Will Smith’s track record of box office success is virtually unparalleled in the modern era; he ranks as the only actor to have starred in eight consecutive movies that earned at least $100 million domestically, eleven straight that crossed $150 million overseas, and eight in a row that managed to open at number one in the United States.
Despite boasting such an incredible hot streak, it turns out that he was disappointed with the numbers pulled in by apocalyptic sci-fi blockbuster I Am Legend when it hit theaters in December 2017, even though a $77 million first frame was enough to see it become the highest-grossing title ever released in the final month of the year outside of the lucrative Christmas window.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Conversation, Smith admitted that he found himself questioning why I Am Legend hadn’t managed to reach $80 million, which led to a heated conversation with his producing partner James Lassiter.
“I’m excited for 30 seconds, and then my mind drifts and I say to J, ‘Hey, why do you think we missed 80?’. He said, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘No, it was 77, do you think if we would have adjusted the ending? Because I wanted the ending to feel more like Gladiator.‘ He’s like, ‘It’s the biggest opening in history, ever. What are you talking about?’ I’m like, ‘J, I get that, I’m just asking why do you think we missed the 80?’. And it’s the only time he ever hung up on me… It’s the subtle sickness of material success.”
Weak ending aside, I Am Legend was a monster hit around the world after bringing in $585 million on a $150 million budget, while the first hour of the film features some of the best work of Smith’s career as he manages to hold our attention and generate sympathy for the plight of Robert Neville as the only human character on screen, even if the star wasn’t happy with those early numbers.