Hancock is an upcoming comedy superhero film directed by Peter Berg and starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron. The story was originally written by Vincent Ngo in 1996 and had languished in Hollywood for some time. The project has had various directors attached, including Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Jonathan Mostow, and Gabriele Muccino. Hancock was originally intended to be filmed before I Am Legend, also starring Will Smith. Hancock was filmed in Los Angeles. In the United States, the film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America after cuts were made at the organization’s behest to avoid a “restricted” (R) rating, which it had received twice previously. The film is scheduled for release on July 2, 2008.
Screenwriter Vincent Ngo wrote the spec script Tonight, He Comes in 1996. The draft, about a troubled 12-year-old and a fallen superhero, was initially picked up by director Tony Scott as a potential project. Producer Akiva Goldsman came across the script, which he had considered a favorite, and encouraged Richard Saperstein, then president of development and production at Artisan Entertainment, to acquire it in 2002. Director Michael Mann was initially attached to direct Tonight, He Comes, but he instead opted to direct Miami Vice (2006).Eventually, Artisan placed the project in turnaround, and it was acquired by Goldsman.
Screenwriters Vince Gilligan and John August performed rewrites of Ngo’s script, and Jonathan Mostow was attached to direct the film. Under Mostow’s supervision, a 10-page treatment was written to be pitched to actor Will Smith to portray the lead role in the film, since both had worked together on Hitch (2005). Both Mostow and Smith were not yet committed to make the project an active priority at the time. Several studios pursued the opportunity to finance the film, and Columbia Pictures succeeded in acquiring the prospect in February 2005. A second draft was scripted by Gilligan following the finalization of the deal with Columbia. The film was initially slated for a holiday 2006 release.
In November 2005, Mostow and Smith committed to Tonight, He Comes, with production slated to begin in Los Angeles in summer 2006. Smith had set up a pay or play contract to film I Am Legend (2007) under Warner Bros. after completion of Tonight, He Comes. Mostow eventually departed from the project due to creative differences. Italian director Gabriele Muccino filled Mostow’s vacancy in May 2006. Since Muccino was busy editing The Pursuit of Happyness starring Smith, which Muccino had directed, Smith switched projects to film I Am Legend first for its December 2007 release, and then film Tonight, He Comes afterward. Later in the month, Muccino left the project because of an incompatibility with filming the story. Since Muccino was preparing The Pursuit of Happyness, the studio had delayed the production start for Tonight, He Comes to summer 2007, enabling Warner Bros. to begin production of I Am Legend with Smith.
In October 2006, Peter Berg was attached to direct Tonight, He Comes with production slated to begin in May 2007 in Los Angeles, the story’s setting. Before filming began, Tonight, He Comes was retitled John Hancock. The film title was eventually shortened to Hancock. Filming began on Hancock on July 3, 2007 in Los Angeles, having a production budget of $150 million. Locations like Hollywood Boulevard were designed to look damaged, having rubble, overturned vehicles, and fires.Smith’s character is also an alcoholic, so for scenes in liquor stores, the art department designed fake labels such as Pap Smear Vodka for the bottles because “brown-bag brands” like Thunderbird and Night Train refused to lend their names. After finishing work on the film, Smith gave crew members gift cards for a Scientology personality test at any Church of Scientology centre as a wrap present.
- Will Smith as John Hancock, a down-and-out, incredibly sarcastic superhero. He is invulnerable to bullets, possesses superhuman strength, and the power of super-sonic flight. To give a realistic appearance of superhero flight, Smith was often suspended by wire 200 feet above the ground and was propelled at 50 miles per hour.
- Jason Bateman as Ray Embrey, a corporate public relations consultant whose life is saved by Hancock. Bateman said, “[It] was a fun thing to play, a very idealistic guy that’s trying to build up this suicidal, homeless alcoholic that then ends up hitting on my wife. It was a fun thing. To play the victim is funny.”
- Charlize Theron as Mary Embrey, Ray’s wife.
- Johnny Galecki as Ray’s co-worker.