For the character of Sonny the accused robot, the effects team used the same process that was used to create Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with Alan Tudyk providing the body movements and voice for Sonny.
During an interview on American Chopper: The Series (2003), Will Smith told how he wrecked the motorcycle at around sixty miles per hour, during the filming of the scene at the robot storage facility (you can see him begin to lose control in the film).
According to the credits, the film was "Inspired by Isaac Asimov's Book". The book referred to was a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov that was published in 1950. Asimov had been heavily influenced by a short story of the same name by the writing team that called themselves Eando Binder. The title of Asimov's collection was changed to "I, Robot" by the publisher, against Asimov's wishes.
One of the many advertisements shown on huge outdoor flat screen televisions in the future, is an advertisement mentioning the first manned mission to Mars. When Spooner is at Calvin's house after Lanning's house is destroyed, Calvin's personal robot is watching television. The program he is watching shows some photos of Mars taken from that mission.
The motorcycle that Will Smith's character rides in the movie is a 2004 MV Agusta F4-SPR. It is one of only 300 produced worldwide. Its 750cc, inline 4-cylinder engine produces 147 horsepower and can propel the bike in excess of 175 mph.
In the theatrical trailer, Del Spooner (Will Smith) tells Lieutenant John Bergin (Chi McBride) that "I'm gonna miss the good old days", to which Bergin responds, "What good old days?" Spooner then says, "When people were killed by other people." In the film, Lieutenant Bergin says "I'm gonna miss the good old days" first instead of Spooner.
When Sonny is drawing the picture of the bridge for Spooner, there is a piece of paper to the left with computer code on it. The code is that of a Renderman shader; a procedural description of a surface used to describe the robots' appearance during rendering.
Spooner's shower scene originally included full-frontal nudity, as Smith wanted to show how vulnerable his paranoid character is. Producers digitally removed it at the last minute, fearing the MPAA would object. This ended up being the most expensive CGI shot overall.
The movie originally started as a screenplay entitled "Hardwired", a classical-style murder mystery that read like a stage play, and was very much in the spirit of Isaac Asimov's "three laws" mysteries. When the original "Hardwired" script eventually reached Fox, after being developed at Disney with director Bryan Singer, new director Alex Proyas and writer Jeff Vintar opened up the story to fit a big-budget studio film. When Fox acquired the rights to Isaac Asimov's story collection, Vintar spent two years adapting Hardwired to serve as a tenth story in the Asimov canon, complete with Susan Calvin and the Three Laws of Robotics. Hillary Seitz worked at one point as script doctor, but her work was discarded, and to this day she refuses to discuss her unpleasant experience. Writer Akiva Goldsman came on late in the process to tailor the script for star Will Smith, turning the cerebral thriller into a summer action movie.
There are two sheets of paper visible just before Sonny starts to draw the bridge. One is a "cheat sheet" of electronic formulas, and the second is a partial schematic of a vacuum tube based high frequency amplitude modulated transmitter, rather ancient technology to be concerned with.
The outside design of the top floor executive suite of U.S. Robotics CEO Lawrence Robertson's unique shape is a nod to the first really functional robot built by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for the movie Forbidden Planet in 1956. The shape of the top of the building is the same shape of the top of the main body of Robby the Robot. This is the part that used to blink when Robby spoke.
The corporation in the movie is called "US Robotics". A company under that name exists in the real world too (presently "USR") Both got the name from Isaac Asimov's works and it's fictional company "US Robotics and mechanical men".
When Rogue One screenwriter Gary Whitta was asked on Twitter to name a screenplay that made him say, "Damn, this is a great screenplay!" he responded: "Hardwired by Jeff Vintar. Later re-written heavily and turned into I, Robot."
After reading Vintar's early Hardwired/I, Robot script, representatives of the Asimov estate considered it "more Asimov than Asimov." After the hiring of Will Smith, the film changed into a summer action movie.
Director Alex Proyas had a difficult time with 20th Century Fox studio head Tom Rothman, who was threatening to remove the film's ending and replace it with "more jokes" just days before the film's premiere. Proyas intended to write a book about his experience making the film, which he describes as trying to run a marathon with the studio constantly throwing chairs in his path, but friends warned him that he'd never work in this town again. Even without the tell-all, I, Robot was his last studio film.
Alex Proyas insists that even Will Smith did not want to be funny in this film, despite pressure from the studio. The humor was designed in such a way that it could easily be edited out. Unfortunately an early test screening in California attained the highest score in the history of the studio, and the movie's future was sealed: the jokes would stay in.
A number of critics and Asimov fans continue to dismiss I, Robot as a film that has nothing to do with the book, claiming "they should have followed the novel." Many do not seem to realize that the book is not a novel at all, but a series of loosely-connected little logic puzzles. As the years pass and the movie continues to be enjoyed, however, more and more real-world roboticists have come forward to say that they were inspired by the Will Smith film to achieve real advancements in robotics, and others have written papers on how the movie actually does hold true to Asimov's concepts, and perceptively explores the nature of the Three Laws.
The early Vintar drafts of I, Robot feature a Del Spooner who is truly suffering from technophobia. His uncontrollable shaking hand was, for many people, the key image of the story. This version of the script featured sequences in which Spooner would be chased and attacked by robots on the street, only to wake up in a hospital, told that he was suffering from a panic attack - a danger to himself and others - and the robots had no choice but to subdue him for his own safety. In this way, the audience was never sure if Spooner was onto something, or if his mental state was truly disintegrating. Likewise, the ending of the original script revealed the killer to be Hector, a supercomputer with a yellow smiley face, who committed the murder and wanted Sonny to take the fall in order to save the future of Mankind. Thus when Spooner lets Sonny go free at the end, though this may be the right thing to do, Spooner knows he may in fact be condemning the human race to extinction. His hand still trembles and his robophobia is worse than ever. Such complex story elements were not allowed to remain after Will Smith signed on because, to Twentieth Century Fox's way of thinking, Will Smith always had to be right and, in the end, he had to clearly and simply save the world. Thus some of the best scenes in the script were removed and replaced with action beats, such as a house falling on Will Smith. Instead of letting Sonny the robot go and hiding his still-trembling hand, in the finished film Spooner just smiles big and winks.
In the early drafts of I, Robot, Sonny's secondary brain was made out of living tissue, making him a Self Organizing Neural Net, or "Sonny" for short. Sonny attained true consciousness the moment he discovered the dead body of his creator.
Although the Three Laws themselves first appear in "Runaround," Proyas's I, Robot otherwise relies most heavily on numerous concepts and details that originate in "Robbie," "Liar," "Little Lost Robot," and "The Evitable Conflict." Yet, as a "locked room" murder mystery solved with a guardian robot's assistance by a robot-hating homicide detective, the film's structure as well as some characterization is taken more directly from the Robot novels. Such specific elements as the posthumous hologram are imported from the Foundation series. The film's prejudice motif is prominent in almost all of Asimov's SF, including I, Robot. And, while most memorable in their iteration thirty-five years later in Robots and Empire, both the "Zeroth Law" and the logic that compels villainous supercomputer V.I.K.I. to develop it - which drives the film's plot by motivating her attempted coup - are deduced and articulated first in "The Evitable Conflict." Proyas's film is thus far more faithful to Asimov's eponymous story collection, as well as to his entire SF corpus, than it appears at first examination. But it is derived from Asimov's entire corpus, not merely from one story collection, and this suggests that a film adaptation can be faithful to its source by echoing the vision suffusing all of an author's works.
When Will Smith walked into his first I, Robot meeting, the first thing he said was, "I have to save the world in every movie I make." Everyone present who cherished the complexity of the script felt their hearts sink in their chest.... At the movie's premiere, when the lights came up, Will Smith's little son turned to him and said, "Dad, you gotta stop saving the world in every movie you make!"
Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal wrote a draft of I, Robot after Fox fired Vintar for the first time. One line of their dialogue remains in the final film: "Lead by example. It says that right on your badge." With the script in shambles, the studio brought Vintar back on, but he was expressly told he "could not fix everything." Some of the bad ideas in the latest script belonged to studio head Tom Rothman, executives said, and of course those bad ideas had to stay.
Vintar had to fight for his screen story by credit and secondary film rights - a sequel has to say "based on characters created by Jeff Vintar' - through WGA arbitration because the studio did not want to admit the film was based on his original spec script, Hardwired. All of the writers on the film signed a letter agreeing the credits should read, "Screenplay by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman. Screen story by Jeff Vintar."
I, Robot remains the most successful film of Davis Entertainment. Attempts at a sequel or a TV series follow-up have been tried several times, but never get past Will Smith's Overbrook Films. Truth is, Smith would get paid so much money if a sequel or TV show was produced, making a follow up is simply not financially sound.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The idea of a robot hiding in a large group of identical robots comes from the Isaac Asimov story "Little Lost Robot", which appeared in the original book. Sonny's dreams in which slave robots are liberated comes from the Asimov short story "Robot Dreams", a sequel to the book.
VIKI's intent to take over the world in order to keep all humans safe is in fact known as the "zeroth" law of robotics: A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
Denzel Washington was offered the role of Spooner. Had he accepted, this would have been the second time he played a previously-married police officer with a bionic left arm who chases down a killer robot, the first being Parker Barnes in Virtuosity (1995).