| 8°C Belfast

Close

Premium

'Filming Artemis Fowl in north Antrim was amazing. People were excited we were there, but never overawed'

Actor and director Sir Kenneth Branagh talks about helping free Eoin Colfer's young criminal mastermind from cinematic purgatory, and coming home to Ireland to shoot the new Disney blockbuster

Close

Unruffled: Sir Kenneth Branagh directed the new Disney film Artemis Fowl

Unruffled: Sir Kenneth Branagh directed the new Disney film Artemis Fowl

Criminal minds: Colin Farrell and Ferdia Shaw in Artemis Fowl

Criminal minds: Colin Farrell and Ferdia Shaw in Artemis Fowl

Shaw with Nonso Anozie as Butler, Lara McDonnell as Holly Short and Josh Gad as Mulch Diggums

Shaw with Nonso Anozie as Butler, Lara McDonnell as Holly Short and Josh Gad as Mulch Diggums

Junior villain: Ferdia Shaw as Artemis Fowl

Junior villain: Ferdia Shaw as Artemis Fowl

A poster for Artemis Fowl

A poster for Artemis Fowl

Unruffled: Sir Kenneth Branagh directed the new Disney film Artemis Fowl

Through the magic of Zoom, Kenneth Branagh's face appears on my computer screen. He turns 60 in December but retains his boyish looks, and seems in chipper form as he promotes his and Disney's adaptation of Artemis Fowl. Ken is at home, of course, like the rest of us, and just behind him I can see tasteful mementoes of a glittering stage and film career, as well as a Tottenham Hotspur scarf proclaiming his enduring love for the north London side.

Born in Belfast, raised in Reading, Branagh sailed through Rada before being acclaimed as the new Olivier after setting up his own Shakespeare company and mounting large-scale movies of Hamlet and Henry V. Since then, his sublime and subtle acting has continued to shine in films and TV dramas such as My Week With Marilyn, Valkyrie, Wallander and Dunkirk. He's also become a jobbing Hollywood director, overseeing big-budget productions including Thor and Cinderella with conviction and calm.

Disney were impressed with his work on their live-action remake of Cinderella, but Artemis Fowl represented a challenge of a different sort, as the project had been in cinematic purgatory for almost 20 years. The film rights to Eoin Colfer's first Fowl book were optioned almost as soon as it was published, and there were ambitious plans to turn it rapidly into a major feature film.