Levi Miller learned a lot on his first big movie, which was no less than “Pan,” a $150 million extravaganza that treats J.M. Barrie’s Boy Who Could Fly, played by the young Australian actor, to a semi-gritty, semi-gritty origin story. But the most valuable lesson he learned was a simple one. Garrett Hedlund — who plays the younger, and still nice, not yet a Captain “James” Hook — pulled him aside one day.
“If your shoelaces are too long and you don’t have the time to do five ties,” Miller remembers, “just tuck them into the shoes. And no one’s the wiser.”
Miller has said the cast, most of them adults, including Hugh Jackman (as villainous pirate Blackbeard) and Rooney Mara (as goodly Tiger Lily), offered him plenty of sage advice. Still not yet 13 at the time, he was also allowed to roam around one of the biggest sets ever built, staring at the magical effects and bugging the crew.
“I learned how to do the focus pulling,” he recalls. “I learned how to maneuver the camera. I learned how to pan the camera when it’s on the giant crane — not move the crane. I’d need a license for that.”
Miller gushes about all the fantastical sights he was lucky to see: a hangar that housed everything, so big that it “could fit the Titanic with just the noise pointing out”; a native village, “which was filled with every color you can imagine”; a jungle of plaster trees but also real plants, that felt like the actual Amazon.
“The sets made you feel like you were in Neverland,” he says. “It was a bit like a carnival, without the rides.” Actually, there was one: a massive trampoline that houses a mid-film fight. “It was incredibly bouncy. When you jumped straight in the middle you’d go flying in the air.”
Still, “Pan”’s not just about the untold dollars being burned. Miller describes his version of Peter, who’s plucked from an orphanage during the London Blitz and transported to magical but cruel Neverland, as a bit selfish, with a singleminded quest to find his missing mother (Amanda Seyfried), sometimes while ignoring the safety of others.
“He does a lot of things for himself — which I guess is alright, because he’s doing it find his mother. That’s an alright excuse. But it’s for himself,” Miller says. Still, that’s what intrigued him. “He’s got a lot of depth to him, which I was happy to play around with. He’s not just a blank character who’s got one personality.”
Miller, who was seen on the show “Terra Firma” and will soon appear on the TV iteration of “Supergirl,” said he knew he wanted to act from a young age. “I saw my sisters in commercials when I was young. I was a bit jealous because I was like, ‘People can see you!’” he remembers. “But I was four or five. I was very accident-prone, so I probably wasn’t the best to do that.” He eventually joined an agency for commercials and later for films, becoming less clumsy just in time for “Pan.”
Asked what the perk of being in big movies — other than talking to strangers in strange cities — Miller said there’s lots. But he was able to single one out: “Being kissed by Cara Delevingne was definitely a perk.”
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