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The Past, Present and Future of 'I Robot'

The cover of the illustrated version of 'I, Robot.'
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The cover of the illustrated version of 'I, Robot.'

The movie version of I, Robot is set in the future, but firmly rooted in modern-day Hollywood's big-budget, summer movie mindset. But as NPR's Neda Ulaby points out, many sci-fi fans feel filmmakers should have paid more attention to the past.

Writer Isaac Asimov profoundly influenced the way people think about robots with his classic series of short stories, published more than half a century ago. And film world insiders have long regretted the fate of an I, Robot screenplay written in the late 1970s by Asimov's friend Harlan Ellison.

Fans unhappy with the film version of I Robot -- out this weekend with Will Smith in the starring role -- launched Web sites and Internet petitions in protest long before it opened in theaters.

Ellison's screenplay languished at Warner Brothers, even as it developed a reputation in some circles as the greatest science fiction movie never made. The screenplay was published as an illustrated book a decade ago, and it's still in print.

Isaac Asimov's wife, Janet Jeppson, tells Ulaby that Asimov liked movies, but didn't imagine his books cinematically. And she adds that he was realistic about the way Hollywood works. Jeppson says she looks forward to seeing the film... in part because she likes Will Smith.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neda Ulaby
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.