“I was in a shopping centre and they had this cinema and the trailer was playing and I could see my little face!” Nico Parker giggles over the phone. “There were other people there and I was like, ‘Can you see this?’ No one really cared apart from this little girl who was like, ‘Oh my god!’”
The latter is a reaction that Parker is going to have to start getting used to. Starring in the upcoming reimagining of the 1941 Disney classic, the 14-year-old, pocket-sized newcomer is about to be catapulted into the spotlight with her role as Milly Farrier in Tim Burton’s weird and wonderful reinvention of Dumbo. Set to hit cinemas at the end of March, it’s loosely inspired by the original, however with the added presence of humans and, y’know, CGI elephants.
“I thought it would be really difficult because there is really nothing there and when there is, it’s just Edd Osmond in a green suit,” she laughs when I ask how she found acting with her imaginary co-stars. “I didn’t find it too hard because I just imagined what could be there and what would be there. I think the most challenging thing was having confidence in myself and being surrounded by such an amazing cast could get a bit intimidating, but I stuck through it!”
Parker’s intimidation isn’t too surprising with a quick glance at the film’s call sheet. Joining her in Burton’s fantasy are A-listers Eva Green, Danny DeVito and Colin Farrell who plays her father on screen. As a one-armed war veteran, Farrell’s character has left a lot of responsibility to Parker’s Milly, which she professes as one of her favourite aspects of the role. “I just think she’s so interesting,” she gushes. “She’s essentially spent a really important time of her life, not only caring for her younger brother [Joe Farrier, played by Finley Hobbins], but also caring for herself. She’s so amazing. And she loves science and is very academic, which I can’t relate to, but is great. I just thought that she was so interesting and she had such an incredible influence. It was amazing to play someone that was so young and confident.”
Milly’s confidence is something that Parker hopes to bring over into her own life. Although growing up with parents very well versed in the acting world — her father is director Ol Parker and mum is actor Thandie Newton — she admits she’s never felt massively comfortable in front of the camera. “It puts you in a weird vulnerable position because you’re putting all your effort into being a whole new person and I think that really scares me,” she confides. “But there are times when I read something I’m auditioning for or I’ll see myself in Dumbo and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I killed that!’ I think the more that I accept that this is something I really love to do — and that there will be moments when I’m not that good at it, but there’ll also be moments when I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done — when I start to accept that it’s okay to feel proud of myself, that’s when I’ll let my confidence take the reins.”
The pride that she feels for her role in Dumbo is almost audible, and I can practically hear her beaming over the phone when she talks about the film. Sure to be a box office smash, Parker is hoping people love the deeper elements of the flick, alongside the cute AF CGI elephants, of course. “It’s really about family and loving them and embracing them for who they are,” she explains. “Like, Milly loves science which is quite difficult when you’re growing up in the circus because it’s quite out of the ordinary. Obviously, an elephant having such big ears is out of the ordinary and not really accepted, so it all sort of ties together!”
But what else is she up to besides hanging out with imaginary elephants and rubbing shoulders with the elite? “I just finished doing PE at school today, and they made us play hockey outside and it was freezing!” She laughs, firmly grounded in the normal existence of 14 year olds. Luckily, that spotlight she’s about to be propelled into is going to warm her right up.
Photography - Wendy Huynh
Fashion - Abigail Hazard
Hair - Carl Campbell
Makeup - Maria Asadi
Photography Assistant - Laura Zeppelin
Fashion Assistant - Alia Nusseibeh
Wonderland Magazine Spring 2019 Issue