20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
Looks like Wolverine will be trading in his claws for a sword – although he’ll probably hang on to the facial hair. According to Variety, Hugh Jackman is in negotiations to play the pirate Blackbeard in Joe Wright‘s upcoming Peter Pan origin story film, Pan. The film will follow a young orphan boy who is taken to Neverland, where he leads the natives in a rebellion against the evil pirates, led by Blackbeard, and becomes a hero to those who live in the magical land. Blackbeard will be the main antagonist of Pan, but Peter Pan purists shouldn’t be worried, as Hook will still play a significant role. In fact, Hook will start off as one of Peter’s allies and good friends, although he will, of course, eventually turn against him. Jackman is the first person to be cast in the film, as the filmmakers are apparently hoping to find an unknown actor to play the lead role.
The role is somewhat of a departure for Jackman, who has a long line of likeable good guys and gruff anti-heroes under his belt. However, his recent performance in the film Prisoners proves that he’s capable of playing dark, intense characters, which will be an asset to him when it comes time to terrorize Peter Pan. Since the filmmakers had apparently approached Javier Bardem for the part before offering it to Jackman, there’s a good chance that they’re looking for him to play an out-and-out villain, someone who will haunt the nightmares of small children for years. Of course, with Jackman on board, they could now explore a different tone for the film, and allow Jackman to ham it up and chew some scenery.
But how over-the-top and campy should he get? A lot of it depends on how young an audience Pan is aiming for. If they’re looking to make it straightforward and family-friendly, there’s a good chance that Jackman could decide to play Blackbeard in a more idiotic manner, and rely on a lot of the slapstick humor that characterizes Captain Hook in Disney’s version of Peter Pan. However, that wouldn’t make Blackbeard a particularly fearsome villain, and since Hook will not be playing the antagonist for most of the film, there needs to be at least one character who is properly menacing. Instead, allowing Jackman to concoct a villain that is equal parts entertainingly hammy and genuinely threatening would give the film a good balance of humor and suspense, which would also help it appeal to a wider audience. Of course, Pan would need to be careful of differentiating Blackbeard from the main villain of another Peter Pan origin film in the works, Peter and the Starcatchers, as Captain Blackstache is primarily known for his scenery-chewing.
Casting Jackman as Blackbeard is such a genius idea that it’s bound to be one of the strongest elements of the film, regardless of what direction the character ultimately takes. His theater experience gives him the ability to play bigger, more over-the-top characters without losing their realism, but he has proven with Prisoners and Les Miserables that he can handle dramatic roles as well. This is bound to be helpful for Wright, who is known for his quiet, introspective period pieces, and it will allow him to explore the story’s fantasy and action elements without losing the drama that he specializes in.
So essentially, all that’s left for Jackman to decide is how much of an homage to Dustin Hoffman in Hook he would like Blackbeard to be.