Disney and director Kenneth Branagh have cast their Artemis Fowl. The studio and actor/filmmaker are reuniting for the adaptation of author Eoin Colfer's sci-fi/fantasy novel series, having previously collaborated on 2015's live-action Cinderella. Production on the movie will get underway in the UK in early 2018, in order to make a Summer 2019 theatrical release date.
Artemis Fowl's adventures on the printed page are being adapted for the big screen by the playwright/screenwriter Conor McPherson (The Eclipse), with Branagh calling the shots. Branagh is renowned for his William Shakespeare adaptations (many of which he both helmed and starred in), as well as his cinematic interpretations of literary classics like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and, most recently, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. A sequel to Branagh's Orient Express adaptation - based on Christie's novel Death on the Nile - is already in development, with the idea being that Branagh will make it after Artemis Fowl.
Speaking of the criminal boy genius - Disney has confirmed that newcomer Ferdia Shaw (who hales from Ireland) will bring the title character to life in the Artemis Fowl movie adaptation. Similar to what the Mouse House did while casting the live-action Mulan, the studio and casting director Lucy Bevan saw more than 1,200 candidates for the role before selecting Shaw. For those who are not familiar, Artemis Fowl himself is a 12-year old boy "descended from a long line of criminal masterminds [who] finds himself in a battle of strength and cunning against a powerful, hidden race of fairies who may be behind his father’s disappearance."
Here are the other cast members that Disney has now officially confirmed for Artemis Fowl:
- Josh Gad is playing Mulch Diggums, "a kleptomaniacal dwarf who works for the fairies - and himself".
- Judi Dench is playing Commander Root, "the steely leader of the fairy police force (LEPrecon)".
- Lara McDonnell is playing Captain Holly Short, "the elf hero".
- Nonso Anozie is playing Butler, Artemis Fowl’s "formidable bodyguard".
Gad and Dench are fresh off having worked alongside Branagh on his Murder on the Orient Express adaptation. Both Gad and Anozie have appeared in other Disney live-action fantasy and/or fairy tale movies before, with Gad having played LeFou in the live-action Beauty and the Beast musical and Anozie having costarred in Disney and Branagh's Cinderella. The youngster McDonnell is a relative newcomer by comparison, with - naturally - roles in only a handful of films (including, Love, Rose and The Delinquent Season) under her belt.
Branagh's Artemis Fowl joins Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time on the list of upcoming Disney live-action movies that are based on best selling sci-fi/fantasy young adult novels and have plenty of source material to draw from for sequels - should the first installments justify the Mouse House turning them into the beginnings of full blown franchises. The Artemis Fowl books peaked in popularity back in the 2000s, around the same time that the Harry Potter novels and similar young adult genre series were topping charts. While Coifer wound up writing eight novels in total about the eponymous boy mastermind, it remains to be seen whether Artemis' life on the big screen (starting with his debut in 2019) lasts nearly as long.
- Artemis Fowl (2020) release date: May 29, 2020