One of the recent Hollywood crazes is exploring the origins of famous literary characters, be it The Wizard of Oz (last year’s Oz the Great and Powerful), the evil sorceress from the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale (this May’s Maleficent), or next year’s Peter Pan origin film, which is simply titled Pan.

Joe Wright (Hanna, Anna Karenina) is directing Pan from a screenplay by Jason Fuchs (Ice Age: Continental Drift). The story not only reveals how young Peter found his way to Neverland, but also how be initially befriended the pirate James Bartholomew Hook – in the days before the latter’s surname became quite literal, after he lost one of his hands, replaced it a hook, and become Pan’s sworn enemy.

Traditionally, Hook (who’s being played by Garrett Hedlund in Wright’s film) gets his hand chopped off by Peter, but it remains to be seen if Fuchs’ Pan script keeps that plot point or deviates from the classic mythos. Either way, the primary antagonist in Pan will be the pirate Blackbeard, as portrayed by Hugh Jackman in a rare – and thus, all the more welcome – villainous turn.

The Wrap is reporting that Rooney Mara – star of David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation and Steven Soderbergh’s last theatrical release Side Effects – has entered negotiations to play Tiger Lily in Wright’s. Furthermore, English actor Adeel Akhtar looks set to play Hook’s second-in-command, Smee. Akhtar’s resume includes supporting roles in past Hollywood fare like Traitor and The Dictator, though he may be best known for appearing in the British terrorist dark comedy/satire Four Lions.

Adeel Akhtar will play Smee in ‘Pan’

Additionally, The Wrap‘s article reveals that Wright “plans to create a diverse Neverland and challenge audiences’ preconceived notions of the magical world first depicted in J.M. Barrie’s classic tale” – ergo Smee not being white in this film. That’s all good and fine, but that claim does make it all the more curious that Mara has been cast as Tiger Lily – a character who is generally portrayed as a Native American princess.

It’s probably safe to assume that Wright is well-aware of that – not to mention, that Warner Bros. would like to avoid generating a Pan controversy reminiscent of the recent debate about Johnny Depp playing Tonto in Lone Ranger. Hence, Mara’s casting may be a signal that the version of Tiger Lily in Wright’s film is going to be a more radical departure from past iterations.

Maybe Fuch’s script simply changes her backstory, so that Tiger Lily now has a non-definite ethnicity – something that would indeed buck “preconceived notions” about the Neverland princess. That might help to sidestep lingering bad associations with how the character has historically been portrayed onscreen (case in point) – though, in fairness, P.J. Hogan’s 2003 live-action Peter Pan movie adaptation did cast Haida actress Carsen Grey in the role.

Pan opens in 2D and 3D theaters in the U.S. on July 17th, 2015.

Source: The Wrap