Jude Law And David Lowery Talk Reinventing Captain Hook And Peter Pan

Before he even signed up to play the iconic villain, Jude Law had been rehearsing to become Captain Hook for years.

“When my eldest son was four or five, he absolutely loved Peter Pan, so I played Hook opposite him around the house, and I had this strange relationship to the character having played him already. The only difference is that then, I only had a coat hanger for a hook and a wooden sword, and I was just running around the living room!”

The actor is following in the footsteps of actors including Dustin Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Jason Isaacs by putting his own spin on the theatrical nemesis of the boy who never grows up in Disney’s Peter Pan & Wendy, which arrives on Disney+ this coming Friday.


Law stressed that, beyond previously embodying Hook in the comfort of his own home, his main motivation to sign on was through director David Lowery’s screenplay, which offered a more complex characterisation of the fearsome pirate than we’ve previously seen onscreen.

He added: “Through the script, David gave me a chance to really understand him and to delve into his past, and therefore understand what made him become the man that he is in the story, and that’s a great thing to be able to play as an actor.

“Just like David, I went back to the book (J.M Barrie’s Peter And Wendy, from 1911), and what’s remarkable about it is how sparse it is, and yet these sentences have conjured up years and years of imagination in all of us.


“Hook is only in a couple of chapters, but the sentence they use to describe him is so specific. It talks about him being the only pirate that Long John Silver was scared of, so I knew he had to be really scary and physically present, as I needed to make him feel honest and real.

“And then, I have to consider what it must be like to live your life with a hook, and relying on Smee, not knowing whether he’s your valet or your best friend because he does everything for you. And how does this make him so full of fury and hatred for Peter? There was so much to explore and play with – but crucially, I still needed to have a lot of fun, and make sure I didn’t make it *too* scary”.

Going back to the original source material, instead of the Disney animation, was central to everybody’s creative process. In the original book, for example, Hook isn’t referenced as wearing a red coat, with Law stressing that the balance was in making sure “those details are referenced, but you want to make it true to your own iteration as well as that image everybody knows immediately.”


This is Lowery’s second time reinventing a classic Disney tale, after previously helming the live-action Pete’s Dragon remake back in 2016. He’s a chameleonic filmmaker, jumping between arthouse passion projects (The Green Knight, A Ghost Story) and mainstream blockbusters with ease – but he confesses that he underestimated the scale of the challenge he was getting into here.

He said: “I initially thought, “oh, it’s Peter Pan. I know this story. How hard could it be?” But then, as I began work on the screenplay, and as we developed it over a number of years, I realised not only is there more to discover within it, but there’s so much that has never really been seen onscreen before and so much that we think we know because we have this sense of familiarity with it.


“We need to honor that familiarity, we can’t reinvent the wheel. We have to give audiences a film where they are getting the Peter Pan and Wendy that they know and love, but also present them in a new light – and it was a real challenge to find that light.”

The jumping off point came from just seeing the title of Barrie’s first novel, explaining: “I really wanted to call it Peter Pan And Wendy because she is in many ways the audience surrogate, she’s the one who goes to Neverland and we tag along with her. It’s a perspective I wanted to honour and explore.”

However, the big departure from previous iterations won’t strike audiences within the story, but through its visuals. Rather than creating his Neverland on a soundstage, Lowery ventured to various picturesque locations to ground this fantastical kingdom in a plausible reality for the audience.


He continued: “I don’t like to use the word “grounded” because this is a film about flying children, but I didn’t want to feel like Neverland was a place you couldn’t get to – not a soundstage or CGI creation, but something within reach.

“I thought of all the landscapes that appealed to me when I was younger, in Scotland and Ireland. We ended up shooting in Newfoundland and the Faroe Islands to create our Neverland, as those landscapes are just so magical to me.

“They are a version of Neverland that we haven’t seen before, they’re not the tropical Hawaiian Neverland of past generations. This is a bold and breathtaking version of Neverland that feels invigorating to me to see on the screen.”


His attempts at reinventing the material didn’t stop there, as he aimed to similarly give more dramatic weight to the character of Tinkerbell, played here by Black-ish star Yara Shahidi. She hadn’t met her co-stars until the junket, having shot her performance on a soundstage in Burbank, California, but Lowery strived to make sure her relationship to Peter and Wendy was keenly felt.

“I think when you look at the original film, that relationship was at best reductive, and we really wanted to go in a different direction and have something that wasn’t simply two best friends hanging out in Neverland. I wanted to watch both these characters grow and change one another.


“Of course, Tinkerbell speaks in fairy speak and Wendy speaks in human speak, so there’s this challenge for the two characters to hear each other. And out of that challenge came this sense of progression for the two of them, as the focus for me was to make sure that there that they changed one another for the better.”

So, whilst Peter Pan & Wendy offers much of the same story you know and love, Lowery has given it a subtle renovation for a new generation. As Disney celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, it’s a surefire sign that their classic stories are going to keep living on for many years to come.

Peter Pan & Wendy is streaming on Disney+ From Friday, 28th April.

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Alistair Ryder

Alistair Ryder


Alistair is a culture journalist and lover of bad puns from Leeds. Subject yourself to his bad tweets by following him on Twitter @YesItsAlistair.