Mike Kaye: Hello Geeks and Gamers, and welcome to another roundtable discussion. Today, Disney announced the cast for the film adaptation Artemis Fowl, based on the fantasy novel series by author Eoin Colfer. Kenneth Branagh, who recently found moderate success with his version of Murder on the Orient Express, will be directing the film. Joining me in this discussion is a friend of mine who happens to be a big fan of the source material, writer and video essayist Nolan Dean.
Nolan Dean: I am here. Let’s talk book adaptations, because books are awesome. Thank you for having me man, I’m psyched.
MK: Let’s start at the very beginning. How long have you been a fan of the source material, and what were your initial thoughts when this adaptation was announced?
ND: It was interesting for me, because I’d only ever really heard about Artemis Fowl growing up when I should have been reading the books, but I loved the sound of the character. A 12-year-old criminal mastermind who works with an elf police chief; that sounded awesome. So, I picked up the first book a couple months ago, and I just fell in love with it. Eoin Colfer’s worldbuilding and characters really speak to me as a writer, and whilst I haven’t finished the series, I think this story has potential to get a lot of its audience back into reading, much like J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter. On the adaptation side, I was a bit taken aback when I saw Kenneth Branagh was doing it, because Orient Express was a bit too action-y for my tastes, so I was worried they wouldn’t do the book justice. However, I’m glad that, from this casting announcement, they seem to be heading in the right direction.
MK: Just based on his more recent films, I can somewhat understand the reservations people may have about Branagh taking on this franchise. However, I still hold him in high regard for his years adapting Shakespeare, especially his magnum opus, Hamlet. And because he has experience as both an actor and a director, it makes this particular cast that much more exciting. Now, before we get to the titular character, let’s talk about the supporting cast, which includes Judi Dench and Josh Gad as Commander Root and Mulch Diggums, respectively. Thoughts on these choices?
ND: Judi Dench as Commander Root is awesome. I can remember when we heard she was going to be in Artemis Fowl and we both thought she was going to be Artemis’s mum at first. However, I remembered how great she was as M in the Bond series. Then I saw it. Judi Dench was definitely going to play Commander Root. Gender-bending the character is an interesting idea for me, because I think it’ll add to the “women in the workplace” journey that Holly Short goes through in the books, and Judi Dench is an incredible actress, so that I’m psyched for.
Josh Gad as Mulch is an interesting choice, one I guess I should have expected but never imagined. My mind immediately went to someone like Warwick Davis, who really loves playing bad guys and could be put back on the map with this movie. But I’m sure Gad can pull off the conniving, scummy criminal that Mulch is in the books. As long as there isn’t a 20-minute short about his character before the movie, we’re good.
MK: Hahahaha, I see what you did there!
ND: I’m good with my puns. Billy Pollihan has taught me well.
MK: I agree with everything you said about Dench’s tenure as M. From GoldenEye all the way to Skyfall, she’s done amazing work in that role. As for Gad, I’m glad they went for someone like him as opposed to Warwick Davis. Nothing against the actor, it’s just that he already is back on the map to a certain extent via Star Wars.
ND: That’s fair. Gad definitely made my ears perk up when I heard his name, so I hope he does well.
MK: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Gad in 2017, it’s that he has a lot more range than we’ve given him credit for. He can of course do comedy, but films like Marshall and Murder on the Orient Express have shown us a little of his dramatic side. Next up, we have Artemis’s bodyguard Butler, played by Nonso Anozie. I cannot for the life of me recall that name, but that’s supposed to be a good thing with adaptations, wouldn’t you say?
ND: I can see where you’re coming from. Butler is very important to this movie, because the relationship he has with Artemis is part of the story’s heart. It’s not just all elves and magic and crimes; there’s a story in there too, about this kid just wanting to make something of himself. I’m interested in Butler being played by a POC, because I’ve seen a lot of fancastings for him that just seemed so basic, like Jason Statham type. Not that he wouldn’t be good, it’s just that that read like a fancasting from a 90s magazine. Nonso Anozie, I don’t know much of his work, but his face does ring a bell so I’ll probably rewatch some of it to give myself a refresher.
As long as they nail the character dynamic, I’m sure it’ll be fine. I guess it’s a good thing that you don’t remember him, because then you can experience and fall in love with that relationship all over again.
MK: OK, upon doing some research, I was reminded that he was the Captain of the Guards in 2015’s Cinderella, one of the more underrated Disney live-action remakes. So far I like how there are veterans from Branagh’s previous films attached to this property, so there’s a built in rapport between the actors and the director. Female heroes seem to be all the rage, and Artemis Fowl has one who goes by the name of Captain Holly Short, played by Lara McDonnell. Tell us why we should be excited about this character.
ND: Well, do you want a badass female character? You’ve got it. Do you want a character you can relate to? You got it. Do you want someone who can challenge Artemis Fowl in new ways and take the story in an interesting direction? You got it. Holly Short, I can see being a fan favorite new character. Her arc is one of the main reasons that I love the books, purely because there’s a large part of me that loves police in stories like this. It’s really funny seeing Artemis and Holly’s relationship, since they start out as rivals but then grow to be friends. Even though Holly’s attitude is basically like “I could arrest you at any point,” they still have this kind of sibling rivalry that’s really fun. With Lara McDonnell, I don’t know much of her work. After doing some research, I heard she played Matilda on stage, so that gives me hope. I always imagined Holly as someone in her 20s, but from what I hear, this actress is in her mid-teens, so they might be changing that angle up, which intrigues me. All in all, I’m psyched. If you want an idea of what the tone of Artemis Fowl could be, I can’t speak for the movie, but the trailers for Bright give off a similar vibe.
MK: You know, I never really thought of that, but you’re absolutely right. What perfect timing, then, that Disney made this announcement two days before Bright drops on Netflix. Before we get to our protagonist, there’s a character who was missing from the announcement, and that’s the villainous Opal Koboi. Give us a brief description of her character, and your top candidate to play the role.
ND: I’m so glad you brought this up. So, for the people who haven’t read the book, I’ll try do this without spoilers. Opal Koboi is a magical pixie, but with the mindset of a Lex Luthor type. In a lot of ways, she’s like Artemis Fowl, but the difference is Artemis has somewhat of a code, and Opal is really in it for herself. I love how deliciously evil she is in the books, and I hope they keep that in the movie. I don’t care if it comes off as a little cheesy, it would work for the character. Think of how Bill Skarsgard played Pennywise the Dancing Clown this year; that’s the kind of performance I wanna see from Opal.
As for who I’d like to play her, this has been my fancast for a long time. To keep it in the Branagh family, I’d get Sing Street and Murder on the Orient Express star Lucy Boynton for the role. I always saw Opal as being quite young, and Lucy has this look about her that is exactly how I imagine Opal; cute, but hiding a devilish evil beneath those eyes of hers.
It would be really fun to see someone like Lucy play a villain like this; it could even hark back to those classic Disney villains like Maleficent or Ursula, but with an updated hi-tech fantasy twist. Whoever they get, I have a very specific image of how Opal acts in my mind, and I’d hope that it’s executed in that way. Opal isn’t someone who delivers a cool, calm and collected approach. She is pretty insane and almost a bit of an entitled brat from what I’ve read, and Lucy Boynton, from what I’ve seen, is a fantastic character actress that could pull that off.
MK: Hey, Christmas miracles have happened before. Maybe if we’re lucky, this fancast comes true over the next couple of days. But since Holly Short has been seemingly de-aged, I think a fair trade off would be to age up Opal. So with that in mind, my alternate choice would be Nora Zehetner. She’s best known as the femme fatale in Rian Johnson’s directorial debut Brick, and I’m quite confident in her ability to bring a memorable new Disney villain to life on the big screen. Alright Nolan, are you ready to finally talk about Artemis himself?
ND: I am, but on your fancasting, I do like the angle of Opal being a femme fatale, so I’d be down for that. But yes, let’s talk Artemis. First of all, what I love about the character is just how cool it sounds and how well it’s executed: a 12-year-old Irish criminal mastermind. In my mind, he’s almost like a mix of Moriarty and Harry Potter. There are times when he speaks like an adult in the books, and it’s really funny to watch him talk down to other criminals, like he knows he’s the smartest one in the room.
But then you have the elements where Artemis is really just a kid in this whole spectrum, and that’s where we get to the heart of it. They have cast a newcomer in the role, Ferdia Shaw, and I’m so glad they didn’t cast a well known actor. Daniel Radcliffe was a newcomer when he played Harry Potter, and this could be the Harry Potter for this generation if it all goes well. I’m glad he’s Irish too, so we don’t have to see someone attempting a poor Irish accent, and the fact that I’ll be able to see the character and not the actor, that gives me a lot of hope. Ferdia Shaw has the look for Artemis Fowl nailed, so I’m really looking forward to those first set pictures where we see him in the suit and the snazzy sunglasses.
But let’s remember, Artemis Fowl is not just a criminal mastermind. Underneath all of that, he’s still just a kid. I really hope Branagh doesn’t forget that, because if you made a “villain” stereotype the main character and didn’t delve into what makes him tick, audiences would hate him and this series wouldn’t take off. I want it to take off. It’s my most hyped movie of 2019, (even above It: Chapter 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming 2, shocker) because it feels like something so different and could be so fun if executed well.
Fingers crossed for Ferdia Shaw. I hope he does great.
MK: I love your point about casting an unknown for this type of role. There have been some not great book adaptations that have come out recently, Percy Jackson & the Olympians being a notorious example, so we need this one to really put its best foot forward. It would have been easy to grab one of the kids from It or Stranger Things for their star power, but I’m glad they’re not going in that direction. The best case scenario is that Ferdia Shaw can capture that same lightning in a bottle the way Radcliffe managed to do so in the Harry Potter franchise.
Any final thoughts before we wrap things up?
ND: I know I say this a lot, and I’m sure there’s people who are annoyed by it. But at least it’s not shit-posting.
PLEASE READ THESE BOOKS.
I think we have to remember as film fans that authors put so much time into crafting worlds and characters, and continue to do so only to be forgotten and ignored a lot in the filmmaking process, something that annoys me as a writer myself.
To be clear, small changes are inevitable, but when you completely disrespect the material, that’s the equivalent of taking a hardback and slapping the author in the face. I hope that doesn’t happen with Artemis Fowl. They’ve waited a long time to get the technology to do that. Look at what happened when J.K. Rowling was involved with Warner Bros. on Harry Potter. Look what happened when they hired a director who loved Stephen King’s IT this year. You don’t have to ignore source material to make a good movie, and I hope people realize that.
Basically, if you can, read more books. I see people clamoring on and on about how we don’t get any original stories anymore, and I’ll be there like, “There are tons of original stories coming out from debut authors that are awesome and you should check em’ out,”
All in all, I’m excited for this movie. Thank you so much for having me on, man. This was a blast. If you guys wanna talk to me more, you can catch me on the interwebs @nolandean27 on Twitter, and on my own personal YouTube channel, and if you like, check out some of the videos I’m gonna be making about my own book that I intend to try get published next year, Moonflower. It’s all kinds of dope.
This was a blast man, I’m glad we got to do this.
MK: The pleasure’s all mine, Nolan! It’s fun to hear from film fans who appreciate all forms of media, especially literature. For those of you who complaining about Hollywood not having enough original ideas, my advice would be to cheat the system. Take whatever ideas you have for a screenplay, and smuggle them into a novel or a comic, then sell the rights to all the major studios. Nolan, thank you once again for joining me in this discussion; you’re welcome to return at anytime.
Artemis Fowl opens in theaters nationwide on August 9th, 2019.
Check out some of our other content here on GeeksandGamers.com, your one stop shop for all your geeky needs.