Hugh Jackman was so touched by French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller’s debut feature film, 2021’s “The Father,” that when Jackman heard Zeller’s follow-up film “The Son” was going to get made, he had an urge in his gut to be a part of the film.
“I heard that ‘The Son’ was going to be made and so I had read the play, and immediately felt in my gut, just a compulsion to play the part, to be part of it, to be part of this story,” Jackman tells Steve Pond at TheWrap and Shutterstock’s Interview and Portrait Studio at the Toronto Film Festival. “That felt so urgent to be told the conversations that needed to be had and so I I contacted Florian.”
As Jackman tells it, he did something for the first time he has never done in getting a part in a film.
“I have never done it before in my career, but I wrote an email to him (Zeller),” Jackman added. “I’m glad I didn’t go into your junk mail. But I just had to have this. I felt as an actor, as a father, as a son, many parts were calling on me that I had to do it. So I’m just so relieved that Florian said yes because I’m not sure I would have had the strength to watch the movie if he had said no.”
Zeller received the email just as he was starting the casting process.
“I was just starting the process and so it was a surprise and I was very moved to receive the email because it tells a lot about who he is as an actor, but also as a human being,” Zeller said. “There’s something so humble, so brave, so honest about what you did.”
Zeller says he met Jackman for the first time on a zoom call during the middle of COVID lockdown and knew he found his leading man.
“So we we had that conversation and after a few minutes, I stopped the conversation, and I offered him the role because it was so obvious to me that he would be extraordinary in this part,” Zeller said.
“I felt it strongly in my bones that he had everything, he was connected to his true emotions, which something that is rare where and beautiful and novel as well,” Zeller added. “And so it was like a limited decision and I think it was the best decision ever.”
Jackman added: “I remember saying to my wife as I walked to have the zoom call with Florian and I said, ‘I’ve never felt so scared to not get a part and I’ve never felt so scared to get a part.’ There’s something about the role and the story that I knew would demand things of me that I haven’t had the opportunity to do before and so the the unknown is thrilling, as an actor and terrifying at the same time that I could feel that Florian’s strength, and his commitment and his clarity would become our coverage.”
“I would only add to what the gentleman who said by saying how privileged I feel just to be sitting on this couch and listening to heroes,” Laura Dern said. “So it’s particularly moving, to read flawless art, to have storytelling so perfect on the page that you just pray to be part of it because it’s actually profoundly radical.”
Dern added: “Every line serves its perfect purpose, and every character has deep duality through the words. And so as an actor, it’s the deepest privilege with writers like this that you get to step in and explore the roadmap they’ve already given you.”
In his review of the film, Steve Pond wrote, “‘The Son’ is a serious look at depression and mental illness that holds out the possibility of healing but makes it clear how difficult that healing can be; cinematographer Ben Smithard shoots it in a way in which the simplest of scenes, from a mother-son hug to a closeup of a washing machine, come to be imbued with a sense of dread and foreboding.”
Watch the rest of Steve Pond’s interview with Zeller, Jackman and Dern in the embed above.
Studio sponsors include GreenSlate, Moët & Chandon, PEX and Vancouver Film School.