The Wednesday after his visit to this summer’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, Levi Miller is gleefully recounting his surreal nerd-fandom experience. “It was awesome. All these people were lined up. We did an autograph signing. That was crazy!” Craziness is something that the 13-year-old Australian actor will have to get used to. Next month, Miller will make his first starring turn in Joe Wright’s Pan, playing the Boy Who Won’t Grow Up, Peter Pan. “It’s a children’s book, but it’s quite deep,” Miller remarks of the original J.M. Barrie novel, which he re-read when he landed the lead. Wright’s version is a dark foil to previous film adaptations, like Hook (1991) or Disney’s iconic 1953 animation; Peter is reimagined as an orphan stolen from his bed by a band of marauding pirates led by the cruel, flamboyantly wigged Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). After being sent to walk the plank, Peter discovers his abilities to fly, marking him as the savior of Neverland.
Growing up in Brisbane as the youngest of three, Miller first considered acting while watching his older sisters perform in dance recitals and commercials. “I was about 5,” he says. “I was a bit jealous. I wanted to be up there too.” Miller followed his sisters’ lead, soon shooting commercials and going out on movie auditions. One brought him to Wright’s attention. After callbacks in Los Angeles and London, Miller found himself hoisted up in front of a green screen on a movie lot fulfilling pretty much every kid’s fantasy. Pan also proved to be an invaluable master class for the young actor, who swashbuckles with Jackman and holds his own alongside co-stars Garrett Hedlund and Rooney Mara.
Miller doesn’t plan to be letting up soon: he just returned from filming the coming-of-age tale Blue Dog, about a boy who forges a friendship with a stray dog in the western Australian outback, and he was recently named brand ambassador for Polo Ralph Lauren Children’s fall campaign. But for now he’s content with getting some downtime back home in Brisbane, listening to music, and teaching himself guitar. Of acting, he says like a pro, “We’ll see where it takes me.”