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).
Yes, Hedlund plays “Hook” even though the character still has both hands when we meet him. Hedlund explained that in his research for the role he found the character’s name was always James Hook, inspired by British Royal Navy captain James Cook. Hedlund also talked about Hook’s relationship with Peter in this film, getting kicked in the throat by South Korea’s number one taekwando expert, his hopes to explore the development of Hook in multiple films going forward, and much more.
GARRETT HEDLUND: They just give me a sandbox and let me go crazy for 15 minutes.
So that’s not 3 hours in the makeup chair this morning.
HEDLUND: No, no, surprisingly not.
Are you working on the mining scenes right now?
HEDLUND: We are doing a second-unit shot, going back to some of the stuff we shot at the beginning. Believe it or not we were much dirtier than this during the mining scenes.
So Hook is not Hook yet. Is that freeing? Does that make it easier?
HEDLUND: It’s nice. What [screenwriter Jason Fuchs] managed to do within the origin narrative—Hook is still very selfish and has his best intentions at hand, his priorities first and foremost. But he’s a little maniacal. He’s crazy in this one, which is fun. Very energetic, quite adventurous. We’ll see, knock on wood, about the future. But it’s a very fun place to start with Hook in this, especially working together with Peter to find their way off this island. That’s where we’re at in this story. There is some fun stuff in there.
What’s he called? He can’t be called Hook yet.
HEDLUND: It is Hook. Actually, Hook’s name was James Hook. It is interesting to go back. I looked and there is hearsay here and there of what J. M. Barrie based Hook on. There is a sea captain, Captain James Cook. There are some other ones—it came down to a possible classmate of Barrie’s that he was fashioned after. But it always has been James Hook. I was doing ADR with Angelina Jolie, and she asked, “But how is he named Hook already if he doesn’t have the . . . ?” “Well actually, it has always been James Hook.” A little foreshadowing.
How much of his backstory is in the script and how much is from your own research?
HEDLUND: That’s something that Jason and I, and [director Joe Wright] and the producers have all been discussing. We have some wonderful ideas that we’ll be able to explore a little more, hopefully, in the future. I guess I can’t really give them away. On this one we are starting with what Jason had written and developed within this story. We can save the reveal until later. It’s actually really interesting where he originates from. That will be something fun to show.
Are you looking at this as a character you want to play in multiple movies going forward?
HEDLUND: We signed on for multiple. Knock on wood. You start off with the origin, where they come from, and later get into the Hook, the Peter, and the Neverland that we all know and love with other opportunities for surprises and new twists and turns.
Could you talk about how Blackbeard factors in and the relationship you guys have?
HEDLUND: Blackbeard in this one is very much in the realm of the Blackbeard that we all do know and love. He is the most notorious pirate around, the most villainous. He craves the blood and the death and the slaughter in the giddiest of ways. It’s exciting. I don’t actually have too much with Hugh [Jackman]. That’s something that Hugh and I talk about with Joe as well, the potential for later on. Because there are interesting things in our research that Hook had learned everything he knows from Blackbeard. Obviously that connection will come into it at some point. Slowly the Blackbeard-isms start milking their way in.
Can you talk a bit about working with Hugh?
HEDLUND: First and foremost, anybody that you know who has worked with Hugh always says he is the nicest guy around. And it’s so refreshing to see that is completely true. He is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. One of the hardest workers. We have been sharing the same trainer on this and it’s great to see somebody who has been doing it as long as Hugh with such a strong work ethic. It’s all about the work. Within this environment, it’s something fun and refreshing for all of us to be on a set where you’re not dealing with characters that are losing their family members to this or that disease, or their son’s being kidnapped. It’s not like Prisoners for him or some of the films I’ve been doing. We’ve all worked on very serious projects where we sit in the trailer and have a headache all day because that’s what you’re going through.
For this, it has been asked of us to have as much fun as you possibly can. To be as insanely goofy as you possibly can. That’s what is craved of you. It’s a much different process. I am not involved in that many comedies. The bigger and the more chaotic you can be really adds to the elements and the fantasy of this. In this story, potentially all of this could be from Peter’s imagination. And so the bigger and goofier you can be is something that kids who love this story will respond to and get a kick out of. That’s been fun.
What’s your voice for Captain Hook like? Do you have a different voice?
HEDLUND: [In the Hook voice] I talk like this. And everything is, “Come on, Peter.” [Back to normal voice] It’s fun. I guess I won’t explain too much, but that’s the goofy voice.
It’s not a British accent.
HEDLUND: No, he’s actually American. Midwestern. That whole story is interesting as well. How he got there and what we’re forming. So hopefully that can be a fun reveal as well.
What kind of training have you done for stunt work?
HEDLUND: Our obstacle is to by all means necessary get ourselves off this island and get to what we remember home to be. It’s really to overcome the obstacles. I don’t have a massive amount to do.
No huge falls or anything?
HEDLUND: Here and there, here and there. There are some fight sequences. Eunice [Huthart], the stunt coordinator is great. I worked with her all the way back during Troy, my first film. She has been great to work on with this. Really it’s been maintenance. You are dealing with so many harnesses and different stunt choreography each day. It’s really so you’re not beat up the next day. It keeps you from being able to show up without warning and being bruised. Once in a while there is some of that “boo-boo gone” being rubbed on the old sores. With the fight stuff, they do put me up against South Korea’s number one taekwando expert. I have taken a couple kicks to the throat and what-have-yous. I guess that’s all part of the game when you are working with the taekwando-ians.
What is it like working with the children on set and what is your role as a mentor?
HEDLUND: I guess I didn’t really add . . . Hugh is so wonderful at this stuff that’s a little bit more theatrical. He craves the theater side of things. I think how everybody loved him so much in Les Mis—this is another kind of wonderful character like that where you get to be bigger than life. This is really a world that he loves playing with. So that’s fantastic to see within him. Levi [Miller], believe it or not, this is his first film. He’s extraordinary. He’s such a smart boy, completely has no fear, no qualms whatsoever about entering into this. I remember this moment when we were rehearsing where Peter has to accept his destiny. Joe is like, “You know, this is very stressful, something very big to take on. Something else might feel like this, like maybe doing this film? There are a lot of people around you. It’s a very big film. Do you feel fear about that?” And he’s like, “No, not really. Sometimes I feel fear when we have to go swimming and stuff in class.” But taking on this Warner Bros. epic Peter Pan, any stress? No. That’s what he brings to the table. He’s wise beyond his years. There are so many elements that he shares that are going to be what attract people most to his version of Peter.
Most of the films I’ve done, I have been the youngest one on set. So I know what that entails. From working on Troy, that being my first film and dealing with a lot of CG and epic dynamics and huge battles—big crew, a lot of people. There were things that I had to be taught about the technicalities of film. Going on to do other CG-heavy films like Tron where you can really explore the space, explore the blue screen. See how big and how long, and what it is that you’re looking at, and how far this stretch is over here. Once I understand, I can help Levi and say, “This goes from here to here, so we can explore this. This is suspended up in the air from this. The ropes go from there. We’re taking the trolley up to here. So you can explore all this space.” He gets to go back and revisit the pre-viz that’s done up and see exactly what it looks like. I enjoy helping in any way I can with that. At the end of the day, it can tend to be a lot of people in one’s ears speaking almost a foreign language about the technicalities of the filming process. So if you can simplify it, that’s what I try to do with him.
And also, just the moral support. When you are 11 years old, being in a harness all day, having fight choreography with pirates. You forget that someone is 11 years old and start speaking to them like an adult. I always try to make certain things fun. Like if Levi has to crash down on certain sets and knock over boxes, I say, “Well, it’s like 10-pin bowling. I bet you can’t get all seven of those boxes down.” If he gets all seven, “All right, strike. Let’s work our way up to a turkey. You know what a turkey is right? Australians know 10-pin bowling?” I try and have fun myself. We work great together, Levi and I.
Do you start to see the seeds of conflict between Peter and Hook?
HEDLUND: You do here and there. There is a back-and-forth that goes on through this film. And you start to wonder if Hook cares about Peter whatsoever. In moments he does, in moments he doesn’t. There are elements of Hook that reveals his cold-heartedness. Other moments he realizes what he’s left behind and tries to once again come back and save Peter while also trying to save himself. There is definitely the back-and-forth. And also between the Tiger Lily character as well.
Do you play Hook thinking he’s a hero?
HEDLUND: It’s one of those things in life, when all we really try to do in our daily life is try to not mess things up. We try and do everything right, but for some reason we can’t help mess them up. There is a lot of that within Hook in terms of some of the battles he has to be in. In terms of trying to fly the ships. We’ve all maybe driven a boat on water, but then you have to drive one in the sky, and that’s a first. There are comedic elements that come into play. It was funny when somebody gave an example in rehearsals. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but he was talking about how we always try and do everything right. You go to a till and the price is $1.54 to pay for something. We always make sure for some reason we pay exactly or get it right. Then you realize you’ve just given the person $1. There’s back-and-forth of trying wholeheartedly to do something right and for whatever reason messing it up.
Can you talk about your earliest memories of Peter Pan and what that story meant to you?
HEDLUND: I don’t really remember the first time I saw Peter Pan. Maybe it was the version that Robin Williams had done. I think the things that attract you the most and you gravitate toward the most is the idea of never having to grow up and living forever. The fantasy elements of this, that there is some place you can go to where it’s all communal. It’s an environment of people that are also never going to growing up. So you never have to deal with the pains and fears of losing someone, of people dying, of getting older. Never need to stop having fun and enjoy the youthful side of childhood, fascination and wonderment. Those are all elements that I gravitate toward most. I think most people do.
How does the humor and goofiness come into this and how much fun has that been to play?
HEDLUND: We can bring it around to Joe. He’s put so much thought into all of this and who the characters are. We have worked a lot through rehearsals to show how far we can go with things here and there. Then Joe takes advantage of that. You can read in a scene a moment that . . . I imagine a situation with me could be background. They’ll show me over there hanging upside down or something. It will be because I’ve been caught. Joe, every single moment, has found a way to make every situation funnier and funnier, goofier and goofier. It has made me proud to be a part of this because it makes it so exciting. Joe finds things. His imagination is so wild and wonderful because he had grown up with fairy tale theater. His father was famous in puppet theater. His imagination, what he’s added to this story, has been just remarkable. It keeps all of on our toes, keeps all of us laughing hysterically. Then we shoot it and we laugh even harder. We can’t believe that’s in the camera and that’s going to be seen.
Joe has been so wonderful to work with in this. Ultimately when you do films like this you want to make sure they are in the right hands and the right people are making them so that it will be represented in the right way and everybody will appreciate it when they see it. Joe has been just extraordinary with the visuals. At times, he can be so ambitious. Something can seem so simple to shoot. Then you get there and realize that 150 extras are in the background doing something very specific during every single shot. It makes you realize . . . Today all those extras could be CG punch-ins, cut-and-paste copies. He’s made it feel so big and so grand. It’s rare. He also has Seamus McGarvey as the cinematographer. He is incredible and has worked with Joe multiple times. Wardrobe has worked with Joe multiple times. The wardrobe, as you can see, is quite interesting and only gets better when it comes to the pirates. They show a whole new look in the characters that they bring to life as well.
Joe is famous for these super long shots. Are there any in Pan? What’s it like as an actor to do it all in one?
HEDLUND: There have been quite a few long shots in this. Before I had to shoot my first day I had seen some of the stuff they were shooting in the orphanage. It gets you so excited and you can’t wait until it’s your turn. I guess I can’t really give away the moments. What they are doing every day, it makes me feel like a kid again when I watch it. I’m 29 now, but when I see it in the theaters, some of the stuff that you see on this journey with Peter at the beginning before you are introduced to Hook is mindblowing. It’s really going to be a surprise.
How wearable is your costume?
HEDLUND: Mine’s good. I have been in much worse, much more restrictive. Once you get into a difficult wardrobe you start wondering why you ever whined about jeans and t-shirts. Mine is just fine in this. It only gets better and goofier.
For all 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