Like plenty of other people, Will Smith is preparing himself for a global pandemic. The big difference is that Will’s is a work of fiction.

Smith is getting ready for battle with bloodseeking mutants in the upcoming adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, and in the quest for authenticity he (along with director Francis Lawrence and several other members of the production team) recently visited the Center for Disease Control to learn about what sort of virus might cause such a worldwide catastrophe, and what the last healthy man on the planet might do to end it. 

In the latest take on the material (following The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man), Smith’s immune virologist Neville builds a containment lab in the basement of his New York brownstone (the new film shifts coasts from the original Los Angeles setting). The visit to the CDC focused on the science and possible characteristics of the movie’s virus and how it might be handled, as well as the potential emotional state of Smith’s character.

"It seemed very valuable for the actor and director to get accurate information from CDC because it appeared that they honestly wanted to accurately portray how a disease could spread around the world and change things for everybody forever," says the CDC’s Richard Klomp, a guy with more titles than the eventual film’s closing credits. "They asked the presenters several specific questions about, should we use a rabies-like virus, or something else? How long would it be viable in the environment? What would this guy’s laboratory look like—what kind of equipment would he need if he were trying to find a cure?

The big-budget Warner Bros. flick is scheduled to start shooting in September for a summer 2007 release. At least casting won’t take long, and extras should be easy to find once the Avian Flu arrives.