Australian child actor Levi Miller makes his Hollywood major feature film debut in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “Pan” after being chosen in a worldwide search for the central role of Peter.
In the film, Peter is a smart and rebellious 12-year-old boy who has spent his entire life in a dreary London orphanage called the Lambeth Home for Boys, a truly Dickensian dwelling run by a heartless nun. That he still holds out hope that his mother will return for him speaks to the strength of his spirit, and when he finds himself swept away to a fantastical world of pirates, warriors and fairies, his determination to be reunited with her is only strengthened.
Due to the range of emotions and physical requirements of the character, the filmmakers knew that casting Peter would be one of their most critical choices in making the film, and therefore left no stone unturned. “We sent out casting directors to every English-speaking country in the world, and received thousands of tapes and held open castings as well,” director Joe Wright recalls. “We whittled it down and whittled it down, and I met with probably a couple hundred, myself. Then we were sent Levi’s reading, and 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 came to L.A. to meet with us and he just shone. And he’s smart and a very good actor. He was our guy.”
Miller couldn’t have been happier to get the news when Wright rung him up. “It was crazy, something I never thought could have happened! I screamed, I laughed, I cried,” the young actor effuses. “I couldn’t believe that I got the part and I just wanted to get started!”
Miller eagerly poured his boundless energy and extraordinary focus into rehearsals and physical training to prepare for the immense demands required to play the title role. “Peter is brave and adventurous,” he says of his character, “and even a bit selfish. But he has a good reason for doing what he’s doing: the one thing he wants in his life is to be reunited with his mother.”
Until the night Peter is taken away to Neverland, Lambeth is the only home he’s known, and Mother Barnabas and the other nuns his only parental figures. “It’s a pretty sad place and the headmistress, Mother Barnabas, is a monster, an absolutely terrible person,” Miller says, quickly adding, “but the actress who plays her was lovely!”
Peter’s closest ally, Nibs, is played by Lewis MacDougall, who, Miller says, “is my best friend in the film and in real life, which was pretty cool.”
However, once he departs the confines of Lambeth—without Nibs—Peter is on his own and soon under the control of a far more evil dictator: Blackbeard. “Blackbeard doesn’t like Peter because he thinks Peter is in the way of him finding eternal youth; this is not good for Blackbeard and, in return, that’s not good for Peter,” Miller relates.
“In just the blink of an eye, you could be dead with Blackbeard,” says Hugh Jackman, portrayer of the pirate all other pirates fear. “Levi was really able to stand up to me in our scenes together, and I was really proud of him. He’s just a natural and clearly too young to know how hard it should be! You never catch him acting; he’s just completely present and relaxed playing this character who is a fish out of water, and very frightened. But you feel the beginning of the Peter Pan chutzpah, that mischievous, cheeky, playful Pan we know. Levi’s got that in spades.”
Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, October 8, “Pan” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.