Hugh Jackman is stepping outside of his normal movie roles with Pan, but not outside of his comfort zone.
Long before Pan, Hugh Jackman was known solely for his muscled roles in action films such as X-Men (2000) and Van Helsing(2004). But Hugh Jackman has since proven his acting range in the epic drama Australia (2008) and the Academy Award-nominated musical, Les Misérables (2012).
As the Calgary Sun reports, Hugh Jackman played the role of Wolverine in a total of seven movies, and had him questioning his typecasting. Hugh Jackman is very appreciative to note the change in his perception as an actor, especially with movies like Pan.
“Now things have changed. I don’t know whether what put it over was Les Miserables or hosting the Oscars. But all of a sudden people are like, ‘Cool, so he’s Wolverine, but we also see you as (Les Miserables’ Jean) Valjean, we see you as Peter Allen onstage, we see you in Prisoners.’ “
The portrayal of Blackbeard by Hugh Jackman in Pan draws on a briefly-mentioned character in the source material of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, and has the pirate in a rather elaborate costume. The elaborate costumes helped Hugh Jackman get into his Pan character. Hugh Jackman described his Pan style as a mash-up of famous people in history.
“My face [was] a picture with a white cracked makeup and the wig of Marie Antoinette and the costume of Louis XIV and all these kind of rings.”
Pan is carrying on the current Blockbuster theme, by presenting an origin story of a famed tale. Pan, opening in the United States October 9, shares the tale of how Peter Pan came to Neverland and the adventures that he has there, including a battle with Blackbeard.
The plot for Pan is markedly darker than other adaptations of Peter Pan. Peter Pan, played by Levi Miller, first enters the scene as an orphan in London during WWII who is then abducted by pirates and sent to Neverland. Peter Pan meets James Hook, played by Garrett Hedlund, who he befriends, as well as Tiger Lily, played by Rooney Mara. Blackbeard, as played by Hugh Jackman, is shown to be an evil owner of a pixie-dust mine.
While Hugh Jackman is receiving positive reviews of his portrayal of Blackbeard in Pan, the casting of other characters in Pan have come under scrutiny. Although the character of Tiger Lily is written as a Native American in the original book, the actress portraying her in Pan is Caucasian. In an industry where there are very few Native American actors in film, the decision to change an iconic character caused a lot of outrage. The decision to cast Rooney Mara in Pan was director Joe Wright’s, and in an interview with the New York Daily News, he explains his reasoning about the film Pan.
“I thought about the idea of having a Native American tribe [in Pan], and that worried me actually… What would I be saying with that choice? So then I thought, ‘Well, where should they be from?’ And I couldn’t decide, so I felt like picking just one race [for Pan] would be an unwise choice. So then I thought about the potential of them being the indigenous people of the (entire) planet.”
While Rooney Mara is Caucasian, the rest of the actors portraying characters from Tiger Lily’s village in Pan are from various ethnic backgrounds.
There seems to be something wholly magical about Peter Pan as it continues to inspire filmmakers to create their own version of the story. Weaving adventure, magic, and the thrill of childhood fantasy together, Peter Pan harkens to a simpler time, when make believe seemed more realistic than life itself. Pan, starring Hugh Jackman, may be the latest installment to the story, but it definitely won’t be the last.
[Images by Laura Cavanaugh / Getty Images]