'I Am Legend' Screenwriter Responds to Vaccine Zombie Theory: 'I Made That Up'

A misremembered plot point from Will Smith's 2007 post-apocalyptic action thriller I Am Legend has been cited by one anti-vaccination proponent as a reason to avoid immunization against COVID-19—and the film's screenwriter Akiva Goldsman is not happy about it.

The bizarre conspiracy theory first came to light in a recent The New York Times piece detailing the difficulties experienced at a company trying to get all of its staff fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to the article, employees at Metro Optics Eyewear cited a variety of conspiracy theories as reasons why they were opposed to immunization.

However, the most bizarrely striking reason for vaccine hesitancy came from one staff member who, according to the outlet, "said she was concerned because she thought a vaccine had caused the characters in the film I Am Legend to turn into zombies."

The outlandish claim was shared to Twitter by Time Magazine's Washington correspondent Vera Bergengruen who posted an extract from the piece, writing alongside it "I'm sorry, what?"

Bergengruen's post soon went viral, with "I Am Legend" trending on Twitter in the U.S.

I’m sorry, what? https://t.co/KGCWsuqDtp pic.twitter.com/CF0qqqCOoG

— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) August 9, 2021

The online furor over the conspiracy theory soon caught the attention of Goldsman, the Oscar-winning writer of A Beautiful Mind, who served as producer and co-writer on I Am Legend.

Responding to a repost of Bergengruen's tweet, Goldsman gave the claim short-shrift, tweeting: "Oh. My. God. It's a movie. I made that up. It's. Not. Real."

Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real.

— Akiva Goldsman (@AkivaGoldsman) August 9, 2021

Goldsman was not alone in despairing of the claim with Marc Bernardin, a fellow writer and journalist who has been working with Goldsman on Star Trek: Picard, sharing the post alongside a tweet stating: "We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should."

We. Are. All. Going. To. Die.

Sooner. Than. We. Should. https://t.co/DqMKTkSxbr

— Marc Bernardin (@marcbernardin) August 9, 2021

Alarmingly, Vera Bergengruen has since revealed that the claim is, in fact, part of a wider conspiracy theory involving I Am Legend.

In a follow-up tweet, she shared an anti-vaccination meme featuring a shot of Smith and a zombie from the film alongside the caption: "Remember, in I Am Legend, the sickness didn't make the zombies. The vaccination did."

The striking thing about this anecdote is that it's not one person's crazy remark, but sounds like something that's been spreading around widely in some corners of the Internet. Which it turns out it has. This post has tens of thousands of shares, with mostly serious comments pic.twitter.com/ktbwZja1NV

— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) August 9, 2021

According to Bergengruen, the original version of the post, which she found on social media, had "tens of thousands of shares, with mostly serious comments."

I Am Legend centers on Smith's character, Dr. Robert Neville, a scientist and the sole survivor of a zombie plague that has wiped out humanity.

This specific meme was previously discredited in a Reuters fact-check article posted back in December 2020.

As the news outlet explained, the claim made in the meme is incorrect as "The virus in I am Legend was a genetically engineered measles virus created to cure cancer, not a vaccination."

Newsweek has reached out to Goldsman for further comment.

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Will Smith in "I Am Legend." Barry Wetcher S.M.P.S.P.