Published in 2001, in the midst of early Pottermania and Lord of the Rings revival, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl had a similar list of ingredients: prodigious young lead with great abilities, high stakes adventure, a colourful cast of characters, including dwarfs and fairies, mixed with a thick dose of magic.
Film rights were snapped up in a flash. But almost 20 years on only now is the film adaptation starring Judi Dench, Josh Gad and Colin Farrell (with Robert Shaw’s grandson Ferdia Shaw as Atremis) premiering.
The film had been due to be released in cinemas in May, but the global pandemic put those plans on pause.
“As soon as things started to happen I was sending emails to say would they consider putting it out on Disney+,” Colfer told The Big Issue. “I felt that there would be a huge amount of kids looking at Disney+ and if a new movie popped up, why not watch it?
“I don’t think it’s because of my emails but that’s what’s happened. Disney are treating it as a testcase. I don’t know how they measure it, I’m sure there’s some algorithm to see how successful it is, but it makes it interesting. Hopefully it will get a good reception. Like all the other Artemis Fowl fans I’ll watch it on my TV on 12 June.
“Also, if they were keeping it in the theatres, I would miss all the premieres, which very selfishly I’d be annoyed about because I was looking forward to going to a couple.”
Had Colfer bought a new tuxedo?
“You know, I have a tuxedo jacket but I did buy new trousers. Maybe I’ll wear them in my sitting room in Dublin.
“I totally misjudged the first premiere I went to. When Disney first bought Artemis Fowl, they invited me to go to the premiere of Spy Kids [in 2001]. It was an afternoon premiere in California. I went in full monkey suit, everybody else was in T-shirts and shorts – it was one of these kid friendly premieres. It honestly looked like I was showing people to their seats in this theatre.
“I have learned from that to always ask what the dress code is. So I’ll be much more comfortable just in the house with my family, having some popcorn.”
Inevitably, over 20 years the completed film’s storyline has strayed far from the original books. It is now his father who is a criminal mastermind, albeit one who steals artefacts to protect both our own world and the hidden magical realm, with Artemis only beginning to uncover the family secret and tap into his inherent talent for mischief and mayhem. Twelve-year-old Artemis must find his missing father and defy a fairy army all while looking cool in a suit and sunglasses.
Colfer said: “Watching the film is kind of a surreal experience. A lot of your imagination is up there on the screen, but so is a lot of [director] Kenneth Branagh’s. I feel very proud to have inspired this, but there’s so much more now. I’m happy just to be one of the crew.
“I mean, I’d write a sentence, and that’s very easy to do, but then the set designer had to make that into a real thing. They should put me in the credits at the level of the set designer and the costume designer.
“It’s a very different beast to the books, but a benign beast. In that way I got to enjoy it like an ordinary punter would because there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know was coming.”
Artemis Fowl is available on Disney+ from today. The first book in the Artemis Fowl spin-off series The Fowl Twins is out in paperback on July 9
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