Starring Robin Williams as Peter Banning, the man who grew up to forget he was Peter Pan, Hook is the movie that made a lot of kids fall in love with Williams before they knew him as the Genie in Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, or the star of Jumanji. In the film, Williams plays Banning as a man who’s grown, become a lawyer, and forgotten his enchanted past. Only when his children, Jack and Maggie, are kidnapped by Hook (Dustin Hoffman) does he return to Neverland with the help of Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts). Once there, over the span of three days, we watch as Banning remembers his past. He can fly! He can fight! He can crow! The rediscovery of his past is due, in large part, to the guidance of the Lost Boys and their fearless leader, Rufio, as played by Dante Basco.
In honor of Hook’s upcoming 25th anniversary we spoke with Basco and a few of the Lost Boys: Thomas Tulak, the youngest Lost Boy who is now a filmmaker and comedian; Raushan Hammond, a magician and actor in the midst of creating a Hook fan film, Thudbutt vs. Rufio; James Madio, who is starring in and producing a biopic on the featherweight champion Willie Pep; and Brett Willis (who acted in the film alongside his twin brother Brian), who is now working as a firefighter. They share with us their memories of being part of the movie, working with Williams, Hoffman, and director Steven Spielberg, and the film’s influence on multiple generations.
You’re Afraid You’re Going To Get Sucked Out
Dante Basco, “Rufio”: I only auditioned for the movie one time. I read on tape for the casting directors and then I ended up meeting with Steven Spielberg and reading the scene a second time. It was a pretty fascinating interview process. Later on the set, I asked why that happened and [Spielberg] said that out of all the kids he saw for the part, I was the only kid who scared him. I don’t think I was a scary kid, but I grew up in a rough neighborhood, Paramount right next to Compton. We were dealing with a lot of gangs, I had friends in gangs, friends who got shot — an aspect of my lifestyle that can contribute to my flavor as an actor for sure.
Thomas Tulak, “Too Small”: Being six years old at the time, I didn’t know the weight of the person I was talking to. [Spielberg] was just some guy at the end of some long Monty Burns-esque table in a dark room with all these people around him. And I come marching up to him and I pound my fist on the table and I shout, “You want to put me in your movie!” And he did.
Raushan Hammond, “Thud Butt”: At the audition, they asked me if I would mind being in a treehouse that was about 100 feet up in the air and I said, “Absolutely not. I would never be in something that high.” And the casting director looked at me and said, “Oh, well, never mind. Thanks for coming in.”
James Madio, “Don’t Ask”: I was 14 when I auditioned and looked like I was about nine. My father told me there was some sort of audition downtown that I had to go to for a movie Hook. That was the early ’90s, that’s when overalls were in style, and to have one overall down, and I had lines in my hair. I had a rat-tail, I had earrings, spiked hair, I had the Rebooks, I just looked like this small little cool rugrat.
Brett Willis, “Later”: I was ten [my brother and I], and we had a lady walk up to us after school and just very blankly ask, “Hey, you guys want to try out for a part in a movie?” We actually had little interest because we were not in the movie business, we were not actors, we did not have an agent. We were getting ready to play after school football with our buddies and that’s what we wanted to do so it was kind of a bother. We gave her this, “I don’t know, talk to our mom.”
Basco: We were breakdancers, me and my brothers, so we ended up getting scholarships to the San Francisco ballet company and that kind of stuff opens up the world to you. Same thing with acting… It was life-changing, working with Steven Spielberg, really getting introduced to Hollywood in this manner was pretty phenomenal.