Holt Farrier is the deuteragonist who appears in the 2019 remake, Dumbo portrayed by Colin Farrell.
“The central human relationship in the movie parallels the elephant relationship,” says producer Justin Springer. “As this baby elephant tries to reconnect with his mother, Holt and his children are trying to put the pieces of their family back together to find a happy life.”
Colin Farrell portrays Holt. “He was half of a double act with his wife before he went off to fight in the First World War,” says Farrell of his character. “They had a horse act where they would do roping tricks and trick riding, but he was sent off to fight and left his wife and two children behind. By the time he comes back, his wife has passed away and his children were raised by the circus. He’s also lost his left arm in battle, so he is both physically and psychologically wounded. He comes back to a life he doesn’t recognize. He doesn’t know how to deal with the grief of having lost his wife.”
Farrell’s casting marks the first time he’s worked with director Tim Burton, who says the actor instantly found the heart of the character. “Holt is war damaged, he’s missing an arm, he used to be a star, he hasn’t seen his kids and he doesn’t really know how to talk to them,” says Burton. “To try and do that subtly and emotionally takes a certain type of person, somebody who understands drama and comedy and emotion, all mixed together. It’s a subtle part, and those are sometimes the hardest ones to do. Colin’s great because he did it, he really understood the mixture of all of those things. Plus, he can ride a horse one-armed, and you can’t say that about everybody. He was a real collaborator, and really fun to work with.”
Farrell is no stranger to horses, having appeared in several films that required extensive horse riding (“Alexander,” “Winter’s Tale,” among others). “Any of the times I’ve ridden horses in films, there’s always a specific reason or scene that will demand a certain new skill set,” says the actor-slash-equestrian. “So, I’ve been doing a little bit of roping on this film that I hadn’t really ever done before, and that’s been tricky. But I’ve had some great guys working with me. Rowley Irlam, who’s the stunt coordinator I worked with on ‘Alexander,’ and Luis Miguel Arranz, who’s a Spanish horse trainer and rider, are kind of genius. So, it’s been fun. It’s a huge part of Holt’s life, so it was fairly important that I at least seem to have a sense of comfort.”
According to costume designer Colleen Atwood, Holt’s background as a performer and horseman influences his wardrobe. “He was a cowboy performer who was flashy when he was a circus star,” she says. “His costumes still have a southwestern flavor within the parameters of the period.”
“It’s a journey about a man becoming whole again,” Atwood continues. “It’s him finding himself again, and Colin and I worked together to find the right look for Holt. He comes back in a uniform, and he has a couple show outfits, but mainly he’s in work clothes, so it’s a very humble sort of costuming, which is a big contrast to the glamorous show costumes on the other side of the coin.”