'It's no carbon copy': Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer's message for die-hard fans ahead of movie release

The adaptation of favourite books to big screen movies can be really hit and miss. There are the obvious blockbuster hits - Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code - and the misses... apologies to The Golden Compass

So when it was announced that beloved book series Artemis Fowl was being made into a movie, my heart was in my mouth. These books were a major part of my childhood: the eight-part series featuring a 12-year-old criminal mastermind, a protective bodyguard, a female fairy fly-boy pilot and my personal favourite - a kleptomaniac dwarf. 

I couldn't wait for more information, and repeatedly checked the family PC for more updates - but they were lacking. 

That was all the way back in 2006 and a full six years after screen rights were first nabbed to Artemis Fowl, before the first book was even published. 

The rumours of a Fowl movie have been whispered repeatedly for the better part of two decades - so much that even the author Eoin Colfer was scared to get his hopes up. 

"Because it's been put off so many times, I haven't allowed myself to get overly excited," Colfer told Newshub.

"Even when I first saw the movie I thought, 'well I know they've made it but it will probably get burned or something on the way'. I've finally just started to accept it will come out on Disney."

artemis fowl movie characters
The ensemble of much-loved characters from the book remains the same - but the movie has some key differences. Photo credit: Supplied/Disney+.

The movie is indeed finally a reality - not on the big screen thanks to a pandemic, but on streaming service Disney Plus from June 12. It will be beamed straight into the living rooms of both children new to the series and adults like me who were raised eagerly awaiting each new instalment. 

But for those of us raised on Fowl, there's a strange sense of ownership we feel over these characters and almost an entitlement to how they're finally being brought to life. 

Does Colfer feel a sense of responsibility?

"I did and I don't think it's weird. I feel the same about books that I love that have been made into movies," he told Newshub from his home in Ireland. 

"But as I grow older I think I've managed to separate that. Because I'm a little bit involved in television and movies and that sort of thing, I realise its a totally different ballgame. 

"So I'm asking Artemis readers to go in and look at this movie like its an accessory to the books - like T-shirts, or toys. It's another branch of the Artemis Fowl universe."

Eoin Colfer Artemis Fowl author
Colfer spoke to Newshub from his home in Ireland. Photo credit: Getty.

Colfer says Fowl fans shouldn't expect a carbon copy - so don't have your dog-eared copy of The Arctic Incident with you, preparing to read along. 

"It's unfair to go in and say 'this better be the same as the book' because that never really happens. I'm not really interested in that, because you can't give something to an artist like [director] Kenneth Branagh and say 'I don't want you to adapt, I just want you to copy it'. 

"It's changed quite a bit but I'm happy about that - I'm not interested in a carbon copy, I wanted to see something different." 

Artemis Fowl movie
Artemis Fowl is played by young actor Ferdia Shaw. Photo credit: Supplied/Disney+.

In this series of events, Fowl gets plunged into a fairy underworld while searching to find his missing father. So far, so understandable. But I have to admit, the film opening with an - admittedly visually stunning - scene of Artemis surfing is something that I found tough to swallow. 

"We had a big long conversation about that," Colfer agrees when I hesitantly bring it up. 

"I said 'you know Artemis would not surf, it is not his thing'. Disney just said 'look we need him to appeal to as many people as possible just to get this movie seen' - which I get. 

"We'll see how this goes, I won't be changing the books to make him a surfer."

I tell Colfer the way I resolved it in my head was perhaps that Artemis programmed the surfboard to do the surfing for him.

"Nice," he laughs. "I might steal that. If you see that pop up in a [sequel] you know where that came from".

But there are some parts that Colfer says are dead-on, including my personal hero - the character of fairy pilot Holly Short. 

"There's one thing I can say with 100 percent certainty is that the Holly character is totally that character. The actress Lara [McDonell] who plays her, she just has that thing where [feelings] are written all over her face, she doesn't need even to say anything," Colfer said.

"They really kept that character and I really hoped they would. When I wrote that initially, 20 years ago, a lot of the female leads were like Lara Croft. Which is great - they're fine. But all they do is blow things up. 

"I really wanted Holly to be the action character but I didn't want her not to have any misgivings, or to be excessively violent or not to have problems at work. So she had all of that."

The movie is visually stunning, thanks to creator Kenneth Branagh and his team.
The movie is visually stunning, thanks to creator Kenneth Branagh and his team. Photo credit: Supplied/Disney+.

Viewers should also prepare themselves for shots of the 'Lower Elements' fairy city Haven so lifelike you might wonder how they got a camera so far beneath the Earth's crust. 

But with so many elements to Colfer's fairy world including, down the track, family histories, deaths and time travel, how does he keep track? 

"Often I wouldn't, my editor would say 'you killed him off in book two, you can't bring him back'. And I'd say 'oh OK!'," Colfer laughed. 

"I was lucky to have great editors in America and in the UK - and actually I had an amazing editor in Finland - he was actually a translator, he wasn't an editor at all.

"His name was Jaakko, and I'd love it if you could mention him - he had an amazing eye for detail in his second language - he was unbelievable.

"It really was a team effort and I was lucky to have those guys. They've been with me for the whole journey so they're very well versed." 

So after decades of waiting, writing and wondering, how will Colfer celebrate the movie finally being released? 

"There's a thing in Ireland where you don't want to ruin something by getting too happy," Colfer mused.

"When it comes out I will allow myself to punch the air, maybe in a dark room somewhere - I don't want to seem unseemly.

"I will find a dark place somewhere humans have never been and let out one yelp and punch the air one time, and that's how I will handle this achievement."

Punch away, Colfer.