Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer told David Hennessy about why he still can’t believe his best-selling character has been made into a film, why he missed writing the series and why he wants Colin Farrell to just act in his projects in future.
“I can’t quite believe it,” author Eoin Colfer tells The Irish World of his well known series Artmis Fowl coming to the screen.
For over a decade there has been talk of an Artemis Fowl adaptation with Jim Sheridan long expected to be at the helm.
“I keep expecting something to happen that will scupper the whole thing: An alien takeover of the world’s TV maybe. I am trying not to get too excited in case I jinx the whole thing.
“I am very pleased indeed (with the movie). Kenneth Branagh and his crew took the movie to new heights. Ireland looks wonderful, perhaps due to the strong Irish core at the heart of this movie.”
The best-selling Artemis Fowl series brought Colfer to prominence as an author with the novels selling many millions around the globe. Described by its author as “Die Hard with fairies”, the series follows the adventures of its title character, a teenage criminal mastermind.
The title role is played by Ferdia Shaw who was picked from the thousands of applicants to make his feature him debut as the teenage character. Movies seem to be in the blood as Ferdia is grandson of the actor Robert Shaw who was in movies such as Jaws, The Sting, From Russia with Love and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
“Ferdia captures the essence of Artemis perfectly but also brings a little extra Ferdia magic to the role, which I appreciate. There is no point being an actor if you don’t bring some skills to the table and Ferdia certainly does that. Lara McDonnell is also awesome as Captain Short. In her capable hands Holly really takes off. Pardon the word play.”
Although a cinema release would have been more ideal, the film has instead launched on Disney pay-for-view so families can enjoy it while staying at home.
“This is the best possible result in the circumstances. I think the alternative was to push it out for a couple of years so I feel extremely lucky to have dodged that outcome. I know the parents I have spoken to are delighted to have a new movie for the kids to watch in quarantine so I hope Artemis can relieve family tensions this weekend, though he is not known for relieving family tensions.”
Kenneth Branagh directs while the cast includes the likes of Colin Farrell, Dame Judi Dench and Josh Gad.
Asked what it was like to hand over his baby, Eoin says, “It is nerve wracking, letting go of the reins but when Kenneth Branagh takes hold of them it makes things a pleasure. Everyone knows what Sir Ken is capable of and when he has actors of such a high calibre like Colin, Josh and Judi I feel my characters are in several good hands.
“I was on set a few times and I was struck by the sheer scale of the operation. I have been on sets before but nothing prepared me for the Disney roadshow. The set was bigger than most Irish villages. I was also struck by the size of individual sets; Fowl Manor and the fairy polica plaza being the standouts.”
Although it brought him such success and the series was so loved, fans of the books were disappointed when Eoin finished the series with The Last Guardian. However, just last year he returned to the genre with the spin-off The Fowl Twins.
Does this mean he missed writing in the Fowl universe?
“I was not expecting to miss Artemis after so many years working on him but I did miss him so the Twins is my way of sneakily getting back into that world.
“I thought I would just be relieved and delighted when it was gone because I had been thinking about leprechauns for 15 yeas which is not great for a grown man.
“I thought, ‘Once I’m finished this, I’ll be free to do other things’. But actually, I did kind of miss it and I realised that every time I went out on tour, it energised me to go back and write another one but this time there wasn’t going to be another one so I was a little sad.
“It’s great that people say to me, ‘I started reading Artemis Fowl when I was 15 and I’m 27 now’.
“I am thoroughly enjoying writing the Twins. They are so outrageous and I don’t feel any pressure whatsoever this time around. It’s all fun.”
There has also long been talk of adapting Eoin’s Airman, a historical adventure set in the 19th century. Eoin reveals there has been movement here as well as another project that looks like it could very well make it to celluloid with a member of the Artemis Fowl cast.
Colin Farrell plays the father in the film and Eoin reveals he would like to get the Dublin actor to play another of Eoin’s characters who could be coming to the screen soon in his former soldier Daniel McEvoy who has had outings in the novels Plugged and Screwed.
“Airman is at the script stage now. All the pieces are in place and all we need now is several million dollars.
“I am hoping to trap Colin in a corner and see if he’d like to play a bouncer as Plugged is being developed at the moment. He would be amazing, especially having seen him in the Gentlemen where he stole the show.
“Colin would at the top of any list I make for any show so hopefully he will sign on to just do Eoin Colfer projects fro the rest of his career.”
Colin Farrell would be excellent as the brooding bouncer in Plugged. Once a soldier in the Irish army, Daniel now works on the door of a casino and has a habit of making enemies on both sides of the law.
Eoin told us he was inspired by a friend of his to create the former soldier character.
“I have a friend who was in the peace keepers in the Irish army in Lebanon and he had told me some stories which were amazing.
“I think you think if someone is a peace keeper then the’re not really fighting anybody or they’re in no peril. The opposite is true, they actually have two groups attacking them.”
The character is tortured by things he has seen and going through some form of PTSD.
“My friend blended in really well afterwards but a lot of people never settle down and I thought that was very interesting: This nomadic character had moved from Ireland to Lebanon, back to Ireland, then off to the states and this is the longest he has ever stayed anywhere.
“I think I picked New Jersey because I had been there a few times and people have this image of New Jersey as Atlantic City, maybe a bit seedy, Jersey Shore. But in actuallity there’s hundreds of these beautiful leafy suburban towns and that’s where I would go.
“I remember I was going with a driver and I said to the guy: ‘These places are amazing, they’re just like you imagine suburban America to be’. And he said, ‘If you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find some kind of jumped up gang boss trying to take over that couple of blocks’.
“And it’s the same, I think, in Ireland. You would be amazed what little small towns have drug problems. I liked the idea of setting this big guy who is running from the past in a town that had a hidden underbelly. It made for drama. If you’re a writer and you can come up with a situation which is inherently dramatic, it really helps so an unstable bouncer in a town like this, I thought he would be at odds with both sides of the town. He would be at odds with the underbelly but also, because he’s a big brutish guy, the gentile folk probably wouldn’t like him either.”
Seeing his Artemis Fowl series make it to the screen is a highlight of Eoin’s career. When asked what else stands out, he mentions being commissioned to write the sixth instalment of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy entitled And Another Thing. In 2013, he also had the prestigious honour of writing the Doctor Who short story A Big Hand for the Doctor as part of the cult sci-fi figure’s 50th anniversary.
“The Hitchhiker was one (highlight) which was terrifying but after The Hitchhiker, Doctor Who was very enjoyable. I wasn’t a fan of the Doctor Who show- It wasn’t that I wasn’t a fan, I hadn’t really seen it because we didn’t have that television station back in the 70s but what I did have were all the books that were adapted from the TV series.
“A cousin of mine used to bring them over from Liverpool by the caseload every summer so we would, having never seen the show, pore through these books so instead of the TV version of the daleks, we might have our own imagination so when I was writing the story, I wrote it based on my recollections of the books rather than of the TV show and I think that was an interesting way to come at it. I really enjoyed it and I got a great reaction.
“That’s one of the perks of being pretty well known as a writer, you get asked to do a lot of stuff and most of it, you wouldn’t have time to do but sometimes something like Hitchhiker comes along and you just can’t really say no even though I had great doubts about anybody finishing off the series.
“I just knew that if they asked somebody else, I would be disgusted and I would read it thinking ‘I could have done this’ so I decided just to grab the bull by the horns.”
Artemis Fowl is available on Disney.