Finding Neverland (film)

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Finding Neverland
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMarc Forster
Screenplay byDavid Magee
Based onThe Man Who Was Peter Pan
by Allan Knee
Produced by
CinematographyRoberto Schaefer
Edited byMatt Chesse
Music byJan A. P. Kaczmarek
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 4, 2004 (2004-09-04) (VFF)
  • October 29, 2004 (2004-10-29) (United Kingdom)
  • November 12, 2004 (2004-11-12) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$25 million
Box office$116.8 million[2]

Finding Neverland is a 2004 biographical fantasy film directed by Marc Forster and written by David Magee, based on the 1998 play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee. The film is about playwright J. M. Barrie and his relationship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan. The film earned seven nominations at the 77th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Johnny Depp, and won for Best Original Score. The film was the inspiration for the stage musical of the same name in 2012.


In 1903, following the dismal reception of his latest play, Little Mary, Sir James Matthew Barrie meets the widowed Sylvia and her four young sons (George, Jack, Peter and Michael) in Kensington Gardens, and a strong, close friendship develops among them. He proves to be a great playmate and surrogate father figure for the boys, and their imaginative antics give him ideas that he incorporates into a play about boys who do not want to grow up, especially one named after troubled young Peter Llewelyn Davies.

Although Barrie sees this family as wonderful and inspirational, people question his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family. Sylvia was a widow; her husband died from cancer and left her with four boys to bring up on her own. Barrie's wife Mary, who eventually divorces him, and Sylvia's mother Emma du Maurier object to the amount of time Barrie spends with the Llewelyn Davies family. Emma also seeks to control her daughter and grandsons, especially as Sylvia becomes increasingly weak from an unidentified illness.

Along the way, Barrie goes on adventures with Sylvia and her boys. He too is a boy at heart, and spending time with the family is special. Barrie takes his adventures with the boys and makes them into a play called Peter Pan.

Producer Charles Frohman skeptically agrees to mount Peter Pan, despite his belief that it holds no appeal for upper-class theatergoers. Barrie peppers the opening-night audience with children from a nearby orphanage, and the adults react to their infectious delight with an appreciation of their own.

The play proves to be a huge success. Barrie is all set for his play, but when Peter arrives alone to the play, he goes to Sylvia's house to check up on her, and misses the show. Peter attends the play and realises it is about his brothers and Barrie.

Sylvia is too ill to attend the premiere, so Barrie arranges to have an abridged production of it performed in her home. He gets the actors, props and musicians together in the Llewelyn Davies house. At the end of the play, Peter Pan points to the back doors and implies that Sylvia should go off to Neverland. She takes the hands of her boys and slowly walks out into Neverland. The living room and back garden transform into Neverland, and Sylvia continues to walk on her own.

In the next scene, everyone is at Sylvia's funeral. Barrie discovers that her will says that he and her mother should look after the boys, an arrangement agreeable to both. The film ends with J. M. Barrie comforting Peter on the bench in the park where they first met.



Finding Neverland was originally scheduled to be released in autumn 2003. Universal Pictures, which owned the film rights to Barrie's original play and was adapting it for cinema release the same year, refused to allow Miramax to use scenes from the play in Finding Neverland if it were released the same year. Miramax agreed to delay the release, in exchange for the rights to reproduce in the film scenes from the stage production.[4] Finding Neverland opened in 2004, 100 years after Barrie's play opened.

Richmond Theatre in Richmond upon Thames doubled as the Duke of York's Theatre, the venue in which Peter Pan was first presented. Exterior scenes were filmed in Hyde Park, Brompton Cemetery and Kensington Gardens. According to commentary on the DVD release, the structure used as Barrie's summer cottage was located near Kent. Interiors were filmed in the Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, and the Shepperton Studios in Surrey.

Filming occurred in various places in the U.K. Production shot a short fantasy sequence at the Laredo Wild West Town in Kent. The town is featured in multiple fantasy-playing sessions set in the Wild West, when Barrie (Johnny Depp) plays with the Llewellyn Davies boys.[5]



The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival. It was shown at the Telluride Film Festival, the Haifa Film Festival, the Athens Panorama European Film Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Chicago International Film Festival and the Leeds International Film Festival, before opening in the U.K. 29 October 2004.

It had a limited release in the United States 12 November 2004, and opened more widely 24 November 2004.[6]


Box office[edit]

The film was budgeted at $25 million. It grossed $51,676,606 in the U.S., and $63 million in other markets, for a total worldwide box-office tally of $115,036,108.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Johnny Depp's and Kate Winslet's performances garnered critical acclaim and earned them BAFTA Film Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively.

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83%, based on 206 reviews, with an average rating of 7.47/10. The website's consensus states: "It won't pass muster for those looking for historical accuracy, but Finding Neverland is a warm, heartfelt drama with a charm all its own — and Johnny Depp gives a graceful performance as Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie."[8] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "A" on a scale of A+ to F.[10]

In her review in The Times, Wendy Ide called the film "charming but rather idiosyncratic", and added, "A mixture of domestic drama, tragedy and exuberant fantasy, the film blends moist-eyed nostalgia with the cruel disappointments of a marriage break-up; a childlike playfulness and unpredictability with a portrait of a treacherously unforgiving and rigid Edwardian society. It could appeal to everyone from preteens to pensioners, or it could appeal to no one at all. Ultimately this unconventionality is probably one of the film's main strengths. And if the tone veers a little haphazardly between fantasy and cold, hard reality, well, perhaps that is the most effective way of taking us into the mind of the film's mercurial protagonist."[11]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said it "is the kind of film where even the smallest crack has been sealed. Instead of real quirks, strange habits, moments of everyday gas, gurgle and grunting, movies like this give us sumptuous production design, meticulous costumes and stories meant to leave us dewy-eyed and thoughtful, if never actually disturbed... The problem isn't the liberties the filmmakers take with reality, but that this isn't an engaging bowdlerization... Johnny Depp neither soars nor crashes, but moseys forward with vague purpose and actorly restraint... [he] and Ms. Winslet are pleasant to watch, as are the actors who play the Davies boys, but they haven't been pushed to their limits."[12]

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle observed that the film "ends so beautifully, so poignantly and so aptly that there's a big temptation to forget that most of what precedes the ending is tiresome drivel, that Johnny Depp's performance... is precious and uninsightful, and that almost all the movie's magic derives directly from scenes lifted from Barrie's play. Winslet's no-nonsense strength is especially appreciated... Another actress would have followed Depp into the quicksand of faux-poetic self-indulgence. But Winslet is direct, grounded and heartfelt in a recognizably human way. Dustin Hoffman, as Barrie's producer, also steers clear of Depp's rhythms, though he has trouble deciding whether the producer is British or American."[13]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film 3½ stars out of 4, and called it "glorious entertainment... magical, not mush". About Depp, he said, "It's too early to speculate on how [he] will grow as an actor. Based on Finding Neverland, it's not too early to call him a great one."[14]

In the St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall gave the film a "B" grade, and commented, "A first viewing of Finding Neverland was tear-inducing and completely satisfying. Seeing it again was a mistake, less of my own than Forster's, who didn't make a movie that can sustain its magic beyond first impressions. Problems with David Magee's screenplay that initially could be shrugged off—occasionally slow pacing, melodramatic plot twists—became glaring. With familiarity, the fantasy simply wasn't as fanciful. It felt like growing up, and it was disappointing. On the other hand, many of the film's qualities are too strong to falter, starting with another fascinating man-child performance by Johnny Depp as Barrie."[15]

Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "gently seductive, genuinely tender and often moving without being maudlin", and added, "Depp and Winslet share a rare combination of airiness, earthiness and sharp, wry intelligence."[16]


Award Category Nominee Result
77th Academy Awards Best Picture Richard N. Gladstein and
Nellie Bellflower
Best Actor Johnny Depp Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay David Magee Nominated
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Gemma Jackson; Set Decoration:
Trisha Edwards
Best Costume Design Alexandra Byrne Nominated
Best Film Editing Matt Chesse Nominated
Best Original Score Jan A. P. Kaczmarek Won
58th British Academy Film Awards Best Film Richard N. Gladstein
Nellie Bellflower
Best Direction Marc Forster Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Johnny Depp Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Kate Winslet Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Julie Christie Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay David Magee Nominated
Best Cinematography Roberto Schaefer Nominated
Best Film Music Jan A.P. Kaczmarek Nominated
Best Production Design Gemma Jackson Nominated
Best Makeup Christine Blundell Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards 2004 Top 10 Films Finding Neverland Won
Best Film Nominated
Best Director Marc Forster Nominated
Best Actor Johnny Depp Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Kate Winslet Nominated
Best Young Performer Freddie Highmore Won
Best Writer David Magee Nominated
62nd Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Finding Neverland Nominated
Best Director Marc Forster Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Johnny Depp Nominated
Best Screenplay David Magee Nominated
Best Original Score Jan A.P. Kaczmarek Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Awards 2004 Best British Film Finding Neverland Nominated
Best Actor Johnny Depp Nominated
Best Screenwriter David Magee Nominated
Best British Newcomer Freddie Highmore Nominated
11th Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Johnny Depp Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Freddie Highmore Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Julie Christie
Johnny Depp
Freddie Highmore
Dustin Hoffman
Radha Mitchell
Joe Prospero
Nick Roud
Luke Spill
Kate Winslet
National Board of Review Awards 2004 Top Ten Films Finding Neverland Won
Best Film Won
Outstanding Film Music Composition Jan A.P. Kaczmarek Won

In 2005, the film was nominated for American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Cheers list of most inspiring movies.[17]

In other media[edit]


On 6 February 2011, La Jolla Playhouse, California, announced that it would produce a new stage musical based on the film, with the book by Allan Knee, score by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, and directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford.[18] A planned production at La Jolla Playhouse was not held.[19] A developmental reading was held in New York 31 March 2011 with Julian Ovenden, Kelli O'Hara, Tony Roberts, Mary Beth Peil, Michael Cumpsty and Meredith Patterson, directed by Ashford.[20] The adaptation had its world premiere 22 September 2012 at Curve in Leicester. Directed by Rob Ashford, it stars Julian Ovenden as J. M. Barrie, and West End actress Rosalie Craig as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.

On 14 August 2014, it was announced that the show would transfer to Broadway in March 2015.[21] The show played at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.[22] On 10 November 2014, it was announced that Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominee Matthew Morrison would take Jordan's place in the portrayal of J. M. Barrie in the production's 2015 move to Broadway.[23] Kelsey Grammer starred as Charles Frohman, and Laura Michelle Kelly reprised her role of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies.[24]


  1. ^ "Finding Neverland".
  2. ^ "Finding Neverland (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  3. ^ Karger, Dave (2005-01-05). "Right Said, Freddie" Archived 2009-04-21 at the Wayback Machine. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  4. ^ Mohr, Ian (2005-07-17). "Escape from limbo-land". Variety. Retrieved 2021-11-29.
  5. ^ Kent Film Office (29 October 2004). "Kent Film Office Finding Neverland Article".
  6. ^ "Release Dates for Finding Neverland (2004)". IMDb. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Finding Neverland (2004)". Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  8. ^ Finding Neverland (2004), retrieved 2021-07-31
  9. ^ Finding Neverland (2004), retrieved 2021-07-31
  10. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2022-02-28.
  11. ^ Ide, Wendy (2004-10-28). "Finding Neverland". The Times. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  12. ^ Dargis, Manohla (2004-11-12). "A Never-Impolite Land Where One Never Grows Up". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  13. ^ LaSalle, Mick (2004-11-19). "J.M. Barrie's fairy dust lifts nearly lost 'Neverland'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  14. ^ Travers, Peter (2004-11-03). "Finding Neverland". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  15. ^ Persall, Steve (2004-11-24). "Movie review: Finding Neverland". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  16. ^ Chocano, Carina. "Finding Neverland". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  18. ^ Staff. "'Finding Neverland' Musical by GREY Gardens Team Ashford Directs Choeographs". 2011-02-06. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  19. ^ Jones, Kenneth. " 'Finding Neverland', With Score by Michael Korie & Scott Frankel, Gets London Presentation; Julian Ovenden Stars" Archived 2013-10-05 at the Wayback Machine, December 12, 2011
  20. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "'Finding Neverland, the Musical', Gets NYC Presentation With Kelli O'Hara and Julian Ovenden" Archived 2011-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. 2011-03-31. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  21. ^ Healy, Patrick (13 August 2014). "'Finding Neverland' to Come to Broadway in March".
  22. ^ Finding Neverland Will Fly to Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre Retrieved November 13, 2014
  23. ^ Official: Matthew Morrison Will Return to Broadway in FINDING NEVERLAND! Broadway World, Retrieved November 13, 2014
  24. ^ Breaking News: Kelsey Grammer Joins FINDING NEVERLAND; Laura Michelle Kelly to Reprise Role on Broadway! Broadway World, Retrieved November 13, 2014

External links[edit]