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Helmer takes on ‘Legend’ for WB

Warners taps Lawrence, puts pic on fast track

Warner Bros. has set Francis Lawrence to direct “I Am Legend,” fast-tracking the long-gestating adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel.

David Heyman, Akiva Goldsman, Neal Moritz and Erwin Stoff are producing. Mark Protosevich wrote the script.

WB has entrusted Lawrence with one of the more ambitious films in its repertoire. But the studio has championed the director since he jumped from being a video helmer to directing the Keanu Reeves pic “Constantine.”

In “Legend,” he takes on a big sci-fi project that has been at the studio for nearly a decade. At one time, it had Ridley Scott and Arnold Schwarzenegger attached, and another incarnation had Michael Bay and Will Smith set.

Set in Los Angeles after a biological war, the pic centers on the sole healthy survivor, a man who finds himself in a battle against nocturnal mutants. Pic will undergo a rewrite under the supervision of Lawrence and the producers, who eye a 2006 start date.

Matheson’s post-apocalyptic tale has been filmed twice before. Vincent Price starred in the 1964 pic “The Last Man on Earth,” and Charlton Heston toplined “The Omega Man.”

Mike Tadross is exec producing, and WB exec Polly Cohen is overseeing for the studio.

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