Colin Farrell Loved The Dumbo Sets So Much He Spent Extra Time Just Wandering Around

Colin Farrell Nico Parker in Dumbo

Few auteurs have made as big an impact on modern cinema than Tim Burton. The filmmaker’s style is identifiable from a mile away, and it’s a specific aesthetic that has driven some of the most visually interesting features to be released in the last 35 years. His work possesses many charms, including a wonderful practicality, and it’s that particular element of Burton’s filmmaking process that really boggled the mind of Colin Farrell in the making of Dumbo.

Unlike many of the stars of the new Disney film (including Eva Green, Danny DeVito, and Michael Keaton), Colin Farrell didn’t have the experience of working with Tim Burton prior to the making of the new live-action adaptation, but that just meant that the entire experience was brand new to him. This was something that he very much reveled in during production, as he recently told me about how he would actually spend extra time on set when nobody was around, taking it all in. Discussing his expectations for working with Burton, Farrell explained,

I expected... My mind is not potent enough to have expected the degree of elaborateness that was present on the sets of this film. But I knew that it would be elaborate, and I knew that it would be big, and I knew that it would be beautiful, and colorful, and noisy. But I had no idea. And when I saw some of the sets, I mean they were just the most beautiful, you know? I'd find myself walking on to the sets when there was nobody there and just looking around.

Colin Farrell wore his appreciation for the beauty of Tim Burton’s Dumbo on his sleeve when I had the opportunity to sit down with him earlier this month during the new film’s Los Angeles press junket. During the interview he mentioned that he had met the director years before making the new movie – specifically they had a chat while drinking coffee poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel (don’t you just love Hollywood?) – but that meeting apparently didn’t fully prepare the actor for the experience of collaborating with the filmmaker. So when he arrived and saw the massive, practical, and colorful sets that had been built for the live-action adaptation of the Disney animated classic, he was really blown away.

There are some actors who can’t get off set fast enough when they are done with a day of production on a movie, but that most definitely wasn’t the case for Colin Farrell in the making of Dumbo. Instead, he found that the experience of being alone on the massive circus sets that had been built overwhelmed him with emotions – particularly a thankfulness that he has a life that allows him to be a part of beautiful art. Said Farrell,

And talk about moments of nostalgia! Even though I didn't have relationship with Dumbo or circuses, it's just honestly a lot of gratitude, actually, for living in such a beautiful world, and being a part of telling a story, albeit for a finite moment in time.

In Dumbo, Colin Farrell stars as Holt Farrier, a circus performer who we first meet at the start of the story when he returns from fighting in World War I. He is beyond elated to once again be with his two children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), but he’s also not quite the man he used to be, as an injury sustained during battle led to him losing his left arm. He does his best to try and return his life to what it was before he left, but finds challenges from his disability. It’s a scary and hard time, but optimism soon arrives in the form of a young elephant with ears so big that they allow it to fly.

The seventeenth film from Tim Burton, and also starring Alan Arkin in addition to all the names mentioned above, Dumbo will soon be arriving in theaters – scheduled to land on March 29th. Between now and then, be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend, as we have plenty more coming from my interviews with the movie’s cast and filmmakers.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.