Robin Williams became best friends with Director Steven Spielberg after making this film. Reportedly, after Williams' death, Spielberg decided to watch this film out of rememberance, but couldn't finish it because he couldn't stop crying for hours.
When Granny Wendy is telling the children about the story of Peter Pan, she is holding one of the original printings of the book. It is a first edition version which is noticeable by the olive color, and the gold gilt design on the front cover. The version was printed in 1911 as the first novelization of Peter and Wendy.
Dustin Hoffman's former co-star, Jon Voight, asked him if he could bring his children, James Haven and Angelina Jolie, to the set because they were "dying to meet Captain Hook." Hoffman agreed to meet them while in costume. Jolie was sixteen-years-old, and Hoffman described her as a "tall, thin, gawky-looking girl with a mouth full of braces." After Jolie told Hoffman she was going to be an actress, Hoffman went home to his wife and said, "I don't think this kid has any idea what a tough road she's got."
Steven Spielberg admitted to being disappointed with final result of the movie. He had such a hard time working with the rebellious crew of young actors that he later said, only somewhat kiddingly, that the experience made him wonder if he wanted to have any more kids. He also felt guilty that he wasn't able to find an economical method to filming the many complex human-flight sequences in the film. However, after Robin Williams' death, Spielberg says he is now thankful he made the film, as that was how he met Williams and became good friends with him.
Julia Roberts almost put the production into jeopardy when she fled California after her wedding to Kiefer Sutherland was called off. She decided to avoid the press by hiding out in Ireland. A furious Steven Spielberg reportedly threatened to fire her if she didn't return immediately.
The character of Captain Hook was inspired by Reverend John Maher, a preacher at St. George's parish in Brede, East Sussex. At first glance, Maher appeared to be a small town reverend who happened to have a hook in place of his left hand. He told everyone he lost it in a coach accident. No one had any reason to doubt his story until a man named Smith came to town and revealed that Maher lost his left hand in his previous career as a pirate. Apparently, Maher had a pretty successful career until he decided to strand his partner, Smith, in the Caribbean, return to England, and become a man of the cloth. Smith tracked down his old friend and set out to blackmail him. The pressure was too much for Maher, and paranoia drove him mad. Sir J.M. Barrie visited Brede a few decades later. He heard the story, and the rest is history.
Dustin Hoffman's three children make appearances in the movie. His youngest son, Max Hoffman played five-year-old Peter Pan. His daughter, Rebecca Hoffman played Jane in the play at the beginning of the movie, and his oldest son, Jake Hoffman played a little league player in Jack's baseball game.
There were frequent good-natured "battle of wits" exchanges between Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. In one incident, Hoffman was not happy with his performance and asked for the scene to be re-shot. Williams quipped "Try acting": a reference to the Hoffman/Sir Laurence Olivier exchange on the set of Marathon Man (1976).
Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams' stunt doubles were named Keith. When Director Steven Spielberg called for Keith to come to the set, both Keiths showed up. Eventually, Hoffman's stunt double changed his name from Keith to Keifo.
The line spoken by Rufio (Dante Basco) "You're dead, jolly man." had to be spoken backwards by the actor as the scene was shot and then played in reverse so the sword blade would come away from Robin Williams' face instead of towards it.
The original "Peter Pan" included only six Lost Boys: Slightly, Tootles, Nibs, Curly, and the unnamed Twins.The unnamed twins appear in the imaginary food scene. Tootles is the elderly man who lives with Wendy.
Dustin Hoffman appeared in two films about Peter Pan, this movie and Finding Neverland (2004). Following his appearance in this movie, 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.
The teddy bear from Captain Hook's cabin was accidentally given to Julia Roberts by Steven Spielberg when she checked in to hospital for nervous exhaustion. Spielberg realized his mistake the night before he was due to shoot a scene in Hook's cabin, and the prop department had to rustle up a look-alike in a few hours.
After Peter Pan finds his kids kidnapped and he is talking with the police inspectors, the main inspector is played by the pop and rock star Phil Collins. Collins was on set for two days to film his tiny cameo. Collins expressed concern in an interview afterwards that some of the film's publicity suggested he was starring with Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams, when he only had a small cameo, and people might think the rest of his scenes had been cut because he wasn't good enough.
At a Hook quote-along in Austin in January 2016, James Madio revealed that his Lost Boy character didn't have a name when they began filming. He continually inquired Steven Spielberg about this until one day when he said to Madio "don't ask". Madio is credited with the role of Don't Ask in this film.
There are many references to the story of Peter Pan in Wendy's house: In the nursery the window clasp is in the shape of Captain Hook's hook, the wall boarders are painted scenes from the Peter Pan story, in Toodles' room is a scale model of the Jolly Roger in a bottle, Wendy's brother John's top hat and glasses, Wendy's youngest brother Michael's teddy bear.
According to Phil Collins in an interview, Dustin Hoffman was so meticulous that he was present two months before he was actually required to film his scenes simply so that he could get immersed in the role.
Sir James M. Barrie, at the end of the novel "Peter and Wendy", says that Wendy had a granddaughter, named Margaret, not Moira. However, he has Wendy give her full name as "Wendy Moira Angela Darling".
Peter clapping his hands to heal Tinker Bell was a reference to the times when Peter Pan was performed on-stage. Peter would ask the audience to clap to heal Tink. In Peter Pan (1953), the clapping was left out because Peter couldn't interact with audience and ask them to clap for Tinker Bell.
Composer John Williams and lyricist Leslie Bricusse had written more songs for the film later to be cut out and never used. For legal reasons, none of the songs written have ever been released nor heard since 1990.
The film originally had a shooting schedule of seventy-six days and a budget of forty-eight million dollars, but production took longer than expected. The shooting schedule expanded to one hundred sixteen days, and the budget rose to eighty million dollars. Director Steven Spielberg blames himself for this, saying, "I began to work at a slower pace than I usually do."
In an interview with "Playboy" in 2004, Dustin Hoffman (Captain Hook) recalled his "aha!" moment with Bob Hoskins (Mr. Smee) about their characters being gay. They decided to play their characters as "a couple of old queens", because they felt Sir J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan's creator, had created them that way: "Bob and I were rehearsing and suddenly we looked at each other and realized it at the same time. We said, 'These guys are gay....' and it was fun. Suddenly, we rehearsed it that way: 'Get over here, Smee. Give me a foot massage.' We went to Spielberg, and he said, 'This is a kids' movie.' Suddenly, it made all the sense in the world. They were really good friends. They lived on a ship. They were devoted to each other."
Steven Spielberg originally slated this film to be a musical as a vehicle for Michael Jackson in 1983 after the latter expressed an interest in starring in it and contributing to its soundtrack. Spielberg instead decided to focus on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and shelved the project until 1989, when pre-production for the film began.
Joseph Mazzello was considered for the role of Jack, but was turned down, being too young for the role at the time. Steven Spielberg promised him a role in a future film, Jurassic Park (1993), as Dr. Hammond's grandson, Tim.
While Peter is on his cellphone, the children are running around him. Jack stands in front of a light which makes his shadow grow large against the wall. The shadow is right next to Peter while he is on the phone. This is a reference to Peter Pan and his shadow.
As revealed in a June 1990 draft of the screenplay, with Nick Castle as the Director, Peter Banning was originally thirty-five-years-old, Moira was in her early thirties, Jack was eleven, Maggie was five, and Granny Wendy was ninety-two. In the finalized draft, when Steven Spielberg took over the position of director, Peter and Moira became forty-year-olds, as it is revealed in the film that Peter met and fell in love with Moira when they were both thirteen, and Maggie became a seven-year-old in order to match Amber Scott's real-life age. Jack's and Granny Wendy's ages remained the same.
According to Frank Sanello's biography "Spielberg", Nick Castle was originally attached to direct the film, and had been developing the screenplay for the film for a long time. Once Steven Spielberg expressed interest in being involved, the producers (and possibly heads of the studio) quickly gave Nick Castle a six-figure settlement, gross points, and a "screen story" credit so that he could step down and Spielberg could helm the production.
A ninety-nine card collection was released in 1991, Julia Roberts' Tinker Bell didn't feature in any, except for a character image, which was only concept art. Others such as Rufio were properly depicted. It would seem the reason for the omission was controversy surrounding Roberts at the time.
In 1985, Composer John Williams and Lyricist Leslie Bricusse worked on "Hook" as a stage musical. The project was scrapped after about ten songs were written. Only one song from the play, "When You're Alone", made it to the film. However, many of the play's themes appear in Williams' incidental music.
When Mr. Smee (Bob Hoskins) wakes up the Pirates using a megaphone he shouts "Good Morning, Neverland!" This is a reference to Robin Williams' film Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), in which he begins radio broadcasts with the same affectation. Also, Tootles references Dead Poets Society (1989) when he shouts "Seize the Day!" at the end of film. Williams' character tells his students to Carpe Diem, which is Latin for Seize the Day.
Several lines in the film's dialogue are direct homages to the Sir J.M. Barrie book. Among them are: "When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousands pieces and they went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies." In this movie, this is recited by Granny Wendy and Maggie Banning. In the book, it is spoken by Peter to Wendy. (Chapter 3: Come Away, Come Away!) "I can't come with you. I have forgotten how to fly. I'm old, Peter. Ever so much more than twenty. I grew up a long time ago." The line is spoken by an aged Wendy to Peter in both the movie and book. "Strike, Peter. Strike true." In this movie, this is spoken by a defeated Hook to Peter. In the book, it is spoken by a guilty Tootles to Peter in Chapter 6: The Little House. When Peter and his family arrive in London at the start of the movie, Peter tells his Children "first impressions are the most important". In the book, Peter tells the Lost Boys "Look your best, first impressions are awfully important" when they first enter the house they built for Wendy in Chapter 6: The little House. When Peter confronts Captain Hook for the final battle at the end of the film, Hook says: "Peter Pan, prepare to meet thy doom." "Dark and sinister man, have at thee." This exchange is almost directly lifted from the book, Chapter 15: Hook or Me This Time, the original line being: "Proud and insolent youth, prepare to meet thy doom." "Dark and sinister man, have at thee." During the duel between Peter and Captain Hook, Hook says "Thus perished Peter Pan". This is a flip of the original line "Thus perished Jas. Hook", which is from Chapter 15: Hook or Me This Time. Peter's line in the movie "to live will be an awfully big adventure" refers to a line in the book where Hook says: "to die will be an awfully big adventure" in Chapter 8: the Mermaid's Lagoon. This line from the book is also reflected in the scene where Captain Hook tries to commit suicide when he tells Mr. Smee "Death may be the only big adventure I have left."
Kevin Kline was originally set to play Peter Pan, but had to drop out of the film because of Soapdish (1991), which was having major re-shoots, re-writes, and taking much longer than expected to complete shooting.
The names of Peter's children were probably not chosen at random. The name "Jack" is a common nickname for the name "John", which in the German tongue is "Hans", or "Hansel", and the name "Maggie" is a diminutive of "Margaret" which, in German, is "Gretel".
The child playing Peter Pan in the play at the beginning of the movie is actually a girl. This in an allusion to most live-action Peter Pan movies and stage plays which have a female in the title role.
One of very few films whose 70mm prints kept the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (letterboxed within the 70mm 2.20:1 frame), instead of simply being cropped to 2.20:1, as was done with most widescreen films blown up to 70mm.
When Peter first sees Tinker Bell in the nursery, she crashes into the dollhouse and falls. He keeps calling her "little bug". In FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) Robin Williams did Batty's voice and said this to the main character Crysta, "Oh, you're a strange little bug."
In Phil Collins' autobiography "Not Dead Yet", he recalls his scene, which was shot in two ways, a longer original version, and a truncated version he thought was inferior. According to Collins, Dustin Hoffman disliked the longer version and urged Director Steven Spielberg to go with it. Spielberg explained that he had to use the shorter version during an after-party at the film's premiere.
The negotiation between Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) and Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts) of the days needed for Peter Pan to prepare, is similar to the negotiation of money in Pretty Woman (1990) between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
Peter calls Rufio a very ill-mannered young man; in the novelization for Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), Watson thinks that sometimes of Holmes. Also, Watson has a fear of heights, like Peter Banning. Steven Spielberg was a producer on Holmes.
Matt Damon can claim several connections to this film. Damon worked with director Steven Spielberg in "Saving Private Ryan" (1998). Damon worked with Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting" (1997). Damon worked with Julia Roberts in "Ocean's Eleven" (2001) and its sequel "Ocean's Twelve" (2004). Damon worked with Gwyneth Paltrow (Young Wendy) in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) and "Contagion" (2011).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
According to an interview with People Magazine, Raushan Hammond (Thud Butt) reveals that the scene where Peter passes his sword to one of the Lost Boys was improvised. None of the cast knew onto whom who he would pass the sword, except for Robin Williams and Steven Spielberg, so the reactions of the boys are genuine.
When Hook enters Wendy's home to kidnap the children, just as Nana the dog is shown. She can be heard barking before waking Tootles. It's possible to hear Nana barking "woof! woof! hoof! hoof! HOOK!" To which Toodles then awakes and starts to say "Hook".
The film contains several subtle references to the Sir J.M. Barrie play and book. These include: An elderly Tootles is one of the characters in the film, and is referred to as Wendy's "first orphan". Tootles was one of the original Lost Boys. In the book, play, and the movie, Wendy greets Peter by calling him "Boy". Granny Wendy recites a prayer-like speech as she leaves Maggie and Jack in the nursery, asking the lights to guard the sleeping babes. This is a direct quotation from the book. In the book, Mrs. Darling says, "Night lights are the eyes a mother leaves behind her to guard her children." (Chapter 2: The Shadow) When Tinker Bell is first trying to get Peter to remember her, she says, "I drank poison for you!" This is a direct reference to the events in Chapter 13: Do You Believe in Fairies. The invisible dinner sequence is inspired by the lines in the book: "The difference between (Peter) and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him, make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners." from Chapter 6: The Little House After human-sized Tinker Bell kisses Peter, and he remembers he has to save his children, Tink says to him, "You silly ass, Go!" In the book, Tinker Bell repeatedly calls Peter a "silly ass". Toward the end of the movie, Tootles says "I've missed the adventure again, haven't I, Peter?" This is in reference to the book, as it is mentioned that the reason Tootles was so humble was because, by some misfortune, he missed most of the adventures in which the Lost Boys participated.