What do you think of your look in Pan?
When the director showed me a picture of my face with white cracked makeup, the wig of Marie Antoinette and the costume of Louis the Fourteenth, literally superimposed onto my head, I thought, ‘Wow.’ And he goes, ‘Yeah man, this is Neverland.’ Neverland is an allegory for an eleven year old’s imagination. And he said the inspiration for the whole wig and costume actually came from these fighters from Sierra Leone who were particularly brutal, who used to go in wearing women’s wigs and some women’s costumes. They were kind of all the more sort of freaky for it and it was a little Mad Max, I suppose. So he wanted immediately to set that tone.
What were you like as an eleven year old kid?
I was involved in everything. I grew up the youngest of five, so my oldest sister was just leaving school and going overseas on a plane and having a year off school. So everything was about watching my older brothers and sisters being able to do everything that I couldn’t do. I never wanted to miss out. And I will tell you the most frustrating thing about being eleven was that Star Wars came out when I was about that age, and it was rated 12 in Australia. And my dad, an accountant, he goes, ‘Oh no. You have got to be 12.’ I said, ‘I know dad, but this is Star Wars, and literally everyone has seen it 19 times and every birthday party was, ‘Let’s go and watch the movie, and then let’s play with the light sabers.’ And I always had to meet them afterwards and I couldn’t go to the movie. So I remember I couldn’t wait to turn 12 when I was 11. And when I was 10, I couldn’t wait to turn 11. And I was involved in everything and playing in every sport and doing classes and I was a yo-yo champion when I was 10. I had put that away and I had reached the pinnacle, and there was no more and nowhere else I could go. Eleven was when a teacher said to me, ‘You have real talent as a dancer, and you should do dancing classes.’ And unlike Billy Elliot, I didn’t actually go to dancing classes because someone said to me, ‘Ah, you are a sissy if you dance.’ And so I was like, ‘Oh, I am no sissy, and so I didn’t until I was eighteen.’ Later that person came up to me and he said, ‘I said something really stupid to you when we were younger but you should be up there on that stage, you should be doing that.’ And I went and signed up for dance classes the next day.
Your young co-star, Levi Miller, is also Australian. Did he remind you of a young Hugh Jackman all those years ago?
I certainly see the enthusiasm we have in common. I was brought up in a quiet and I suppose strict way and I don’t know exactly how he is brought up, but when I met him, he was like, ‘Hello, Mr. Jackman. It’s very nice to meet you.’ He was super respectful, super polite but I got him to stop calling me Mr. Jackman eventually but honestly, it took him a month to fully stop calling me Hugh Jackman. ‘Hi Hugh Jackman, Good Morning Hugh Jackman, that was a great scene Hugh Jackman.’ (laughs) and it was actually so cute that I didn’t want him to stop that. I hope he doesn’t mind me telling this story, but he’s almost 13 and he might mind now, but on the last day of filming, there were tears rolling down his face. And we were going around and I gave him a hug and he was really crying, I said, ‘Man, don’t worry. There’s going to be lots more movies. Trust me; you are going to work a lot.’ And he said, ‘No. You don’t understand, I have got to go back to school in Brisbane tomorrow.’ (laughs) . It was very cute.
You seem to be an actor without any signs of vanity. You must admit that’s very unusual.
No, I’m a little vain. I have been in enough movies to know when there is a great D.O.P. who is lighting me well and I will say, ‘Thanks, man.’ So obviously it matters to me to some point but not really.
What do you value more these days about your job than when you started out?
I am valuing different things. Obviously, when you start as an actor you are like, ‘Will I pay the bills? Will I get another job? Am I any good?’ These are simple questions and I don’t know if I had answered all those, but certainly paying the rent one I have answered, (laughs) not that I expected to. I value those quality times I had with my parents and I value those quality times with my kids and I value the experience of the job itself and not just the result of the job. Different things matter now.
How do you feel about your image as “Hollywood’s nice guy?”
It’s interesting. I was with my mum and we had the Pan premiere in London and obviously a few of the press recognised her and pulled her over and so she was answering some questions. She said to me, ‘They were all saying, ‘Oh your son is the nicest person in Hollywood,’ and I was like, ‘Great, thank you.’ Finally by the third person, I said, ‘You know, in my day, I think we just called it manners.’ (laughs). And I don’t know, I love my job and I feel really kind of lucky and actually blessed, whatever word you want to use, but I don’t take it for granted. I suppose it feels natural to me like to say hello to people that I recognise, people who I’ve worked with or known for some 17 years and I like that sense of longevity. So if I see you, of course I am going to say hi. But I am not always nice and there is darkness in me and I think that is one of the great things about my job is that you have to be in touch with that. I think a lot of us, we often build a persona of how we want the world to see us and we don’t often get out of that persona. And it’s really nice as an actor to be able to change that up.