In August 2019, Disney will turn to a prodigal young Irish criminal to steal your heart and some of your hard-earned income with the release of Artemis Fowl, the long-simmering feature film adaptation of Irish author Eoin Colfer's eponymous sci-fi / fantasy novels.
The series follows the adventures of Artemis Fowl II, a 12-year-old boy genius turned criminal mastermind who seeks to restore his family's fortune and gets caught up in a hidden world of fairies, goblins, trolls, and all manner of magic and monsters . Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Artemis Fowl will adapt the 2001 debut novel of the series.
Here's the official synopsis:
Disney's "Artemis Fowl," based on the beloved book by Eoin Colfer, is a fantastic, spellbinding adventure that follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he seeks to find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. With the help of his loyal Protector Butler, Artemis sets out to find him, and in doing so uncovers an ancient, underground civilization-the amazingly advanced world of fairies. Deducing that his father's disappearance is somehow connected to the secretive, reclusive fairy world, cunning Artemis concocts a dangerous plan-so dangerous that he ultimately finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies.
Last April, Nerdist traveled to the set of Artemis Fowl at Longcross Film Studios where we spent a rainy afternoon exploring the inner workings of Haven City, the sprawling Fowl Manor, and workshops where teams of hardworking and incredibly skilled artisans to bring Eoin Colfer's fan-favorite novel to life. While in the study of Fowl Manor, we caught up with director Kenneth Branagh who took a break from filming a scene where Artemis (Ferdia Shaw), his trusty bodyguard Butler (Nonso Anozie), and the dwarf cleptomaniacal Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) found themselves dealing with a massive, monstrous intrusion: the troll. In between takes, Branagh stopped by to chat with Nerdist and other members of the press about the hotly anticipated new film.
Thor prepared him to tackle Artemis Fowl
No, Artemis does not wield a giant hammer to beat his enemies into a pulp or command the power of lightning, but Branagh's experience directing 2011's Thor came in handy when trying to capture the tone of Colfer's books.
"I've got some experience making the film Thor where a very contemporary feeling-a heightened world of science-is right next-door to a world of magic, "Branagh said. "And so the way those two things are interrelated has always been very fascinating to me. 'Cause it means you can be poetic. It means you can be a size that does invite an audience to go to the movies to watch it on a big screen with a lot of other people because somehow the subject expands away from the norm. And the combination of tones in not just the worlds and the looks and the textures and all the different types of visual techniques you could use, but just totally, very funny, often very very funny. And as I always found myself drawn to balance between that and the emotional content, which we've chosen to really try and emphasize in the books. "
They auditioned 1,200 actors to find the perfect Artemis
Just as Rome was not built in a day, the role of Artemis Fowl was not cast overnight. It was an arduous process that saw Disney's talent scouts and casting conductors conducting a worldwide search to find the perfect actor.
"We auditioned approximately 1,200 boys. Anybody in Ireland who has applied, and people from all over the world-absolutely from all over the world, "Branagh explained. "Tough one was people from other cultural backgrounds doing an Irish accent. It's tougher to [imitate because] there's so many of them. There are, in every nation, always a trillion accents; there is not a single one. "
The part ultimately went to Ferdia Shaw, who hails from Kilkenny, so see if you can discern all the different brogues when the movie finally hits the big screen.
Artemis Fowl is a criminal you can root for
While antiheroes are all the rage these days, making you root for an out-and-out criminal can be a challenging prospect. So how did Branagh go about trying to make sure that Artemis comes off as likable despite operating in a morally gray world of crime?
"We can try to find a center in the spirit of the book," Branagh said. "We, I think, offer a journey from a relative normality. We put Artemis in a normal school, we see him with other people. We try to suggest that this beautiful, crazy, bonkers house is from full of imagination [his family] who added to it over the century over century, but added imagination and invention. [It is] less about the acquisition of goods and lands and things and more about looking out into the world of magic and the cosmos and astronomy. [T]his kid … hopefully, invite our moviegoers to want to come here and be with him here and be in a place that is crazy and warm but not exclusive. "
Branagh continued, "So to that extent, he may be, if not sympathetic, recognizable to little more to us in … this first movie, if it's a first movie. Definitely if it is not, … [it] would be an origin story In the case of the latter, hopefully, [it] It would be a satisfying account of how a guy who does not know about magic, or in this case, the workings of his father, the business secret practices of his father, and has to go through a story that puts him the idea of, 'Does he think being villainous is good or does he think being a criminal is good? Does he start liking fairy gold? Does he like the power that's acquired when you steal a neutrino handgun from Holly Short? Will you outface Commander Root or do these kinds of grown up things that the story is forcing him to embrace? '"
Artemis Fowl is kind of like Michael Corleone
When you're telling a story about a criminal mastermind in the making, why not look to the best for inspiration? That's exactly what Branagh did when making the film, citing Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 classic The Godfather As model for how I approached the character of Artemis.
"So, to be honest, a story that-please do not take that too literally-but a story's shape that I find interesting is when you consider this from the angle of the masters, the great classic, is The Godfather, " Branagh continued. "Michael Corleone, though you may recall at the beginning of the first film, though [he comes from a] family he knows to be involved in business, he's somebody who's been in the services. He's not completely aware of exactly what dad does. And I think Artemis has that, but by the end of the picture he has to face up: Well, should I do some of this as well? Do I believe [in what I’m doing] here Am I behind it? We're in a world that offers a different kind of fun, we hope, and enjoyment and adventure and taste, as well. "
Judi Dench's role will not diminish Holly's storyline
Those who read the book know that Commander Holly Short, the fairy LEPRecon officer who gets kidnapped by Artemis, made waves among his peers as the first female officer in the Lower Elements Police Force. Played by Lara McDonnell, Holly is also an integral part of the movie adaptation, but she is no longer the sole female captain of the LEPRecon force. The role of Commander Root has been genderswapped and is now being played by the legendary Dame Judi Dench, which is great news for audiences at home, but gave some book readers a pause as it seems to undermine an important aspect of the narrative's Holly from the books. However, Branagh does not see this creative decision as something that will hinder one's enjoyment of the film or Holly's character development.
"Well, I think, you can imagine with Judi Dench we have a powerful female mentor discussing other ways in which Holly is an advancement and her particular position in the LEPRecon could be distinct, and powerful, and effective," Branagh said. "You have different types of spin, so I'd say we retain the very strong interest in Holly's independence and also the isolation that the story puts her under pressure, puts under with legend about her so-called notorious possible father. So we do not make life any simpler for her in terms of progress, there are many obstacles, systemic and sometimes male, that get in her way. And I think that happens to some extent for the character of Commander Root as well, so I think we try and be, we try and inject with lightness and I'm fun of realpolitik into that, so I think the world will get reflected, I think you'll find in the way she goes through the story. "
Kenneth Branagh could just make a cameo appearance
Given that Branagh is an esteemed actor in his own right, we could not help but wonder if he would be appearing in the film too, possibly in a cameo role.
"There are moves for this to happen by other people, and I say this literally happened yesterday, secretly a couple of fairy ears were left on my desk," Branagh revealed. "That being said, that was an indication that there's some character that [hair and makeup designer] Carol Hemming has dreamed up. "
Stay tuned for more updates from our time on the set as we get closer to the movie's release next year!
Artemis Fowl hits theaters on August 9, 2019.