We’ve all heard of Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Neverland from J M Barrie’s novel, but movie director Joe Wright has decided it’s time to completely reframe the story, and explore the origins of Peter and his companions.
The result is Pan, which begins in a bleak orphanage, where Peter’s lived his whole life. One night, he and his pals are whisked off to the fantastical world of Neverland, a place of pirates, warriors and fairies, and where he also meets a certain man by the name of James Hook.
Eventually, it falls to Peter to defeat Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), the self-appointed dictator of Neverland, and become the boy who never grows up.
Here, Wright, Jackman and his co-stars Garrett Hedlund and Levi Miller, discuss their epic adventure...
Joe Wright, the director behind Pride A & Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina, couldn’t be happier that a critic has called Pan ‘joyously uncool’. “I love that, because I set out to make an uncool film and I made that quite vocal,” says the London-born 43-year-old. “I wanted to make a film from the point of an 11-year-old, before the onset of teenage angst.”
He recalls having a clear idea of what he wanted to do, combined with “a fear of not knowing how to achieve it”.
“Together, those two create an energy that propels me through the production,” adds the film-maker, who makes no secret of the fact that he’s “always winging it”.
“You start every film having to re-learn how to make a film, I guess, because everyone is different, like children.”
Wright has two young sons - Zubin, four, and baby Mohan - and says he wanted to make a film for them, but also for “the child in me who’s being rediscovered through parenthood, and those two elements informed every decision I made”.
The movie might be called Pan, but there was never any doubt as to who the main star was going to be - Blackbeard - and Wright immediately looked to Hugh Jackman, “who could bring that theatrical scale to the performance”, to take on the role. A man with one of the most recognisable faces in the world, Jackman relished the opportunity to shed himself of his handsome looks to play Blackbeard, the pirate all other pirates fear. With his shaven head and goatee beard, he even managed to take his daughter to Disney World without being hounded.
“When I first met with Joe, we discussed why these stories exist in the first place, the role they play in kids’ lives, and adults’ lives,” says Jackman, 47. “Peter Pan is one of those seminal stories. In creating an origin for Peter, I think Jason [Fuchs, who wrote the screenplay] and Joe hooked into the inner child in all of us.”
Often described as ‘the nicest man in Hollywood’, Jackman jokes he’s never played anyone “quite this bad”.
“Not only is he dastardly, but he loves to hear himself talk, to make speeches and use big words,” says The Australia-born actor. “He thinks he’s very important and he is scary, but he’s having a good time, and that made him a fun character to play.”
And Blackbeard knows how to make an entrance, encouraging his prisoners - who are aiding his search for eternal youth by digging for fairy dust - to sing Nirvana and Ramones songs. “I told Joe, ‘I’ll never get to do this again, play a pirate that sees himself almost as a rock star and actually get to sing a rock song as a pirate’. It was quite spectacular.”
In this telling, Hook has yet to have his close encounter with a crocodile and instead, starts off as a prisoner, digging for Blackbeard.
“He’s a demoted, deflated man who seems quite lost,” explains actor Garrett Hedlund, 31. “When he sees Peter, Hook thinks he’s found his golden ticket out of there.”