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Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, Garrett Hedlund and Director Joe Wright on the Making of PAN

Pan movie HughJackman LeviMiller

An exciting new take on a beloved tale, Pan serves as a prequel to the classic Peter Pan.

Directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement) the film centers on Peter's first journey into Neverland. Hugh Jackman stars as the vicious Blackbeard, who is determined to hunt down the orphaned boy (Levi Miller), while  Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lilly (Rooney Mara) fight to keep him safe.

During a NY press conference for the fantasy, the cast and director discussed developing dynamic characters, being a part of imaginative sequences and the difficult preparation they endured.

 
Q: Hugh, how did you get into this character and what did your kids think about you doing this movie?
 
Hugh Jackman: My kids love it. My kids are 15 and 10 and are brutally honest and went “oh we actually really like this one!” “Oh yeah? What are you saying?” The ultimate compliment was when they said “can we have another screening? we want to bring our friends.” That’s when I knew they really loved it. I kind of always wanted to play a role like this in a world like this. Swashbuckling, swordfighting pirates. I loved it.

As soon as I knew Joe Wright was on board I jumped in. I actually did a little bit of research about the real Blackbeard and he was kind of amazing. I said to Joe how Blackbeard would take incense sticks and glue them to his beard while going into battle so it looked like his head was on fire and I asked Joe what he thought and he said “hmm, I was thinking something a little different.”

He had my face on his iPad with white cracked makeup and the wig of Marie Antoinette and the costume of Louis the XIV. From then on out 90% of the characterization was from Joe and the hair and makeup department and they had better ideas than me. Everyday I felt like 80% of my work was done by these over the top costumes and ruffles and feathers.
 
How did you create your Tiger Lily?
 

Rooney Mara: It’s kinda like what Hugh said, a lot of it was done for us. We had an amazing script, we had Joe, we had an amazing hair and makeup team and I really spent a lot of time with the stunt department learning how to fight so I could stand up to Hugh who’s just good at everything he does. It took a lot of really hard work to be able to come off as somewhat good at fighting. We were lucky enough that we got a good amount of rehearsal time and the three of us spending a lot of time together was really helpful.

Rooney Mara Pan movie

Q: What do you do to stay out of trouble as a former child actor, Rooney? And Hugh, what do you think about the internet being the new Wonderland that people can escape to?
 
Mara: I’ve seen lots of child actors go off the rails and I don’t really want to do that.
 

Q: What about the internet?
 
Jackman: Well, there are two of us on this panel who are parents. The internet is something I didn’t have as a child, and ultimately it’s an incredible tool. You can have any question answered, you can follow down any road you’re curious. I have to tell you, yesterday around 4o’clock I went into my daughter’s room, it was her day off from school, and she was playing with her dolls and dollhouse and pretending. Please don’t tell her I’m telling this story, but nothing is really going to replace the imagination. Neverland, as Joe beautifully puts it in the movie, is the world of the child’s imagination. The whole movie is seen from the view of a 11 year old. Nothing is gonna replace the limitlessness of our imagination. Sure, the internet is able to answer questions and you can go places you have never gone, but nothing replaces the vastness of the imagination. What I love about this movie as an adult is that it makes me feel that 11 year old again.
 

Q: Joe, you’re also “introducing” Levi. You never see that in movies anymore. Why did you decide on doing that?
 
Joe Wright: Because that’s exactly what we’re doing. We saw over 4000 video taped auditions and it felt like very hard work. Suddenly Levi’s face popped up and it felt like a radiant, wonderful talent and I hope the world will be as thrilled as we were.


Pan HughJackman Joe Wright on set 

Q: Garrett, you and Levi got off easy because your costumes weren’t that complicated, but Hugh and Rooney had an experience. How did your costumes help transform you into the character? As for the music, I’ve never heard a rendition of The Ramones or Nirvana quite like that. How did that come about?
 
Garrett Hedlund: I know mine wasn’t as complicated as theirs, but it became complicated when rear of my pants ripped. Maybe I was wearing drawers or I wasn't, but we had to stitch.
 

Q: For the rest of you, how did the costumes help you transform?
 
Jackman: For me, massively. The moment you see Blackbeard in mirrors being dressed, and by the way, on this movie I had to be dressed. On every film you get a dresser and I’m like “I think I can put on jeans” but for this movie I was like “I think we need an extra person in here.” There were layers upon layers, beautifully handmade boots, it was astonishing. The moment I put it on I felt like a show pony kind of pirate that loves playing Blackbeard. He loves being Blackbeard, he loves all the pomp and ceremony of it and the adoration. As for the song, it was Joe’s idea. It was not something I read in the script. I remember when we were trying it out there were some Warner Bros executives visiting rehearsals and I heard them as they went by and they said “I didn’t know we were doing a musical.”

And Joe was like, “let’s try it.” That was the atmosphere on set. We all filmed it with a lot of stomping, and the pirates had to go back in and record our vocals. So near the end of the shoot we were at the London recording studio and one by one we’d go in and record. I recorded my track and from the soundbooth a very polite soundguy goes “Mr. Jackman, that was fantastic, but it’s sounding a little Broadway.”
 

Mara: I think costumes are one of the most helpful things for getting into character. My costume was incredible, it was inspired by Joe’s son who’s obsessed with belly buttons. It sounded like a cute idea “oh yeah, I’ll wear a midriff.” Then two month laters I’m like “why did I fucking do this?” It was really hard to fight in  my costume because there were so many things dangling everywhere. It was hard to hide padding or harnesses under it. It was an incredible costume, but by year four I was ready to burn it.
 

Q: Why the music?
 
Wright: It was just an idea. We had a hilarious week of pirate bootcamp where all the actors… it’s amazing how actors jump at the idea of playing pirates, fully grown tough men, and they’re going “yeah, I’ll wear an eyepatch.” So we had the bootcamp and I wanted to find some music that was right for the energy for them. We tried some sea shanties and they didn’t quite feel tough enough, then we tried some punk and the energy in the room changed, so I thought we’d give it a go.
 

Q: Can you talk about changing the time period and how that opened things up story wise? And how it helped the actors come into their own?
 
Wright: The time period of Neverland is non-specific. I liked the idea of Neverland as a place where all time periods collided, so you can have Elizabethan costume, and 1930’s costume, and The Ramones.

Hedlund: When I first met with Joe, I was reading this origin story of Hook, and it’s not necessarily the version everybody knows and loves, and in this version Peter and Hook are allies, so it’s an interesting take. I met with Joe to see how he saw Hook and he said he saw Hook as a character out of an early John Ford film, if he wasn’t in Neverland he’d be happy in the prairie on a horse. It was a new spin on Blackbeard and it was super interesting.

Pan movie GarrettHedlund

 Q: What was the most challenging and fun aspect of making the movie?
 
Mara: For me the most challenging part was the fight with Hugh. We shot that fight for four weeks and we practiced it way longer than that. It was my first time doing anything remotely like that and Hugh is an incredible fighter, he does stunts, he’s a dancer, so Hugh is used to picking up choreography and we’d be rehearsing this over and over and he’d pick it up so fast. He would literally just keep going and going and going, he never got tired or winded or complained. That was a really hard fight and we basically had to do it on a balance beam. On the day that it was time to shoot it we realized we had to do the fight with wires because it was too dangerous to do it without them, and that kinda changes everything about your center of gravity and the way you move. It was really fun, but that was the most challenging part of the shoot for me.
 
Jackman: It was three or four weeks. That was a, physically, particularly challenging scene. I don’t remember when the decision was to take the fight onto the mast, I said that’s a brilliant idea without realizing that my big feet in these boots were going to be on that balance beam. It was not easy. But I think acting-wise, and it’s something John and I talked about and I’m grateful for, it’s challenging finding the right tone for a movie like this which is unabashedly enthusiastic and open and my character is larger than life in some ways and loves the sound of his own voice, but is also mournful and sad, and lonely, so you have to have the right amount of menace but not too much. That kind of balancing is really challenging and fun. That’s why if I have the choice, I try to work with directors like Joe who have great taste and allow actors to play with the freedom to not worry about whether or not they’re getting it right.
 
Garrett: I had a fight sequence that lasted four weeks that was on a trampoline. I’m still trying to make sure my brain is still positioned right in my skull. Same thing, when I first met with Joe, it wasn’t in the script. There was a fight sequence but he said “I have this idea. My son loves trampolines, how are you on the trampoline?” And I didn’t know if it was my job then I said “Joe, I’m really great, I can do flips, backflips.” My opposer, Tae-Joo Na, is one of the top martial artists in South Korea, so I had my work cut out for me in that scene. As difficult as it was at times though I still had fun. I wanted to be in one of those slapsticky sorta things where the guy that appears to be in control and has the upper hand is just getting the shit beat out of him in a very comedic way. I love what our stunt choreographer, Eunice Huthart, had done with it. It was awesome and wonderful.

 

Q: Levi, was it challenging looking at Hugh in that whole get up? Were you really afraid?
 
Miller: Yes, Blackbeard’s character is very intimidating but Hugh is lovely. Blackbeard was played brilliantly. Challenging moments-wise, the most challenging day was the first day of filming where I was underwater for two days straight. The first day I didn’t have the idea of the whole underwater part of it. I had my eyes open for the movie the majority of the time underwater and by the end of the day my eyes were just bulging out. My eyes were very sore. Then the next day I learned to close my eyes between takes.
 

Pan movie Levi Miller Garrett Hedlund Rooney Mara

Q: With so many roles to choose from, was there pressure felt by the cast with these characters?
 
Hedlund: I wanted some pressure to take the job.
 

Miller: No you didn’t!
 

Mara: I really wanted to work with Joe, but I also wanted to do a movie my family could see where I’m not taking my clothes off or getting horribly abused by someone. I grew up loving fairytales and Peter Pan. It was getting to go to work every day and not take yourself so seriously and just play make believe. It was something really different for me and it was something I really wanted and needed to do.

 

Hedlund: I’m in complete agreement. I never foreseen myself being in a film like this until I met with Joe. Some of the material we focused on Hook and the evil side of Hook that everyone knows and loves and it was quite dark material, but Joe would ask me to be goofier with it and do a maniacal giggle. I was breaking through this barrier. You always feel like people are watching you all the time, so you try to hold back and resist, but Joe wants the exact opposite, and I hadn’t really done a film like that before. To always be asked to be bigger and larger than life, after each take of exercising these aspects we’d just die laughing in the room together. I think my laughs were as maniacal as he asked.

 

It’s like Rooney said, you do these darker films and you’re sitting in the trailer and you’re stressed, you’re not eating, you’re not sleeping. Why not have an experience where you film a film and you have fun? Our souls need that. It’s refreshing, I never had that before. We’d have these long days and there are these massive sets where they made a zeppelin and stuff and it conveyed the same attitude. You saw all these kids and their faces light up when they’re on set and 200 extras dressed up as natives come onto the set and make it their home and you see them loosening up and Joe would play music between takes. A lot of the crew members Joe had worked with him before and were familiar with this to a degree and got into it immediately and everyone loosened up and then there’d be 300 people dancing in the native village between takes. This is what we do this for.
 

Jackman: I’m glad you said that. It didn’t feel as pressured as a lot of these big movies usually do. And of course there’s pressure, we’re all runners, even Levi, we all understand. It’s a lot of money, it’s a beloved story. Joe just shouldered all that to leave us crew and actors to feel free to play. I’ve never been, but it was a little like what I imagine Burning Man is like. The other thing I wanna mention is Levi, because he’s amazing. It’s his first film, and if there’s ever going to be pressure, imagine doing your first film and walking into that; the biggest set that had ever been built in England. It was massive. But with Joe and Levi at the helm it was fun, it was make believe, it felt like that. You couldn’t act opposite of Levi without getting infected with that sense of “can you believe we’re getting to do this?” This sense of joy. That’s what it was. I really take my hat off to these two guys, particularly Joe.

 Pan RooneyMara LeviMiller

 

Q: This is for the filmmakers, how did you make this image of Peter Pan and what did you pull from your own childhood?
 
Wright: I just tried to put myself, my imagination, back in  my 11 year old self and try to see the world through his eyes and that was quite an exciting process for me. My 11 year old self was filled with wonder and excitement and magic and my teenage self came and stamped all over that and told him to be quiet because it wasn’t cool. It was kinda lovely to return to the uncool me and not worry about that stuff and create a world of color and excitement and joy. And fear as well. It was a wonderful process for me, and feels, weirdly, like a very personal film for that reason, despite this huge great production juggernaut thing that surrounds it. It feels like a tender, small film.
 

Q: Were you thinking about the backlash from the alleged whitewashing of the film with Tiger Lily and people’s preconceived notions of these characters? And did anyone take anything from the set?
 
Wright: When I first started considering the film and the world of Neverland before considering Tiger Lily’s casting, I thought about the community she is part of, and I didn’t want to make them one specific nationality. The idea of Tiger Lily as Native American comes from Disney’s cartoon, not from Barry’s source material. Barry is kind of non-specific about Tiger Lily and her community’s race, so I decided trying to make the tribes and natives be native of planet Earth and indigenous of the globe. That felt like a kind of opportunity then to have these people come together to fight Blackbeard, who’s the kind of colonial villain who wants to overtake their land. Then when I got to thinking about Tiger Lily’s casting I thought I could cast her from anywhere. So I had a lovely time meeting actresses from India, and China, and Japan, Africans, African Americans, Native Americans, First Nation Australian and so forth.

 

Tiger Lily is described as being a warrior princess and there’s something regal about Rooney and something scary about he too. She’s quite badass, you don’t want to mess with her. Therefore she was the greatest actress that had the qualities described in the screenplay and that’s why I cast her.  I think people’s concerns, which I fully understand, about the casting of a caucasian actress in the role, are justified until they see the movie. When people see the movie they’ll understand what I’m trying to do. And I have Blackbeard’s sword.
 

Jackman: I stole that earring with a pearl… for my wife.
 

Hedlund: I took Levi’s map. There’s a part where Levi finds a map in a crashed pirate ship and I thought it looked exciting.
 

Miller: I got to keep the pan pipe, which was awesome. That was a cool thing to take.
 

Hedlund: I kept Tiger Lily’s outfit.
 

Wright: He wore it one day on set.
 

Mara: We have a picture.
 

Q: Rooney, you were in some very anticipated movies this year like Carol, how do you like your performance in respect to these films?
 
Mara: I have a hard time watching anything I’m in until five years later. I don’t have good perspective on myself. I’m super hard on myself and critical and when I watch things I’m in I only see the things I wish I hadn’t done. I’m never pleased with myself until years later, and then I’m like “oh yeah, that’s not bad.”


Pan Hugh Jackman Levi Miller Pan movie1 

Q: Levi, what was it like to see yourself on the big screen?
 
Miller: It was weird. I liked it. I enjoyed the film of course, but it was a weird feeling seeing myself on this gigantic screen and after seven months of filming… I liked it.
 
Q: Rooney, I saw Trash earlier. What is it like working with young actors?

Mara: I love it. A lot of people really don’t like working with children or younger kids. I also worked with two little girls on another film "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." I really love it. Working with Levi was one of the great joys of working on this film. He’s so open and curious, and he has no cynicism and made it so easy for us to come in and use our imaginations and play make believe. I find working with children, they don’t know how to lie yet, they’re just finding the truth in whatever they’re doing, I get a lot out of acting opposite of them. The experience acting in Trash was very different from any other experience I had working with children because there was a language barrier. I love it.
 

Q: Tiger Lilly has a lot of really intense fight scenes. Did you think about what girls would think seeing it? What was the thought process in writing her?
 
Mara: For me it was a reason I wanted to do this film. Like I said, I grew up loving fairy tales, but unfortunately in a lot of them the female characters end up being some sort of victim or damsel in distress and Tiger Lily wasn’t like that at all. In some ways she was more capable than the boys and she could fully take care of herself and then some. I loved and appreciated that about the script.
 
Wright: One of my favorite audience responses have been from girls coming to see the movie and their favorite character is Tiger Lily. When asked what they like about Tiger Lily they respond “because she can do anything.” I’m always trying to portray as strong and powerful and those are the kind of women I like, so they’re the kind of women I like in my movie. It was a brilliant idea of Jason’s to make that final battle so much about Tiger Lily and Blackbeard. I liked the fact that Peter is pretty brave in what he does, especially when he goes to save Hook, but Hook’s pretty useless, really. I liked seeing Garrett beaten up, that made me laugh, so it all worked out just fine.

Q: Did you do any research for the role of Peter Pan or past actors?
 
Miller: This is an origin story, it’s something that had never been seen before. I had seen the Peter Pan films previous to Pan, but I didn’t rewatch them. It’s different. It’s Peter, the boy who can’t grow up, and who can fly, but it’s a new idea. It’s him before he becomes Peter Pan so he can be anything. He can be a boy who’s living in an orphanage. I discovered the boy through rehearsals. We had a sheet we wrote down the qualities of Peter on. He has all these personalities. He’s quite selfish. Even though he’s the brave hero of Neverland he’s definitely selfish because what he’s doing is all for his own achievement at the end. Of course there’s the sweet thing of finding his mother, bu tit’s for himself and I was excited to play with that.

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