Pan's Levi Miller stood out instantly

Pan's Levi Miller stood out instantly

New movie Pan revisits the classic tale of the boy who never grows up, making it all too easy to get caught up in the magic

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Levi Miller's Peter Pan encounters Hugh Jackman's Blackbeard in Pan.
Photo: Laurie Sparham

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Director Joe Wright was having a bit of headache finding the right boy to star as Peter Pan in his new film Pan, which explores the origins of the boy who never grows up.

He had sent out casting directors to every English-speaking country in the world, looked at thousands of tapes, held open castings, and met hundreds of hopeful young actors.

Then, he saw 11-year-old Levi Miller. "There was instantly something sparkly about him, something in his eyes that was hopeful and wondrous, open to possibilities. He was just a normal kid in Australia who'd never done a big, dramatic role of this size before. He was our guy," says Wright.

So Levi was brought on board, and there was nothing more thrilling for him as a young actor than working with Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman, who plays the villainous Blackbeard. Levi soon became fast friends with Jackman and Garrett Hedlund, who portrays James Hook before a crocodile eats his hand.

The "sparkly" Levi stood out from hundreds of hopefuls.
Photo: Laurie Sparham

"It was easy to forget Levi was just 11 years old," says Hedlund, who would sing cowboy songs with Levi in his trailer. "I think that this story, which is so dependent upon believing in the fantasy that is Neverland, required someone with his intelligence and his ability to access his emotions. Ironically, to play a boy who will never grow up, it takes a fairly grown-up kid."

Levi didn't only get to enjoy music in their trailers, but also on set. During filming, Wright played music to evoke the right mood for a scene. He played dark music for ominous scenes like the one in Blackbeard's cabin; reggae music for the jungle scenes, and rock music for the mine and pirate ship scenes.

Music even inspired entire sequences in the movie. Before filming, Wright spent about two weeks improvising with the pirates. He wanted each pirate to have their own personality, and asked the actors to come up with their own names, pick out their own colourful costumes, and figure out what kind of music they'd like to listen to.

"We listened to all these sea shanties, but they were all too lyrical and lovely. I ended up putting on some old-fashioned punk music, and that seemed to hit the spot."

"In these awesome pirate costumes, on this unbelievably massive pirate ship, at the top of our lungs, we all turned into rockers, every single one of us. It was a day I'll never forget," Jackman recalls.

By the end of the day, they had worked out how Blackbeard would make his first appearance in the film - with song. They chose Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, followed by The Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop.

Due to Neverland's mix of different cultures, Wright invited a diverse mix of musicians to contribute to the soundtrack.

This includes a Brazilian Carnival-style drum band, jazz drummer Tony Allen, and the African Children's Choir, who perform to raise money to support education and relief in Africa.

"There's something about that limitless sense of optimism and joy that kids have, and first and foremost, Pan is an adventure story for kids - including the kids in all of us," concludes Jackman.

Pan opens on October 8

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A very special boy

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