Will Smith I Am Legend Press Conference
How attached did you get to Samantha the dog in I Am Legend?
"Oh, Abbey is the dog’s real name. When I was probably 9 years old, I had a dog Trixie. It was a white Golden Retriever that got hit by a car. So now I refuse, I have had no animals. ‘Jada, you can have the dogs you want, the kids can have the dogs they want, but I’m not putting myself emotionally connected to a dog anymore.’ Then, they brought that damn Abbey on the set. You say a ‘smart’ dog. It got to the point with Abbey that she would be playing, playing, playing, and she would hear, ‘Rolling!’ so she would run over to her mark and get ready. I was like, ‘What in the hell?’
It’s like she would know when I wasn’t doing my lines right. If I would get lost in the scene, she would just go silent you know? [Laughing] It was the first time I had allowed myself to connect and be fond of a dog since that experience, and to the owner I said, ‘Please, Abbey had to live with me. Please.’ He was like, ‘Well, this is how I make my living, man.’ I was like, ‘Tell me what you need. Tell me what you need. A house in the hills?’ But she was smart, just fun, and warm. I experienced the pain again, because he said, ‘I’ll bring her over every weekend Will, but she has to work.’ It was painful. She is great. I used to watch Lassie and animals really can be smarter than other animals. She is way on another plain of connecting to what your energy is, what your feelings are, and protective. It’s beautiful."
Two other movies have been made from this book. Did you look at those and did you read the book?
“Yeah, I looked at both of them. And there’s a couple of versions of the book also. It is such a primal concept - like the idea of being alone and the fear of the darkness. Like every four year old has thought about that idea of being separated from their family and being alone and it being dark, and what comes out of the dark? So to me, the idea just in general, is in the collective unconscious, that we’re all keyed into these fears and to these hopes.
As far as these other film versions, the thing that I felt we’d be able to do with this film is that there’s never been this level of technology to support the idea. Where you actually can shut down six blocks of Manhattan, and if a car goes by in the background, you don’t have to worry about it and just do the scene and you can just remove it later. So you actually can see empty New York; you actually can see fighter jets take out a bridge. That level of technology has never been around to support the weight of this story, so I felt like it would be a great opportunity to see visuals and to experience emotions that in the past you haven’t been able to.”
Was it comforting for you to know that I Am Legend’s author Richard Matheson considered you perfect for the role of Robert Neville?
“That’s extremely helpful. With The Pursuit of Happyness and also with Ali - when you do something that is someone’s baby, essentially, it is so important that that person or people feel that you’ve done justice. It was important to me that Mr. Matheson felt that I could do it and he was on board for it. And Ali was planning on doing it and, at the end of the day, that he felt like we had done a service to his vision. And, to me, when he signed off, it was all good.”
Are you a Bob Marley fan like your character?
Love love love Bob Marley. It’s funny because the script was done and we’d already begun shooting, and I was looking for things for my character. That Bob Marley Legend album actually is my favorite album, so it just connected with me that concept of Bob Marley having the virologist sort of idea of trying to cure hate with music. That idea just exploded in my mind about two weeks into production. It just fit perfectly that idea of lighting up the darkness. It was one of those perfect opportunities when something had already lived inside of you fits perfectly with a character and a situation. That was my little treat.”
What’s next for you?
"Working with Gabriele (Muccino) on something in March. It’s called Seven Pounds. Gabriele has a wonderful insight on who I am and how to get the best out of me. Michael Mann and Gabriele Muccino… You know how people can have X-ray vision on you? There are some people that you can’t pull tricks on, they know exactly what is going on. They see you, right to the heart of who you are, and what you are feeling. That is the relationship I have with those guys. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back in there with Gabriele.
Hancock is July 4 with Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman. Peter Berg directed. Akiva Goldsman, Michael Mann, and myself are producing."
What is Hancock about?
"If you can imagine, it’s the Michael Mann version of an alcoholic superhero. It is so bizarre. Michael Mann developed a script about an alcoholic superhero."
Isn’t your character in love with his buddy’s best friend?
"Right. Jason Bateman plays a publicist and I save his life. He begins to rehabilitate me in the eyes of the public."
With the holidays coming up, are your kids expecting a Lamborghini? How do you keep them grounded?
"It’s funny, it’s really simple. Jaden and Trey are very simple. Willow just wants clothes. She loves it. She’s dressed herself since she was about four years old. She is very specific about her style. She is very specific about how she wants to look, how she wants to present, the sizes and all that. Willow is like a …"
Would you say she’s like a shopaholic?
"It’s funny, she doesn’t like shopping. She doesn’t like going out and shopping. She wants you to think about her and she loves the idea that she gets things by surprise. Christmas really isn’t big for her. If she knows it’s coming, it’s not as big of a deal. Jaden just wants his family around. Anything that causes the whole family to be together, that is what he wants."
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