In actuality (not the film), Peter Llewelyn Davies was not J.M. Barrie's inspiration for the Peter Pan character. His younger brother, Michael, was. Michael is also said to be Barrie's favorite of the children, not Peter. It is not certain why Barrie then chose to name the main character Peter. One idea why is because of his brothers, Peter behaved the most like an adult at a young age. Barrie wished he had more of a childhood, so he immortalized him as the symbol of youth.
During the formal dinner scene, Johnny Depp placed a "fart machine" under Julie Christie's chair. He had a remote control that he used to trigger a fart sound from the device. The children are laughing more at that than from playing with the spoons.
This film was originally scheduled to be released in fall 2003, but Columbia Pictures, which had the rights to J.M. Barrie's play for their film Peter Pan (2003), refused to allow Miramax to use certain scenes from the play in Finding Neverland (2004) if it were released at the same time. Miramax agreed to delay the release of Finding Neverland (2004) by one year in exchange for the rights to use Barrie's words.
When J.M. Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family are traveling by buggy to Mary Ansell Barrie's (James's wife) cottage, a flock of sheep stops in front of the buggy and it is forced to stop. This is included in the film because the buggy is an original from the late 1800s and is not able to properly run. To make it go, it is pushed over the hill. To cover for it stopping suddenly at the base of the hill, director Marc Forster decided to have the sheep block the road.
At the beginning of the movie, when J.M. Barrie is seen pacing the corridor outside the auditorium, the carpet under his feet is worn and thread bare, suggesting that many playwrights had paced there many times. This was inspired by the playwright Neil Simon who makes mention of it in his autobiography, which one of the films writers had read.
In the film, Johnny Depp spies Dustin Hoffman's character reading through the Peter Pan playbill, mocking the character names. The original script, however, called for Dustin Hoffman to be dressed in Captain Hook's costume as he playfully read the playbill. Upon reading that scene, Dustin said to director Marc Forster, "I'm not being Hook (1991) again!" The script was then changed.
Dustin Hoffman has appeared in two films about "Peter Pan" (Hook (1991) and Finding Neverland (2004)). Following his appearance in "Hook", close friend and former roommate Gene Hackman began calling him "Hook" as a joke. The name stuck and his contemporaries call him by that nickname to this day.
There were actually five Davies children. The fifth child (Nicholas "Nico" Llewelyn Davies) has a hard-to-notice spot in the play - he is part of the inspiration for Michael (Michael Nicholas Darling). Since he was very young and is not noticed by many people in the play anyway, he wasn't included in the film. His daughter does appear in the film, however. She is the woman in the scene that takes place after the first showing of Peter Pan. She says something like, "You're Peter Pan?" Her name is Laura Duguid.
Finding Neverland (2004) director Marc Forster decided to schedule one of Freddie Highmore 's toughest scenes (where he tears up a book and demolishes a playhouse) on his second day of filming, deliberately so other cast members could see the child act and change their attitude towards working with him.
Dustin Hoffman has his hand in his jacket while being told the idea of the boy who would never grow up because he had cut the tip of his finger when a folding chair he was sitting in collapsed and the doctor ordered that his hand had to remain above his heart.
Peter Llewelyn Davies, J.M. Barrie's child muse and inspiration for Peter Pan, was troubled by the public moniker and committed suicide in 1960 at age 63, by throwing himself under a train. 2 of the 5 Llewelyn brothers died young; George died at age 21, a soldier in WWI, and Michael, in a drowning incident, at age 20, under mysterious circumstances.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
At the end of the movie when J.M. Barrie is showing the play to Sylvia at her house, Peter Pan asked them to clap their hands to save Tinkerbelle. Julie Christie's reaction to this was to immediately start clapping. This was unplanned, and the children had no idea how to respond to it. The look of shock on their faces is real.
Laura Duguid, the daughter of the youngest child who did not appear in the movie, brought to the set the engagement ring that J.M. Barrie was going to propose to Sylvia with in real life. Sylvia died before he had the chance.