Inside 'Hancock'

Will Smith stars as Hancock, an unlikely super hero. See more superhero pictures.
© 2008 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

When people fantasize about having super powers like Herculean strength, indestructibility or the ability to fly like the heroic icons of comic books, they're probably not thinking of Hancock. The title character in Will Smith's latest action flick is a reckless boozehound with a bad attitude who wears his superh­ero-hood with misanthropic reluctance. His behavior earns him the contempt of his fellow Los Angelinos, though he doesn't particularly care until the publicist whose life he saves (Jason Bateman) returns the favor by persuading him to rehab his image.

It's a decidedly different kind of summer vehicle -- and a much darker character -- for Smith, who previously owned the July 4 holiday box office with such blockbusters as "Independence Day" and both "Men in Black" movies. But according to producer Akiva Goldsman, who worked with Smith previously on "I, Robot" and "I Am Legend," "You could give him the room service menu and he could perform it and everyone would go see it." Plus, he adds, Smith's inherent good nature "lets him get away with more stuff. He has to stretch harder to be malevolent."

Smith had to stretch actual, as well as acting, muscles for the very physical role, which required lots of running and a fair amount of stunts involving harnesses and wires. However, he had quite a bit of virtual help from a digital double created by the visual effects team, which also had to invent CG elements ranging from a beached whale to a swarm of tornadoes.

"Hancock's" movie magic came together under the direction of Peter Berg ("The Kingdom," "Friday Night Lights") and the design wizardry of effects master John Dykstra ("Star Wars" and "Spider-Man" franchises), executed at Sony Pictures Imageworks. Visual effects supervisor Carey Villegas and digital effects supervisor Ken Hahn give us the 411 for this article, while Goldsman explains why it took 15 years to bring it to the screen. Read on.