Young actor Levi Miller is just the latest in a long line of performers to bring Peter Pan to life

By Drew Mackie
Updated October 07, 2015 05:55 PM
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Art Zelin/Getty; SNAP/REX Shutterstock; Laurie Sparham/Warner Bros.

The boy who wouldn’t grow up has stayed young thanks in part to a century-long succession of actors playing him as such, onstage and onscreen. Since the first stage production of Peter Pan in 1904, there has been a lengthy list of actors portraying the character in one form or another, and with the release of Pan on Friday, 13-year-old actor Levi Miller becomes just the latest – and notably, most boyish – to do so.

Here’s a short history of the famous faces who have played Peter Pan.

1. Betty Bronson (1924)

The first-ever cinematic adaptation of Peter Pan had the leader of the Lost Boys being played by Bronson, whom author J.M. Barrie himself recommended for the role. Previous to this silent film version, it had already become customary for a female actor to perform the role, and the first stage performance of a Peter Pan play, in 1904, cast a woman because a male actor would have necessitated the rest of the child actors being “scaled down in proportion.”

2. Bobby Driscoll (1953)

Only 15 years old when the Disney animated Peter Pan hit theaters, Driscoll had not only voiced the character but also was the model animators used for close-ups. And because the success of this movie helped solidify how most people picture Peter Pan – green costume, feathered cap, a puckish grin that looks a lot like Driscoll’s – the young actor’s influence lives on, even if Driscoll himself died in 1968 at only 31 years old.

3. Mary Martin (1954)

Hot on the heels of the Disney adaptation came a new Broadway musical based on the tale. Broadway legend Mary Martin originated the role, and it became one of the most famous in her long stage career. The above clip shows Martin as Peter Pan in a 1960 TV adaptation of the Broadway show.

4. Mia Farrow (1976)

NBC celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Hallmark Hall of Fame series with a special production of Peter Pan that eschewed the songs from the Mary Martin stage productions in favor of new ones written especially for Farrow to sing. That’s Julie Andrews singing the opening number, BTW.

5. Sandy Duncan (1979)

When the Broadway show popularized by Mary Martin was revived in 1979, Duncan brought a pixie-ish spirit (and a pixie cut) to the role.

6. Cathy Rigby (1990)

The gymnast-turned-Broadway star earned a Tony nomination for her turn as Peter Pan in the second Broadway revival, which opened in 1990. Rigby played the role again through 1998 and 1999.

7. Jason Marsden (1990)

Known for onscreen roles on the TV series Step by Step and in the movie Hocus Pocus, Marsden has also been lending his voice to animated productions for years. At 15, he voiced Peter Pan for an animated series adaptation opposite Tim Curry, who voiced Captain Hook.

8. Robin Williams (1991)

In one of the most inspired casting decisions ever, Williams played Peter Pan in the one instance in which he actually did grow up. Acting alongside Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell, Williams found the character’s daring, boyish spirit in a way that perhaps few other actors ever could.

Watch Robin Williams’s Iconic Screen Moments

9. Jeremy Sumpter (2003)

The first live-action of version with an actual boy playing the title role, the 2003 Peter Pan starred Jeremy Sumpter, who was only 14 when the film hit theaters. Sumpter would go on to play a recurring role on Friday Night Lights, among other subsequent parts. While the film garnered positive reviews, it ultimately wasn’t a financial success.

10. Kelly Macdonald (2004)

Before becoming better known to American audiences for roles in No Country for Old Men and on Boardwalk Empire, Macdonald played an actress playing Peter Pan onstage in Finding Neverland, the biopic that had Johnny Depp playing author J.M. Barrie.

11. Robbie Kay (2013)

Leave it to Once Upon a Time to find a new way to tell a story that has been told and retold for years. The fairy tale fantasy series reimagines Peter Pan as a villain – and as the father to a longstanding character on the show, in spite of all the reasons that just doesn’t feel right.

12. Allison Williams (2014)

In NBC’s second televised live production of a Broadway musical, the Girls star did her best impression of a boy opposite Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. As with NBC’s live Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood, the special was as much spectacle as it was musical, and the hashtag #PeterPanLive was trending on Twitter for all number of reasons.

13. Levi Miller (2015)

And now, Miller joins the ranks of those have brought Peter Pan to life. This film works as a prequel to Barrie’s original story, and explains how Peter came to be the hero of Neverland. Miller will next be appearing as Calista Flockhart’s son on the new series Supergirl.