In lieu of the 16th anniversary of the film, Peter Pan, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Jeremy Sumpter recall the story of Peter Pan and Wendy Darling’s romance and adventure.
Remember falling in love in your early tween years with the idea of a minxy little boy flying in through your open window, whisking you away to a magical land where you never grow up? I certainly do. And if you’re anything like me – romantic, nostalgic, and incredibly hopeless – then you’ll remember one of the most iconic failed romances that helped shape our childhoods.
So, grab some tissues, get them sad songs ready, and strap in as we remember the Peter and Wendy love affair that shook our young hearts and shredded them to pieces.
PJ Hogan’s 2003 Peter Pan film, which first premiered December 9 in the UK, was one of the most enchanting, captivating, and culturally transcendent films of that decade. So transcendent in fact that even up to this day, people are still talking about it.
“I’m delighted for it to have been significant enough in people’s lives for them to do so,” Rachel Hurd-Wood who once played the loveable and headstrong Wendy Darling, speaks humbly. “In particular, when people say it had a positive impact on their childhood, or their children’s, it truly warms my heart.”
The film was stunning all on its own. It had a charming script which we still quote to this day (never truly is an awfully long time!), and the colorful world of Neverland really took the audience in with its breathtaking promise of adventure. But the film’s greatest pull was, and always will be, the mystifying chemistry between its two leading characters, Peter and Wendy.
“Rachel and I fell in love on set.” Jeremy Sumpter, who we all know and love as the sly and mischievous Peter Pan, brazenly declares when asked about the two characters’ romance.
“She was my first love; I was her first love. And it is great to know that we will always have that.”
Yes, you read that right; the two actors seemed to have actually been in love on-set–at least according to Jeremy. And maybe it’s those real-life feelings of the young and brash first love that really set the romantic tone of the two characters. Jeremy highlights that when you see it in both his and Rachel’s eyes, that love that Peter and Wendy had, “you know it’s coming from a real place.”
“The relationship between Peter and Wendy is so sweet,” Rachel chimes in with her own two cents, albeit a little more focused on the actual characters with a lot less venture into their personal lives on-set. “Peter is fun, unplagued by anything serious. Wendy is drawn to that, but also carries a sense of responsibility…and a desire to be in ‘the real world’.”
Rachel comments no further about the impact of her and Jeremy’s chemistry on the relationship between Peter and Wendy. “We did our best, we were so young.”
There’s something very uncanny about their responses that unknowingly reflects the dynamic between the two characters they once portrayed. To Rachel – whose character Wendy left Peter Pan and Neverland to grow up, undertake responsibilities, and abandon adventure – unrequited love is a matter of experiencing something in the midst of those dull moments in real life.
“Unrequited romance carries a real bittersweet tang.” She comments carefully. “I think we’re all quite numbed to a lot these days, so the experience of feelings is welcome to many, even if they’re negative.”
In complete contrast, Jeremy–whose Peter Pan is wild and passionate, whether in his feelings of want and greed or of anger and sadness–likens that unrequited romance to the experience of young love. He believes there is something chaste and lost in that notion of letting go and moving on from that love.
“That feeling you get in your heart, stomach, the butterflies—young love is the most powerful love there is.” He asserts. “It’s raw, it’s fresh, it’s new and we may never have those feelings again.”
This difference in opinion may be attributed to their very different experiences with love and all the things that come with it. Rachel is happy to say that she has now grown up, happily married to her husband, and a mother to her baby boy. Meanwhile, Jeremy is still waiting to find his “long-lasting love”.
“Although,” he whispers in that same old playful banter–you can almost imagine that signature Peter Pan smirk creeping back up–and suddenly, we’re twelve again. “I will always have that young love that I have for Rachel.”
As their paths diverged over the years, separated by their differences and the turbulence of growing up, very much like their characters, there is one thing that they can both agree on. That is, whether or not you feel any attachment at all to the Peter and Wendy characters, for whatever form of romance they may have had, their story is best told unrequited and open-ended.
“I think the open-ended nature of the story is a big factor in its overall appeal, so to close the door…would undermine the narrative,” Rachel earnestly tells us.
And Jeremy is just as accepting as he speaks in content happiness, “If you go back, Wendy grows up and Peter doesn’t—never will. But when he comes for Wendy, he takes Wendy’s daughter Jane on the same adventures and I think that you see the happiness in Wendy’s eyes…How is that not a happy ending?”