Transported to Neverland in the 1700s, fierce pirate Captain Elizabeth Bonny and her crew have roamed its seas for 200 years.
When Jimmy and his boys arrive, she sees just the opportunity she needs to steal the potent 'mineral dust' that gives the Tree Spirits their power and rule Neverland forever.
Rochdale-born actress Anna Friel reveals all about playing the deadly high seas brigand.
- What attracted you to Neverland?
Well, I've always loved Peter Pan and I love the idea of it being retold in a different way, because you can only do the story so many times.
Also, I'd only once played a character who could potentially be hated before. I think it's quite a brave thing as an actress to do something where you can actually be disliked.
I asked how believable it was that one woman, a female pirate, could have so much power, and Nick gave me examples of real life pirates who I went and researched and found incredibly intriguing. I think the mix of those things drew me to the project.
And the whole idea of being a pirate I just absolutely loved. To be quite honest, putting that massive hat on and all the belts and chains and the tattoos, it really appealed to me and I loved it.
- There was a real pirate called Anne Bonny. Was the character based on her?
There was Anne Bonny, but I came across another one called Granuaile that I became massively fascinated with. She was wonderful and I really wanted to do something about her. She became a pirate at the age of six by cutting off all her hair because her dad wouldn't let her got to sea.
She was too young, so she cut her hair off and disguised herself as a boy and saved her father from death within two days at sea.
- Why did you decide to play Captain Bonny as Irish?
Because of Granuaile was Irish and I love working with accents. My dad is a linguist and I often find my characters through an accent. Granuaile was from Galway and I thought the accent was timeless.
I liked the lyricism, the music and the tune of it and I thought it lended itself to a lot of the dialogue I had.
- How would you describe the complex relationship between Jimmy and Bonny?
We wanted to tell the story of why Hook became Hook and it's because he became enamoured with this female pirate. I think it's a very different twist that he was influenced by a very strong woman. I think she finds him incredibly alluring and something that she's never ever seen before and he takes her power away because she becomes very attracted to him.
So there's this battle all the time over who has the power. And eventually Hook succeeds because of her greed and her need for the mineral dust, which is basically a the equivalent of a modern-day drug.
Nick wanted to add a dark undertone to it all. The relationship between Jimmy and Bonny was quite dark, but also we're telling a story to children so I hope the darker elements will go above children's heads, but register with adults so it will appeal to a wider audience.
- Does Captain Bonny have any redeeming qualities?
Her one quality is she absolutely speaks her mind. You look at her and she's completely surrounded by men and is able to control all of them and use her wiliness and her womanliness in order to do so. In that day and age woman didn't have that much power, they used what they had.
- How much did the costume help you find the character?
Well, the costume designer, Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, I'd worked with twice before, so we already had a brilliant relationship.
The costume is made with old materials from the 1800s and we looked at all the different corsets and what would work. It's a lot about her bosoms and how she uses them; they're quite a big element of the part (laughs). And with the leather trousers, it's such a sexy, manly way to dress a woman and it's very much an armour.
- Did you enjoy the sword fighting? Have you fenced before?
I did a film called Bathory for about seven months in Prague and I learned to fence there. I really liked it this time, particularly because Rhys was so brilliant. I was like 'C'mon Anna, be good. Fight well.'
I was terrified because I love Charlie Rowe who plays Peter Pan and I tend to get carried away. The fencing teacher was always saying 'Take it easy, Anna' because I'd get so caught up in it.
I'd spend all day saying 'Charlie, I'm really sorry, I'm so scared not to hurt you.' And he was the best at fencing, I couldn't believe a boy of that age could have such fencing skills. He was incredible.
- Did you finding acting against a green screen difficult?
I didn't have trouble with it, but green used to be my favourite colour! I still love green, but that lime green can eventually be a little bit wearing. Nick was great and all the special effects guys were there showing us pictures of what it would look like.
That's the way films are now and you have to be able to get over that. It's just like being a kid again and using your imagination to turn a cardboard box into a television.
- How would you describe Nick Willing's directorial style?
I think he is possibly the most patient director I have ever worked with. His levity and joy on the set was to be looked up to and respected absolutely.
Never did he get grumpy, never did he shout and get frustrated. He gave the set a lovely tone and I commented on that several times, and he said, 'Well, if I don't do it as your director, then no one else will.'
We were working really long hours and getting through eight pages of script a day, or something ridiculous, so it's very important that we went at it in a positive way. He would guide you and tell you what he wanted and then he would hand it over to you to do what you wanted with it.
Then he would pull you back if he didn't like it, or push you further if you didn't go far enough. And he'd always make you remember that it's fun. It's Peter Pan!
- You started acting at a young age, did you have any advice for Charlie and the younger members of the cast?
All the little Lost Boys were lovely and I think being the only woman on set I maybe got more attention than I normally would have done - particularly dressed as a pirate with my heaving bosoms! But they were delightful little boys.
They all had their mums and dads with them, their chaperones, and I was able to relate to that completely. I started when I was 13. I talked to them about missing school and how much they wanted to be actors.
I honestly have never met such a beautiful young group of boys and if they represent the next generation, then I'm very happy about it.
- You mentioned you're a big Peter Pan fan. Are there any adaptations you're particularly fond of?
I like the Jason Isaacs one with Olivia Williams. I really like that rendition. My daughter is almost six and she just absolutely loves Peter Pan. She watches every single version and she particularly likes Hook.
- What do you think is Peter Pan's lasting appeal?
It's because there's a reality and a darkness to all fairy tales and it's true that we don't really ever want to get old. Everybody wants to live in Neverland where we stay young and beautiful and can have fun and play and be children all the time, and the films are a way where we can watch it for an hour-and-a-half and let that place exist.
- How did filming Neverland compare to making a regular feature film?
There used to be such a differentiation between television and movies and I think that line is being blurred, particularly by what Sky is doing.
They're putting so much money into things now and allowing film-makers to do what they want and with a feature film budget, but made for television. Lots of people now have home cinemas, which is the same thing as going to the movies, so you can have a movie in your living room without having to go to the cinema.
- What attracts you to projects at this stage of your career?
At 35, and having done this since I was 13, my only aim is to continue doing what I'm doing and to continue getting better. To have longevity as an actress, I think, is to mix it up as much as you can, to be a character actress and not just a pretty girl playing the same kind of role.
I challenge myself, and the things I'm scared of I tend to say yes to. I pursue roles that stop me from ever becoming complacent or bored, just things that will intrigue me and it usually comes down to a director. It's like a teacher. You only get better if you have a good teacher.
Neverland is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
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