s what causes him to question if he’s hallucinating or if Anna and Ethan are real.

24. More Shrek Parallels

When Neville rejoins Anna and Ethan in the living room after his kitchen meltdown, Ethan is rewatching Shrek, and Neville begins reciting the words along to the movie. The scene is when Donkey and Shrek meet for the first time and start to know one another. Again, it loosely mirrors what’s going on in Neville’s life; like Shrek, he’s learning to trust people and take their kindness at face value.

25. Modern Masters

One of the more amusing details in the movie is seeing the art masterpieces hanging up in Neville’s house; based on their ornate framing and his prior, mundane visit to the Met, it’s implied that these are the actual paintings; as the last man alive in New York, he might have reasoned that no one would miss them. This painting on the stair’s landing is “Road With Cypress and Star” by Vincent van Gogh.

26. Starry Night

Van Gogh’s most famous painting, “Starry Night,” hangs over Neville’s fireplace. Neville’s penchant for van Gogh might be a little more than personal taste; the artist was infamous for his mentally fragile state, and he had a tendency to isolate himself from other people for long periods of time.

27. Neck Butterfly

In the movie’s penultimate scene, we see a butterfly tattoo on Anna’s neck, continuing the previously established visual motif.

28. Glass Butterfly

Lastly, when the Darkseeker throws himself against the glass, he creates a crack pattern in the shape of a butterfly. It’s this confluence of visual cues that causes Neville to accept the possibility of a purposeful God.

29. Alternate Ending?

There is an alternate, original ending to the movie, which was scrapped due to two extremely negative test audience reactions. It is widely available online and on the movie’s home releases.

Rather than blowing up the Darkseekers, Neville has a moment of insight, where he recognizes the creatures’ humanity. He has been their “monster,” having experimented on and destroyed hundreds of them. He returns the female Darkseeker to her mate, and the creatures leave in peace.

This is thematically similar to the original book’s ending, where Neville is sentenced to death by the sentient, rebuilding vampire society, having indiscriminately killed thousands of its members.

30. Redemption Song

The first song over the end credits is “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley. A song about the need to free one’s self from mental slavery as well as physical slavery, “Redemption Song” echoes of the film’s key messages: that salvation from the world’s troubles is found by working and trusting in others, rather than working in isolation.

Source: Game Spot Mashup