Artemis Fowl director Kenneth Branagh talks casting Judi Dench in the film adaptation of the hugely popular fantasy book series
Fresh off his success of Murder on the Orient Express, director Kenneth Branagh is taking on a completely different project: the beloved YA fantasy series Artemis Fowl. Disney’s film adaption will be based on the novels by Irish author Eoin Colfer, who, by the way, has compared the series to “Die Hard but with fairies.” Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series follows 12-year-old criminal mastermind and millionaire Artemis Fowl, who, after his father’s disappearance, discovers an underground world of fairies and kidnaps one for ransom to restore his family’s fortune. Slated for an August 9th, 2019 release, Artemis Fowl will star the likes of Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Hong Chau, and newcomer Ferdia Shaw as the titular Artemis Fowl.
Dench, a film veteran who has starred in films such as Philomena and Skyfall, will take on the role of Commander Julius Root—an elf police commander in the series. In the book series, Root is a male character but Dench will play the fairy police officer in the film. HG was at a roundtable press event for the film, where Branagh spoke about Dench’s casting resting solely on an “uninformed hunch.”
Recalling the initial meeting they had, he continued: “We arranged a meeting. We weren’t gonna rehearse [but] I knew something was gonna happen, so I said, ‘should we talk about the character?’ and she goes, [deep sigh]. Then she started walking around—she didn’t say anything—and just threw me a line. A line that she loved—a line from [Commander] Root: ‘‘knock it off; knock it off.’ And in my head I was like, she looks like Napoleon!”
While Dench’s casting may have fallen into place due to an uninformed hunch, Artemis Fowl’s film’s adaptation took about three years of development. The decision to adapt the series all happened during a holiday with his nephews, who were reading Colfer’s books at the time. According to Branagh, translating the book to film had its challenges.
“It took quite some time to find the balance between humor and emotion and magic. We had to find a way [for] people [from around the world to] look at it and not feel alienated or excluded by somebody leading a privileged life. It’s an imaginative place. It’s a bonkers place,” he said. “They’re ideas that have to do with imagination and invention, not necessarily to do with the acquisition of land and money and things.”
Watch the entire Artemis Fowl teaser trailer below! The film hits theaters on August 9th, 2019.