‘Fowl’ play: Inside the latest Disney blockbuster

Ferdia Shaw is the lead actor. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 June 2020

‘Fowl’ play: Inside the latest Disney blockbuster

  • Lead actor Ferdia Shaw and director Kenneth Branagh discuss ‘Artemis Fowl’

DUBAI: Any 12-year old auditioning for the lead role in a Disney blockbuster against 12,000 of their peers is likely to feel daunted. Nevertheless, Ferdia Shaw — the softly spoken grandson of “Jaws” star Robert Shaw — was quietly confident as he waited in line with thousands of other boys to audition for “Artemis Fowl” that he knew the title character better than anyone else there did.

“I’d read the entire book series before I went in,” Shaw tells Arab News. “That helped me in the auditions, because I was so much more comfortable playing the role because I knew his back story. I wasn’t just reading a script.”

Shaw has always been a voracious reader, and there was something that he connected with in the character of Artemis Fowl — the anti-hero ‘supervillain’ of eight fantasy novels by Eoin Colfer that have sold 25 million copies across the world — something that reminded him of his favorite cartoon, “Rick and Morty.”

“They're both horrible people!” Shaw says. “The movie Artemis isn't a horrible person, but the book Artemis and Rick definitely are, because of how smart they are, and they’re always figuring stuff out. There’s some big similarities between them.”

The film, now available exclusively on OSN in the region, was directed by Oscar-nominee Kenneth Branagh, and the British multitasker — the only man to have been nominated for an Oscar in five different categories — softens some of the harder edges of the brashly intelligent Artemis Fowl, while retaining the books’ wild creativity as the character interacts with a fairy world based on traditional Irish folklore. While Branagh wanted to reimagine the character and universe for the film, there was always one person on set that would correct him if he strayed too far from Colfer’s vision, his young star Shaw.

Ferdia Shaw is the softly spoken grandson of “Jaws” star Robert Shaw. (Supplied)

“Ferdia sure is Artemis Fowl. He's a complete expert,” Branagh tells Arab News. “He's encyclopedic about these books. If ever I had a question on set, frankly, I'd asked Ferdia. He would often correct me about changes that I might make. He said, ‘It's not in the third book, sir, you can't do that. You should ring Eoin Colfer.’ I said, ‘Okay, I'm going to. Let me make a phone call.’”

Shaw may have been the resident Fowl expert, but as an inexperienced actor, he leaned heavily on Branagh and his costars, including Oscar-winner Judi Dench and Colin Farrell, to hone his craft. The first step, of course, was getting rid of the jitters from being around such accomplished colleagues. The solution, of course, was cupcakes.

The film is now available exclusively on OSN in the region. (Supplied)

“Before we started shooting, we actually all baked fairy cupcakes with Judi Dench,” Shaw says. “They didn't turn out very well. They kind of ended up in the sludge, but it was nice just to do that before we got into shooting. We were more comfortable with one another.”

Branagh, Northern Irish himself, was drawn to the possibility of interacting with Irish culture, something he’d never been able to do before in his career.

“It was Irishness on a spectacular scale. I grew up with my father telling me stories about the Giant's Causeway — which is that enormous kind of natural phenomenon in the north of Ireland, about leprechauns and about the little people, and I liked that in Colfer’s books. He took all the whimsy out of the Irish folkloric tradition, and he turned it into something a bit edgier, a bit dirtier, a bit more aggressive, a bit more tense between humans and fairies. I found all of that very exciting,” says Branagh.

The film was directed by Oscar-nominee Kenneth Branagh. (Getty)

In the film, Artemis realizes the world of Irish folklore is real after his father goes missing, and discovers that his father’s business is actually an international criminal syndicate that takes artifacts from the fairy world. Branagh wanted Fowl to be more like Al Pacino’s character in “The Godfather,” Michael Corleone — who descends slowly into the world of crime — in order to set up stories in potential future films, with a character more like the one in the books.

“Like Michael Corleone, he somehow finds himself in a family business that he wasn't entirely aware of, and didn't know that he might be required to take over the family business, and has to make a decision about whether he likes it or not — or even if he's very good at it,” says Branagh. “His own personality changes very rapidly, to the point where by the end of the movie, I suppose we're asking the audience to consider whether he's a hero or an anti-hero.”

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

Updated 12 min 19 sec ago

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

  • The high-profile case has laid bare Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017
  • The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015

LONDON: Hollywood actor Johnny Depp strenuously denied being violent to his ex-wife Amber Heard, as he launched a libel claim in a London court on Tuesday against a British tabloid newspaper that called him a “wife-beater.”
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, 57, is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims, which were made in April 2018.
Depp, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and facemask, was met by a throng of cameras as he arrived at court while Heard, a 34-year-old actress, used a separate entrance.
The high-profile case has laid bare the couple’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017, just two years after they married.
But Depp said in a witness statement submitted to the court: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed any other woman, in my life.”
He said it was a “strong and central part” of his moral code that he would never hit a woman, having witnessed domestic violence growing up and vowed never to do so.
“I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen,” he added.
“She (Heard) is a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest,” he went on.
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.
The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) is contesting the case, and is relying for its defense on 14 separate claims of domestic violence said to have occurred between early 2013 and May 2016.
It argues Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive toward Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” — and has evidence to prove it.
But Depp said it was the other way round, accusing Heard of violence against him during their “unhappy” time together.
In one alleged incident, he said she repeatedly punched him in the face, and in another severed his finger with a flying vodka bottle and stubbed out a cigarette on his cheek.
Heard has claimed she was physically assaulted over three days in Australia in early 2015 but Depp called the allegations “sick... and completely untrue.”
He rejected claims of being overbearing and instead said Heard had an “obsessive need” to control him, encouraging him to drink and take drugs, despite his well-known addiction issues.
Depp’s lawyers, in a written outline of his case to the court, also argued that although the couple’s relationship was at times “physical,” it was at Heard’s instigation.
Lawyer David Sherborne said his client on occasions had to defend himself from Heard’s violence, calling her allegations “complete lies.”
“He is not a wife-beater and never has been,” he said.
Heard was a “complex individual,” whose behavior was “extremely unpredictable,” with violent rages and prone to extreme mood swings, he added.
She sought attention, was provocative, had affairs, and was on a “wide range” of prescribed medication and other drugs.
Depp loved her but found her behavior “often bewildering” and “very difficult” to understand or deal with, he added.
Depp was the first witness called in the case and under cross-examination admitted using drugs and alcohol from a young age to “numb the pain” of a difficult childhood.
But he rejected suggestions from NGN lawyer Sasha Wass he had a “nasty side,” that saw him turn into a “monster” who would lose control, smash up hotel rooms and assault photographers.
“It wasn’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde,” he insisted.
The Sun story — “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beast film?” — came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence.
Depp said he had suffered “significant reputational damage” as a result, both in terms of his career and personally.
The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.