'Artemis Fowl': Why The Disney+ Movie Took 19 Years to Get Made

Artemis Fowl was introduced in the Eoin Colfer book of the same name in April 2001, with the movie rights to the story of the teenage superthief living in a fantasy world snapped up before it had even been published. However, the movie has taken until 2020 to come to screens. Over those 19 years, three directors have been tied with the project, and figures as varied as Saoirse Ronan, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Weinstein have been attached to the movie, which is streaming now on Disney+.

Speaking to National Post in June 2020, Colfer said of the movie's journey to the screen: "I gave up after about 10 years of back and forth, two or three directors and several screenplays. I was putting too much time into looking forward to it and worrying about it ... so I decided after about 10 years, listen, forget this, just do your books, and if it happens eventually it's a bonus, but it probably won't."

The first iteration of the Artemis Fowl movie was set to be directed by Lawrence Guterman, the man behind the movies Cats & Dogs and the universally reviled Son of the Mask. The script, meanwhile, was set to be penned by Wrinkle in Time and Bridge to Terabithia screenwriter Jess Stockwell.

artemis fowl disney plus
Colin Farrell and Ferdia Shaw star in 'Artemis Fowl' on Disney+ Disney+

A February 2003 Star-News article revealed that Harvey Weinstein's company Miramax (which at the time was owned by Disney) had the rights to the book, which they said was "expected to go into production this year."

Then, in May 2003, Colfer told Seattle Pi: "A screenplay is written. Casting will begin next month. I'm very skeptical, but they assure me it's definitely going ahead."

Colfer, however, was right to be skeptical. The project did not go into production that year. According to Deadline, the project stalled after there was a "legal tussle" for the rights after Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein left Miramax and wanted to take the movie with them, while Disney kept extending their option on the book.

This would lead Artemis Fowl to remain on the shelf until 2011, when another writer and director were announced to be working on the project. Some time before 2010, My Left Foot writer Jim Sheridan had written a script for the movie but then had left the project.

In 2011, however, Sheridan was back on board, this time as director. "Jim is in LA, trying to get it unblocked," Colfer said at the time to the Irish Independent. However, the project stalled again after the producers were torn over the format of the movie. At this point, Saoirse Ronan was lined up to play Holly Short, the fairy that Artemis kidnapped in the first book.

However, the version of the movie that is on Disney+ now started to come to life in 2013, when a Disney and Weinstein Company co-production was announced, with Robert De Niro attached as an executive producer and another script written by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix screenwriter Michael Goldenberg.

The film would really start to take shape in 2015, when Thor director Kenneth Branagh joined as producer, with another script coming from Irish playwright Connor McPherson. The film started to go into production in March 2018, and it was finally given a release date: August 2019.

The movie had a few more setbacks. Weinstein was removed as a producer after the allegations against him surfaced in 2017. Then, the release date of the movie was pushed back twice; once after Disney acquired Fox and then again due to Covid-19.

Now, however, the movie has come to Disney+, with a script co-written by McPherson and Paddington writer Hamish McColl. However, with Rotten Tomatoes currently giving the movie a 13% rating, fans may wonder if the wait was worth it.

Artemis Fowl is streaming now on Disney+.