Kenneth Branagh Brings 'Artemis Fowl' From The Page To The Screen

Download Audio
Ferdia Shaw is Artemis Fowl in "Artemis Fowl," directed by Kenneth Branagh. (Photo by Nicola Dove/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
Ferdia Shaw is Artemis Fowl in "Artemis Fowl," directed by Kenneth Branagh. (Photo by Nicola Dove/Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

“Artemis Fowl,” the popular children’s fantasy book series by author Eoin Colfer, has been made into a film.

Artemis, played by actor Ferdia Shaw, is a 12-year-old Irish genius. When his widower father disappears, Artemis discovers the stories his dad’s been telling him about a magical underworld of fairies are indeed true.

One of the inhabitants of that world has kidnapped his dad. The price of his return? Artemis must find the Aculos, which is considered the top fairy device. The Aculos gives off powers beyond that of any magical creature.

Artemis must use all of his intelligence to save his father without giving the kidnapper the Aculos, something that might destroy the world. In short, he must become a criminal mastermind.

The film, directed by Kenneth Branagh, features glorious landscapes and castles in Ireland, with fairies swooping down on gossamer wings — like weaponized Tinker Bells.

Because of the pandemic, “Artemis Fowl” will take to Disney+ on Friday instead of the big screen.

Branagh says he’s just grateful to create something for an audience clamoring for new content.

“As we know, our world has changed,” he says, “and there are families all over the world who are looking forward, I think, to have an opportunity for something new on that scale, and in their living rooms.”

Interview Highlights

On what drew him to the story

“I was on a skiing holiday with my extended family and my two nephews, Will and Sam, 11 and 9, were reading the book and said, ‘You have to read it, uncle! It’s your next film.’ I read the book on their advice and with all their analysis, they told me what an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old liked about these stories and a couple of weeks later Disney, with whom I was working on their film of ‘Cinderella,’ was in touch about whether I knew about the ‘Artemis Fowl’ stories and would I be interested to make a film.”

On what his nephews enjoyed about the series

“They liked his naughty side. They liked his adversarial side. They liked him taking on the fairies. They liked his cleverness. They liked his arrogance. Eoin Colfer, the author of the books, described the idea as putting an 11-year-old [James] Bond villain into an action movie and the first one he described as ‘‘Die Hard’ with fairies.’ ”

On believing in fairies

“The truth is I was brought up in Ireland and the legends of the little people, of trolls, of leprechauns and pixies were part of what we grew up to hear of, and yes, absolutely believe.”

On the film’s Irish setting

“Well, the Irish seem to me to have one foot in history at all times, and they love their nation and they love their greenery. You fly over Ireland and there really is a color green, the grass, that is of an intensity that is hard to find anywhere else in the world and combine that with a rugged coastline and you have a great epic landscape. Inside that, you have a nation of poets and philosophers, and artists, painters, thinkers.”

On directing a film based on children’s books in comparison with the Shakespeare plays and films that he’s known for

“There’s no real divide between what people might like to think of as high art and low art. It’s only good art or bad art; it’s only good entertainment or bad entertainment. I came to this book with a rigorous examination by an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old, I can’t think of two people snappier or smarter, and I’d be insulting them and any other audience if I was taking ‘Artemis Fowl’ any less seriously than I would ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’

“Shakespeare himself, by the time he finished his life’s work and finished with four plays, his farewell to the theater included ‘The Tempest.’ They were called the romances, and they were written in the form of fairy tales. He uses magic throughout so that a master of dramatic art should end up in a form that some people might demean, suggesting that it is simplistic, was not something he agreed with. That was a way to tell stories at a profound level through the much more difficult to achieve simplicity that such stories demanded. He does it. And I think Eoin Colfer in his very different way, does something beautiful and simple with ‘Artemis Fowl.’ ”

Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Peter O'Dowd. Tamagawa also adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on June 10, 2020.


Headshot of Robin Young

Robin Young Co-Host, Here & Now
Robin Young brings more than 25 years of broadcast experience to her role as host of Here & Now.



More from Here & Now

Listen Live