Disney has confirmed the start of production on the Artemis Fowl movie. Written by Irish author Eoin Colfer, the Artemis Fowl books tell the story of a filthy rich and absurdly intelligent young boy who discovers a hidden world of magic, trolls and flatulent dwarfs and, naturally, seeks to make a profit from it. Aimed at a younger audience but enjoyed by all ages, the Artemis Fowl series mixes fantasy themes with light-hearted espionage action and have proved highly popular, spawning a total of eight novels.
Talk of an Artemis Fowl movie adaptation began as early as 2001 and only increased once Harry Potter, another magic-centered book interpretation, became a big screen phenomenon. In 2003, with Miramax holding the movie rights, Colfer stated that a screenplay had been completed and pre-production was underway but, ultimately, nothing ever came of the project. A decade or so later, Disney announced that they would be taking Fowl into the world of cinema with Kenneth Branagh directing and Conor McPherson writing the screenplay but just as things were beginning to look up, the movie was caught up in the Harvey Weinstein scandal, as The Weinstein Company was initially involved in the production.
Happily, Artemis Fowl did not find itself returning to development hell and Disney has now officially confirmed that production is underway. A statement from the studio confirms the previously announced central cast of newcomer Ferdia Shaw as the titular Artemis, Lara McDonnell as the elf Holly Short, Judi Dench as Commander Root, Josh Gad as Mulch Diggums and Nonso Anozie as the hilarious Butler. That cast has now been rounded out by Tamara Smart (Butler's niece, Juliet) and Miranda Raison (Artemis' mother). The statement also claims that Branagh will be bringing much of the behind-the-scenes crew from Murder on the Orient Express with him, while editing duties have been handed to Wonder Woman's Martin Walsh. Sammy Sheldon Differ, fresh from working Assassin's Creed, will be designing the costumes. A short story synopsis reads as follows:
Based on the first book of Eoin Colfer's best-selling series of the same name, and directed by Kenneth Branagh, Disney’s “Artemis Fowl” has begun principal photography and will film in England, Northern Ireland and Ho Chi Minh City. The book was adapted for the screen by award-winning playwright Conor McPherson.
Descended from a long line of criminal masterminds, 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl finds himself in a battle of strength and cunning against a powerful, hidden race of fairies who may be behind his father’s disappearance.
Dench and Gad aside, the central cast of Artemis Fowl are relatively fresh faces in the world of cinema and while this may result in the movie lacking A-list ticket-shifting power, it will also allow the likes of Shaw and McDonnell to make their own mark on these incredibly popular characters, just as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson did as unknown youngsters in Harry Potter.
Additionally, the crew assembled for Artemis Fowl is particularly impressive and, given how huge a challenge bringing a world of mythical creatures and magic to the big screen can be, Branagh's team will need to draw on all of their experience to make Fowl's world as vivid and believable as Colfer's books manage to.
Fans of the Artemis Fowl books will surely be pleased that early indications from the synopsis and filming locations suggest a relatively authentic interpretation of the character. The fact Disney is only adapting the first book in this movie, instead of the first two as originally suggested, is also an encouraging sign, as it gives the film time to develop its story. Indeed, the only noticeable diversion from the source material is that the character of Commander Root, a man in the books, is being played by Judi Dench. However, this should have no impact on the story itself and given that Root isn't too far away from being a fairy version of James Bond's M, this could be an inspired piece of casting.
- Artemis Fowl (2020) release date: May 29, 2020