PAN: Levi Miller Talks Landing the Role of Peter Pan, Sword Tricks, and More
Last August, I had the chance to visit the set of the Peter Pan origin story Pan with a group of writers. Directed by Joe Wright, Pan tells the story of how Peter (Levi Miller) arrived in Neverland and his first adventures with Hook (Garrett Hedlund), Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), and Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman).
This is Miller’s first major film role, but he showed no signs of trepidation in taking on the classic fantasy. Miller talked about how he sees Peter as a normal 19th century boy, working with a Cockney accent, learning a sword trick and trampoline stunts, his crush on Rooney Mara, the difficulty of crying scenes, and much more.
LEVI MILLER: Today I’m working on some second unit stuff. Some things we couldn’t get done in main unit. From the pirate ship, being pulled up.
Garrett mentioned how austere you are about playing this role and that you were nonchalant about the whole thing. Can you talk about that? I think most kids would be like “Oh my God, I’m playing Peter Pan” and be freaked out about it.
MILLER: When I got the phone call that I was told I was Peter Pan, I freaked out, because I was like, “Wow! How does that happen?” But pretty much, from there on, everyone’s been so lovely.
What was the audition process like?
MILLER: It was quite intimidating because in the last audition progress I saw other kids my age. They were lovely, so it was nice meeting them. Especially when I met Louis my friend, he’s playing Nibsy. When we were talking, I met him in the hotel when I came here to do the audition. We were in the hotel and I thought he was auditioning for Peter but I knew there was something about him that seems like non-competitive, because he was really happy. So I talked to him and he was auditioning for Nibs, so it was all fun.
What do your friends think about you being cast as Peter Pan? Do they treat you differently at all?
MILLER: No, not really. It’s kind of nice that they’re not treating me any different. But it definitely changed a bit of perspective.
What is Peter like in the movie? Is he adventurous, is he kind of scared of what’s going on around him?
MILLER: He’s kind of a normal 19th Century boy I think. He’s adventurous, he’d pretty much do anything. But it’s like in a wire when you plug it into a connector. There’s the round thing and that’s his life, that’s kind of what goes around him and what he has to do. But then there’s the middle of it, which is the base of what he’s doing which is trying to find his mother. I don’t think he has a special personality, because he’s good. He’s also somewhat selfish in a way that he’s pretty much doing it for himself in a way that he’s looking for his mother.
He can’t fly yet, can he?
MILLER: Maybe he can, maybe he can’t, but . . .
So assuming that he does fly a little bit, how has that been for you? What do you think about the stunts and getting lifted in the air and all that?
MILLER: I have been doing some practicing in the stunts back at the beginning. The first time it was a little bit nerve-wracking but I got to know the stuntmen and I trusted them, so it all got easier from there. Now stunts are pretty easy.
Do you have a stunt double who is thirty years older than you?
MILLER: Yeah his name is Paul. He’s lovely. But yeah, he practices the stunts before me. It’s kind of funny because he wears the harness outside and I wear the harness inside. I was just in my harness just then but I took it off to get into normal clothes.
What was the first day of shooting like for you?
MILLER: Well, it was underwater, so it was different because I had to open my eyes underwater. Back home, you don’t usually do that. If you are to open your eyes, you usually wear goggles. It wasn’t painful but I had to glide in the water.
You said that he was a normal 19th Century boy. How much do you know about what a normal 19th Century boy is like?
MILLER: Well, from rehearsals, that’s pretty much… When I was told by Joe the normal story, that’s all I know.
Have you done research? Have you read the Peter Pan book?
MILLER: Oh, yeah. I’ve seen pretty much all the Peter Pans except for one of the further back ones where the boy had curly hair. I can’t remember. I really loved the 2003 version. I really loved that one because that was around the year I was born. That’s quite funny.
What’s the most exciting thing that you’ve learned about Peter? We know a different side of Peter. What’s been the most fun part of learning about him that we don’t know?
MILLER: His relationship with Tiger Lily and Hook before. I think that would be it. The relationships he has with different people.
You have an Australian accent. Did you have to change that at all?
MILLER: Yeah, I have to do a Cockney accent.
Has that been difficult? Have you been working with someone to do that?
MILLER: Yeah, I worked with my dialect coach, he’s been very helpful. But I had a long break, so I probably have gone back to Australian because my Mom’s Australian and there’s no one Cockney where I’m staying.
Can we hear some of your Cockney accent?
MILLER: This is kind of a Cockney accent. I think that it’s a bit off now because I had four days off but that’s basically it. It’s not a strong… and I’m not using Cockney slang.
You never say ‘Guvnor’?
MILLER: Or “China plate” as my stuntman has told me about.
Do you sword fight?
MILLER: Sometimes, sometimes not. I think we’re still working out the swordfighting bits, but I hope so. I hope so, because when we were rehearsing with the swords, it was a lot of fun, because I learned how to flip the sword in my hand, do a little spin with it.
And now you want to show that off?
What have you had the most fun doing so far?
MILLER: When I was rehearsing in the Native Village, I had a big trampoline and the stuntmen taught me some jumps on the trampoline. It was quite fun doing that.
So much of the stuff is going to be added in later. What are you most excited about seeing in the final movie that you didn’t see on set?
MILLER: I was thinking of what I had for lunch the time I’m watching the shots, thinking about different things I did before. Now when I’m watching films I’m thinking of how they did the shot, where they were and continuity. I’m looking for little things that aren’t right.
Does this feel like work to you or does it feel like fun?
MILLER: I think it feels like fun but sometimes it feels like work, like if I’ve done ten stunts in the day. I’ve never done that. But if I had done it, it would have felt a bit . . . But it’s always fun because I’m doing something different which I never usually do. I would rather do this than go to school each day.
What’s it like working with some of your co-stars?
MILLER: It’s quite good working with Garrett and Rooney and Hugh. It’s always fun because Garrett is, I would say, an older brother. He’s kind of like an older brother to me. And Hugh is like a good friend of mine. And Rooney, I wouldn’t say like a sisterly thing because I think I have a little bit of a crush on her.
Which of Hugh’s movies had you seen before and what surprised you about actually meeting him?
MILLER: I had heard from people that he was very lovely, so it didn’t really come up to my expectations. He’s more lovely than people have said, so that’s quite nice. I’ve seen pretty much all the X-Men except the last one, the one that just came out, except for that. And I’ve seen Les Mis, which I liked. I liked that movie. I’ve seen quite a few of his films. I’m trying to think of some. He’s done so many.
I assume you’re in every scene in this movie because it is about you and your character. I don’t know if you go to school now or have to take classes, but I know you can only work a certain number of hours. So do they have other things to do when you’re not around?
MILLER: Well, yeah, they do some of the shots with Blackbeard and Tiger Lily fighting because that’s a big thing. What else? Well, when I’m not here, sometimes because I have to do tutoring so they get my double in. Sometimes they don’t even need my double because when I’m not in, they’re usually just shooting different shots. Because Joe likes to use me and sometimes even when I’m not in the shot, he likes to use me in the off-lines and stuff, and even eye lines. But I still have to do all my tutoring.
Even though it’s the summer?
MILLER: I still have to do my tutoring because it’s not summer back home. It’s winter back home I think so I’m still doing school.
Are there some emotional scenes that you guys had?
MILLER: A couple yeah. I’m lucky that I cried in them, because I wasn’t thinking that I would, but I happened to be though. I had to get kind of motivated by Joe. I remember one, we were in the “Never Forest” . . . Spoilers! And then I start to cry. That was quite difficult to get in because that was the first crying scene but eventually I got there on the fifth take.
It’s so hard to do.
MILLER: It is, but I think you just get into the mode of it once you do a couple takes, you seem to get into it.
Of the scenes you’ve shot so far, do you have a favorite?
MILLER: Never Village.
What’s that like for you and why do you like that one so much?
MILLER: It’s just so colorful. I don’t know. If you just look at it, you just see beautiful, and there’s a trampoline. I was on it and we were walking around and there’s my tent in it. I have my own little tent in there, Peter’s tent. I go in there and it’s where I’m viewing and I’m watching the big fight in the Never Village go on. It was actually quite nerve-wracking watching it.
This is your first big film. Is there been anything that’s been hard to get used to?
MILLER: I guess getting up each morning, except for the weekends. And my days off, which are quite nice, but they’re not enjoyable because I’m not here with everybody else. But each morning getting up, because I’m quite lazy. I sleep in a lot. That’s not been hard but it’s definitely been a challenge to get up each morning.
What time do you have to wake up?
MILLER: It depends really. Today I think it was 7:15, I think? That’s probably one of the earliest, so that’s been alright. It’s pretty much school waking time.
What were the ships like?
MILLER: The ships were awesome. One of my favorite things was that there were cannons. They had signs on the cannons that said “Do not sit on the cannons” and it was kind of like “What is that doing there?” Who would sit on the cannons? Some of the orphans that were there did sit on them, including me.
Did anyone try to shoot you out of the cannons?
MILLER: That would be kind of fun. Maybe if they moved the ship outside and shot me over.
How old were you when you decided you wanted to act? Do you think you’re going to want to be doing this when you’re old, like 20?
MILLER: Yes, definitely. I was maybe… what do you guys call it? Do you call it pre-primary prep? Just before grade 1. Kindergarten. Around there, maybe a bit higher than kindergarten I decided I want to do acting.
Has this experience been good enough that you want to keep doing it?
MILLER: I never expected it to go this far.
Some of the other actors talked about being signed on for more than one movie. Have they talked to you about that and do you have ideas of where you’d want Peter to go?
MILLER: Well I haven’t heard anything but possibly, I’m crossing fingers I’ll be the Peter Pan if there is.
Usually women usually play Peter Pan.
MILLER: Yeah, I know!
You talked about how we may or may not see him in fly? Do we see anything with his shadow? Is his shadow sort of a part of this version of the story or is that something that comes later?
MILLER: Sometimes it changes so it could be, it could be not. They’re still changing a couple scenes. Hopefully because that’s a kind of funny thing watching that in the movie with the shadow, stitching it back.
It sounds like you’ve gotten pretty close to Garrett and Hugh from working with him. Has there been any important lesson that you’ve learned from them?
MILLER: Yeah, some important lessons. I remember that Garrett once told me these funny little things. With the shoelaces, sometimes if the continuity is like three laces, you just do two and you tuck in the other one, which is a funny one. What else has there been? I guess it isn’t a lesson but in one of the shots, Garrett had to say this really long speech, and I had to get emotional with it. I didn’t really get emotional on the third take, so he sort of changed it up and said something different and it made me cry. I liked that. That was very helpful. I haven’t worked much with Hugh yet but I’ll be working with him very soon.
For the rest of my Pan set visit coverage, peruse the links below:
- 50 Things to Know About the Peter Pan Origin Story from Our Set Visit
- Rooney Mara & Director Joe Wright Talk Tiger Lily Casting and More from the Set
- Garrett Hedlund Talks Hook, Sequels, and More from the Set