Thandie Newton almost had a cameo in Dumbo alongside her daughter Nico Parker

Nico Parker makes her impressive film debut in the Disney live-action reboot – but director Tim Burton had no idea that Thandie Newton was her mother when she was cast

'Dumbo' European Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals

Aside from just how cute the elephant is, the main thing a lot of people have noticed about the Dumbo remake is just how similar young star Nico Parker looks to her mother, acclaimed actor Thandie Newton.

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And apparently, when director Tim Burton learned about the family connection, he considered asking Newton to join the Dumbo cast for a very meta cameo.

Producer Derek Frey explained to RadioTimes.com that he and Burton had no idea that Parker was related to Thandie Newton when she was first cast.

“The casting director, Susie Figgis, did not divulge that to us when we first saw Nico,” Frey said.

“We were informed of that after Tim had looked and processed things. I think that was a smart move, because [Susie] wanted Tim to get a pure response, without any other kind of ideas or thoughts or anything that would distract him in any way.”

Eventually, though, the family connection was revealed – and when director Burton actually met actor Newton, he had an idea.

“I think in one of the follow-up meetings her mum came in and we got to meet her, and it was wonderful,” Frey said.

“And the fact is, obviously there is the mother character in this film who’s passed on, so there was a second where Tim was like, ‘Well maybe she [Thandie Newton] could play it!’”

This would have meant that Newton would be playing the on screen mother of her own daughter. However, the idea never came to pass for one very good reason.

“It’s not even an active role; it’s only told in photographs,” Frey said.

“We didn’t go there because we thought it’d be a waste of her talent, and also we didn’t want it to be too distracting to other people,” he added.

“But in the end we went with someone who wasn’t far off from her look either, because Tim wanted her to look like Nico. So it’s interesting in that factor.”

Nico Parker with Finley Hobbins and Colin Farrell in Dumbo (Disney)
Nico Parker with Finley Hobbins and Colin Farrell in Dumbo (Disney)

Frey added that he had been hugely impressed with Parker and her young co-star Finley Hobbins, after they took on crucial roles in the live-action film.

“There’s a whole family story, Holt [played by Colin Farrell] and his two children,” he told RadioTimes.com. “Their story kind of runs parallel to Dumbo and his search for his mother.

“Susie Figgis very quickly found Nico and Finley to occupy the Milly and Joel roles. In the initial shortlist that she provided us, they were right there at the top.

“They came into this environment so prepared, so professional. But they were also kids, and they were able to relax and create a bond between themselves that sort of felt like siblings.

“Nico and Finley, I think they’ll be getting a lot of work,” Frey concluded. “We’ll be lucky if we can actually sign them up again. They’re pros.”

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Dumbo is released in UK cinemas on 29th March