After 13 years in development purgatory, a character once dubbed “the next Harry Potter” is finally making his way to the big screen.
News broke last week that Harvey Weinstein and Disney have teamed up with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal to produce an adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s best-selling Artemis Fowl books.
"With its balance of mystery, adventure and family appeal, Artemis Fowl is a natural fit for Disney,” said the company’s president of production, Sean Bailey, as quoted by thewrap.com.
The eight-volume series, which just wrapped up last year, has sold more than 21 million copies worldwide since it first hit store shelves in 2001 — not quite Harry Potter numbers (450 million), but it’s nothing to sneeze at either.
Described by Colfer as “ ‘Die Hard’ with fairies,” the books follow the magical adventures of the titular character, a 12-year-old boy who also happens to be a genius, a millionaire and the successor to a long line of criminal masterminds.
One thing’s for sure — there’s plenty of material for Disney to build a franchise with. Over the course of all eight books, Colfer touches on everything from fairies, goblins and demons to Russian mobsters, time travel and evil alter egos.
No director has been announced yet, but the film is being written by “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” scribe Michael Goldenberg and will reportedly adapt the first two books, “Artemis Fowl” and “Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident.” Barring a huge flop, it’s more than likely the other six books will follow suit.
Speaking with the Irish Mirror, Colfer said he’s just pleased to see development underway again. A movie adaptation was originally announced more than 10 years ago at Miramax — then a Disney subsidiary — but plans collapsed after Harvey and brother Bob Weinstein had a falling out with Disney CEO Michael Eisner.
“Shortly after that, it was said ‘hell will freeze over before we shall work together again,’ ” said Colfer. “It has taken a decade and several regime changes for them to get back together. The first thing they’ve done since they reunited was green-light 'Artemis Fowl,' which is amazing news to me.”
In the original announcement, Weinstein commented, “If you would have told me five years ago I would be producing a project with Disney, I would have thought you were crazy. I feel as though everything is coming full circle considering Bob DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal brought me this book while I was still at Miramax and within hours I told them I wanted the rights to the film.”
In some ways, though, the long delay could turn out to be a good thing for fans.
After J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard successfully made the jump from page to screen, audiences were bombarded with adaptations of every young adult fantasy series producers could get their hands on, causing even some of the good ones to get lost in the crowd.
And if there’s one thing Artemis Fowl is not, it’s a Harry Potter clone.
"There was a time there, for the first two books at least, that every book that came out was the next Harry Potter,” Colfer told the U.K.’s Independent in a 2011 interview. “It didn't matter what it was about, there'd be some connection."
He went on to say that, “Artemis became the anti-Harry Potter. If (Rowling) was the Beatles, I was the Rolling Stones or something.”
As with any adaptation, there’s always concern among fans that things will get lost in translation, but Colfer doesn’t seem worried. “I’ve great confidence in (the filmmakers). Between Michael Goldenberg, Harvey Weinstein and Robert De Niro, I think I’m in good hands.”
A native of Utah Valley and a devoted cinephile, Jeff Peterson is currently studying humanities and history at Brigham Young University.