Edinburgh schoolboy stars in Pan with Hugh Jackman

Peter Pan actor Lewis McDougall. Picture: Scott Taylor

Peter Pan actor Lewis McDougall. Picture: Scott Taylor

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It’s a magical adventure about a boy who never grows up – set in a make-believe world of pirates, mermaids and flying ships.

But for one teenager, fantasy became reality when he was given the chance to star in the big-budget film Pan, a prequel to the swashbuckling J M Barrie classic, which opened in the UK today.

Lewis MacDougall, 13, from Kingsknowe, joined the likes of Hugh Jackman when he played Nibs, best friend of the eponymous hero.

In the film, he lives in an orphanage alongside the mischievous Peter Pan when they meet Blackbeard (Jackman), who kidnaps children and forces them to work as slaves in the mines of Neverland.

The Currie Community High School pupil – who had previously only acted in small parts at his local drama school – was left in awe of the sprawling film sets which included forests, lagoons and two full-sized pirate ships.

Lewis, who wants to pursue a career on the big screen, said: “It was my first time going on a film set and it was pretty amazing.

“Everything was so massive, particularly the pirate ships, and there were so many people there.

“When I told my friends I was in Pan, some didn’t believe me or asked me if I had a speaking part, but it’s a decent-sized part.”

Lewis also struck up a close friendship with Levi Miller, who played the title role, and they sat together to watch the Leicester Square premiere.

He said: “We became really good friends and hung out with each other at the weekends. I Skype him to keep in touch.

“I didn’t have any scenes with Hugh Jackman but I met him during rehearsals and he was really nice, so friendly.”

Lewis had to do some of his own stunts including a death-defying leap from a flying pirate ship to escape from the clutches of Blackbeard.

He caught the acting bug several years ago when he attended The Drama Studio, which specialises in improvised rather than scripted performances.

And the teenager almost didn’t audition but Julie McDonald, director of the city-based group, convinced him to try out for the lead role of Peter.

“He wasn’t sure and I told him ‘Just give it a go’,” she said. “He had as good a chance as anybody. He had been coming here for several years so I knew he was quirky and versatile with a strong inner confidence.

“I was also thinking that if he wasn’t what they were looking for, he would still get a part.

“But I left the decision up to him and he said ‘Okay, I’m going to do it’ – and he did.”

Lewis attended an open audition at Christ Church Hall in Morningside, and although he didn’t land the role of Peter, he was offered the next best thing.

And as a direct result of his role in Pan, he signed up with United Agents, which helped him get an even bigger role. He will play the central character in A Monster Calls alongside screen legends including Taken star Liam Neeson and Sigourney Weaver.

The film follows the fortunes of a 13-year-old boy who becomes the target of bullies at a time when his mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

But he escapes from his problems by retreating into a fantasy world with the help of a yew tree monster.

“It was quite a bit harder than Pan which was quite fun. A Monster Calls was a bit more emotional,” Lewis said.

When he is not starring in major films, Lewis enjoys playing football with his friends or on his XBox and has recently taken up golf, playing at Kingsknowe Golf Club near the home he shares with his father William, a 59-year-old retired banker.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com