"Playfulness juxtaposed against melancholy"–Marc Forster describes Johnny Depp's performance as Barrie

Pam Grady interviewed FINDING NEVERLAND director Marc Forster for her New York Times article “Peter Pan Principal.” Discussing the qualities he wanted to see in J. M. Barrie, Forster told Grady, “I didn’t want [Barrie] to be too full on. I wanted him to be subtle and friendly. When Johnny agreed to do it, I was just so glad, because I needed someone who was able to be like a child and there aren’t many actors who can do that.” Forster also knew managing the tone of the film would be difficult, since Barrie’s playful engagement with the Llewelyn Davies family was always tempered by tragedy. “It was tricky,” Forster said. “[A]s a whole there’s an underbelly of melancholy going through the entire story.”

“That’s the beauty of Johnny,” adds Forster. “When you talk about the character’s image, you have this playfulness, but it’s juxtaposed against this almost loneliness and sadness and melancholy.”

Forster also told Grady that he investigated pedophilia charges against Barrie and concluded they were untrue before he began FINDING NEVERLAND. He sent the screenplay to Laura Duguid, whose father was the youngest of the Llewelyn Davis boys, Nico. Duguid remembered Barrie, and Forster wanted to know if Duguid would approve of a screenplay that portrayed Barrie as an innocent family friend and cut her father out of the story! Far from disapproving of the script, Laura Duguid “just loved it,” Forster said. Calling Duguid “a wonderful character,” Forster offered her a chance to appear in FINDING NEVERLAND as one of the theatergoers on PETER PAN’s opening night. “I cast her as the woman who, when Barrie comes to Peter to ask him how he liked the play, says, ‘This is Peter Pan.’ I thought that would be a great line for her, ‘This is Peter Pan.'” As Forster fulfilled Duguid’s lifelong dream of being an actress, he also linked his recreation of PETER PAN to both Barrie and Sylvia, since Laura Duguid is J. M. Barrie’s goddaughter as well as a Llewelyn Davis.