My "I Am Legend" Screen Test
Now that it's been in theaters for a while, I feel like I can finally talk about my screen test for the Will Smith film "I Am Legend." I was being considered for the part of the main zombie (I don't remember what they called them in the movie, but they were basically zombies). Now you might think, "Hey, Michael Ian Black doesn't seem like a good choice to lead an army of man-eating zombies in a Will Smith movie," but you didn't see my audition. I was incredible. Here's a still photo from the screen test:
I should probably clarify that when I say, "Screen Test," this was not something that the studio wanted me to do. It was done on my time, using my web cam, and my pool boy.
When I initially inquired as to whether or not the studio would be interested in seeing me read for the part of the zombie leader, they said, "No thank you," probably because they harbor many of the same doubts you have. They think Michael Ian Black, they think "Kind of gay VH1 commentator" instead of "versatile classically trained actor who once played the part of The Pirate King in Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta 'The Pirates of Penzance' at camp."
This is exactly the kind of stereotyping I am trying to overcome.
Well, let me tell you something: I saw "I Am Legend," and I thought the zombie leader was terrible. Yes, he had all the "zombie moves down" and yes, he wore his zombie pants very well, but where was the zombie leader's joie de vivre - his love for life? You may think, "Zombies are undead - they don't have a love for life." But that's why MY characterization of the zombie leader was so good: because MY zombie DID love life. For him, it was as much about preserving what was left of his own dwindling humanity as it was about eating Will Smith's head. My zombie was scary on the outside, sensitive on the inside - like a slightly burnt oatmeal raisin cookie. In other words, he had levels, contradictions.
I made my screen test and sent it off to the studio. The feedback I got back was they thought my zombie leader was "too prone to singing," and "not zombie-like at all." What the fuck does that mean? What are zombies? They are REAL PEOPLE who have died and come back to life to feast on the living! That means they still possess human characteristics. Where is it written that zombies shouldn't break into Gilbert & Sullivan songs? Or do cool spins on his roller skates? Or take the time to demonstrate the PROPER way to steep a cup of tea?
For the record, Nick my pool boy is the only person (besides those studio assholes) who saw both performances, and he agreed with me that mine was better.