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Colin Farrell On The Deep Kindness And Empathy Inherent In ‘Dumbo,’ And His Love For Conway Twitty

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It’s kind of hard to remember now, but around the time Colin Farrell starred in Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland, he was being already hailed as “the next big thing.” This is usually the recipe for one of two things: either immediate superstardom or, more likely, disaster.

Yes, Farrell became a star, starring in big-budget movies like Minority Report, Miami Vice, and Alexander – to mixed results – but, looking back, it doesn’t feel like the Colin Farrell we know today started until 2008’s In Bruges. And since then, Farrell has become, almost strangely quietly, one of our more consistently great and favorite actors working today – even if people don’t quite realize yet he’s one of their favorite actors.

(Related: I’ll never forget the sound the audience made at an early screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them when Farrell’s character turned into another character, as the audience realized Farrell wasn’t going to be in these movies anymore. It was a collective, shared grown.)

Now, Farrell plays the lead in Tim Burton’s reimagining of Dumbo. In one of his most earnest recent performances, Farrell plays Holt Farrier, a veteran of the first World War who comes home without his left arm. While he was fighting, his wife has died, leaving him alone to raise his two kids — who he barely knows anymore — while working at the circus. Once the main attraction, Holt can no longer perform as an ace shot, horse-riding cowboy, so he’s been put in charge of the elephants. And as you probably know, there’s something awfully special about the new baby elephant.

Ahead, Farrell explains why he had never even seen the original Dumbo until recently – and that, while working with Burton, Michael Keaton, and Danny DeVito, he expected more Batman Returns references. He also takes us through that incredible Widows long tracking shot he’s in – which is considered to be one of the best, if not the best cinematic shot of 2018; even Farrell says he’s never seen anything like it. And Farrell professes his love for Conway Twitty’s version of “The Rose,” which played a big role in his season of True Detective.

Conway Twitty come up on a playlist yesterday.

Oh, The Rose?

Yes.

Oh, such a great song. His phrasing in that song is ridiculous. Bette Midler wrote it, didn’t she?

I know she did the original version. On True Detective people thought it was an Elvis impersonator.

Yeah, Conway was never for mass consumption.

Except “Tight Fittin’ Jeans.”

[Laughs] “Tight Fittin’ Jeans.” Yeah. True.

If Dumbo were real my first comment would be, “Man, you worked with an extremely talented elephant. One that thing can do amazing things.”

Yeah, it was pretty extraordinary how well-trained it was.

When was the last time you saw the original Dumbo?

Probably about three months before I got on the plane to London to shoot the film. I had never seen it when I was a child.

Really?

No, I had grown up on various titles from the Disney canon: Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians. The Jungle Book was a big one for me when I was a kid. But, for some reason, I think this one, I don’t know if my parents were even aware of it. I mean, it was 1941 when it was made and so it wasn’t my generation’s animated film of choice, so I think it’s cool that a whole new audience can find this film for the first time. Although it’s loved and people who do know of it seem to have a great deal of affection for the original animated film, it’s not as well-known, of course, as Beauty and the Beast and various other ones.

I think I saw it in a theatrical a re-release when Disney used to do that.

What did you think of it? Do you remember?

Well, it’s weird because watching it today, it’s very strange. At one point Dumbo gets drunk on champagne.

It’s like Tim Burton says, what he remembers, seeing it when he was a kid, was a drunk elephant. A drunk elephant and totally inappropriate un-PC characters.

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