According to Variety, 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.

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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. The 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.