PAN: 50 Things to Know About the Peter Pan Origin Story from Our Set Visit

     April 14, 2015


A man covered in dirt shouts to a young boy in a mine, “Hurry, slide down. They’ll be coming for us.” The young boy replies, “If I’m going to trust you, I need to know your name.” The man obliges, “It’s Hook. James Hook. Happy?!” Hook then pushes Peter Pan down the drop.

I watched the second unit for the Peter Pan origin story Pan shoot this scene at Leavensdon Studios outside of London with a group of visiting writers last August. It was jarring to see Peter and Hook on the same team, but it gives me hope that director Joe Wright and screenwriter Jason Fuchs found a fresh take on J.M. Barrie’s classic fantasy story, before they were nemeses.

While on set, we saw concept art and set models, walked through Neverforest, hopped aboard the Jolly Roger, screened a few minutes of early footage, and spoke to Garrett Hedlund (Hook), Levi Miller (Peter Pan), Rooney Mara (Tiger Lily), and director Joe Wright. Wright is known for his meticulously crafted period dramas, and it was evident he carried over that attention to detail to the massive production scale of a Warner Bros. summer tentpole. I left the set excited to see how all the pieces come together when Pan opens in theaters on July 24.

If you are looking forward to the movie, you can explore Neverland at Here are 50 things you should know about Pan:

Story and Characters

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    Image via Warner Bros

    The story opens in 1926 London with Peter’s mother. We meet Peter as a 12-year-old orphan in the 1940s during World War II.

  • Miller describes Peter as a normal 19th century boy. He is adventurous and occasionally selfish because he is completely driven by his quest to find his mother.
  • Hedlund is called “Hook” in the origin story. He still has both his hands, but the character was always named James Hook in Barrie’s narrative.
  • Peter and Hook team up in the movie because the primary obstacle for both of them is to get off the island and return home.
  • Sometimes Hook cares for Peter, and other times Hook’s self-interest leaves no room to care about Peter. Hedlund says the struggle for Hook is he tries to do the right thing but for whatever reason keeps messing up.
  • Miller says Hedlund is now like an older brother, Jackman is a good friend, and Mara is not exactly a big sister because he developed a bit of a crush.
  • Miller said that crying on camera is a challenge, but Hedlund helped him get to that emotional state as a scene partner.
  • To play Peter, the Aussie Miller worked on a Cockney accent with a dialect coach, but he doesn’t use Cockney slang in the movie. Mara uses an English accent.

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    Image via Warner Bros.

    Miller teases that he learned a sword flip trick that he hopes make it into the film, but would not confirm whether or not we see Peter fly.

  • In the Disney cartoon, Tiger Lily doesn’t really speak. Mara and the filmmakers wanted to create a strong female character in this version. Their Tiger Lily is a warrior. Her signature weapon is a “boomerang axe.”
  • The way Tiger Lily moves is animalistic, with a little inspiration from modern dance since they wanted there to be “something kind of odd about the way she moves.”
  • Tiger Lily has a fight scene near the end of the film with Blackbeard. Mara joked, “I have to fight Wolverine?!”
  • Typically the Neverland natives are portrayed as Native Americans. Wright did not make that connection from Barrie’s book, so his inspiration for the Native Village came from a diverse selection of cultures, like “natives of Planet Earth.”
  • Hook was a miner from the American Midwest in the 1880s before he arrived in Neverland.
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    Image via Warner Bros

    Barrie described Hook as “boatswain to Blackbeard.” Hedlund doesn’t share many scenes with Jackman in this movie but says the “Blackbeard-isms are milking their way in.”

  • Hedlund reveled in the chance to play the role broad and goofy, since he has worked much more in drama than comedy.
  • Hedlund confirms the actors are signed on for multiple films. He has talked about character development with Wright and Fuchs and hopes to get to “the Neverland that we all know and love” in future Pan
  • The conclusion of Pan is not very close at all to the beginning of the known Peter Pan story, so Wright feels there are still plenty of new stories to explore in Pan
  • Wright teases that there are many allusions to familiar Peter Pan elements. For instance, there are several scenes where the audience will wonder, “Is this where Hook loses his hand?”
  • Don’t expect to see Nana, at least not for very long. She may appear for a few seconds at the end.
  • You may see a version of the famous Peter Pan hat.

Production and Design

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    Image via Warner Bros.

    Producer Sarah Schechter says when she asked Fuchs in a general meeting what he wanted to write more than anything else, Fuchs pitched her this version of Peter Pan. They quietly developed the project at Greg Berlanti‘s production company.

  • Wright came on board after the first draft was completed.
  • Wright’s parents ran a puppet theater, so he sees Pan as an opportunity to go back to the pure fantasy of his childhood.
  • Wright said several times that he is making this for his then 3-year-old son, Zubin.
  • To find the right actor to play Peter, they looked at thousands of kids in the UK, the United States, Canada, and Australia before finding Miller.
  • Wright called Miller to tell him he won the part and Miller started screaming. Wright claims that after five minutes of Miller screaming, the director hung up the phone. Miller called back while he was crying to say “thank you.”
  • Miller won a drama award when he was 5 years old for playing Peter Pan. He loves the 2003 live-action Peter Pan
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    Image via Warner Bros.

    The movie was shot mostly in sequence. It was helpful for Miller since this was his first major role.

  • Production designer Aline Bonetto‘s big challenge was to stay true to the story but create a look that was new to audiences have preconceived notions of Peter Pan.
  • Bonetto purposefully did not watch the Disney movie to avoid unintentional borrowing. She worked only from Barrie’s book.
  • Pan was designed for 3D. At the time of the set visit, Wright was considering sticking to a monochromatic 2D at the beginning in 1940s London, then expanding to colorful 3D when Peter gets to Neverland.
  • The production team made a concerted effort to go beyond blues, grays, and blacks and embrace pinks and oranges and purples.
  • The magical mist in Neverland has an aurora borealis effect.
  • When the natives are killed, they don’t bleed. They explode into a dry paint dust.

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    Image via Warner Bros.

    Costume designer Jacqueline Durran says Wright has given her a word to keep in mind for the design on past projects. For Pan there were two: “salvage” and “patchwork.”

  • The style of the pirates is inspired by the classic dandy and punk rock fashion. They deliberately avoided 18th century pirate imagery.
  • Mara was wearing a pair of boots one day during rehearsal. The production team liked the way they looked and incorporated them into Tiger Lily’s wardrobe. They came up with a backstory where Tiger Lily stole the boots off a pirate.
  • Wright credits his son, who loves seeing “girls having their tummies out,” with some of the costume choices. That’s apparently why Mara’s wardrobe was designed with bare midriffs. His son now dresses up as Tiger Lily.
  • Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, has 10-20 spikes shooting out of the front. These are trophies, the masts of the other pirate ships he has defeated. Blackbeard’s face is carved on the front of the ship.
  • For the most part the ships fly through the air. But Wright hints that Hook does find the Jolly Roger crashed in the sea.
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    Image via Warner Bros.

    Blackbird was scalped, which left a really nasty red scar on his head.

  • There is plenty of CGI and modern technology to create the visuals, Wright wanted to make sure everything looked real. Wright and his sister created a puppet Neverbird and studied how it moved.
  • They built practical sets whenever possible, including the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the Jolly Roger, and the Neverforest.
  • There are many regions in Neverland including a mining area, the Neverforest, and the Mermaid Lagoon.
  • There are Neverland natives as well as fairies, mermaids, and animals that are indigenous to Neverland. There are also many Earthling visitors to Neverland like Peter and Hook.
  • The fairies are balls of light that come together to form shapes and fight.
  • The Nevercroc is albino.
  • Cara Delevingne plays all of the mermaids in the movie.
  • There is a big action sequence that is about 10 minutes long. It took over 200 setups to shoot everything they needed.

For more of my Pan set visit coverage click on the link below:



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