First ‘Artemis Fowl’ Image Sees Judi Dench as a Gender-Swapped Fairy Commander, 19 December 2018
By Dave Trumbore

Dame Judi Dench has had many and varied roles in her 125-odd credits as an actor. She may have won her Oscar for playing a queen, but in Disney’s upcoming adaptation of the beloved Artemis Fowl novels, Dench will take on a more diminutive role in stature and in power. That’s not to say Dench’s Commander Root, leader of the fairy police force known as LEPrecon (for Lower Elements Police recon, obviously), doesn’t wield any power; far from it. In Eoin Colfer‘s books, Root is a father figure of sorts for his subordinates, but Dench’s gender-swapped role promises to be just as capable a leader and mentor as her children’s book counterpart.

EW, who has the first look at Dench as Commander Root along with her law enforcement team, also chatted with five-time Oscar-nominee Kenneth Branagh who’s behind the camera for Artemis Fowl. The director talked about Dench’s arrival on set in costume and the power and respect that she commanded upon transforming into her fantasy role. And speaking of that role, Branagh also explained the reason behind the character’s gender swap, which came with a blessing from author Colfer.

Starring Ferdia Shaw, Nonso Anozie, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, and Josh Gad, Artemis Fowl opens August 9, 2019.

Here’s how Branagh described Dench’s arrival on set, which included between 400 and 500 extras:

“I saw all of those actors suddenly, naturally go to attention when they saw Judi, who had this swagger and this cool, who had this great leather coat, who carried the authority quite so effortlessly. She walked out of the craft, looked up at the house, and said [in an Irish accent], ‘Top of the mornin’.’ It was a real sense of a memorable character walking into a movie and owning it, saying ‘I love my clothes, I love my look, I’m in charge, and I’m here to make mischief.’”

Branagh also talked about the decision to swap Commander Root’s gender:

“Eoin Colfer … was very aware that larger conversations about societal roles have moved on from the time when he wrote this first novel where Holly as a lone woman in a man’s world was an important part of the story. Here, a sense of identity, a sense of what her father did, her place in Haven City, her place in LEPrecon is as important as her gender identification.”

He goes on to mention Root as “the force, the personality, the intelligence, the kind of commanding disciplinarian figure to be someone against whom Holly could really react and interact with, who represented a sort of benign authority.” It’s simply a matter of matching the character’s identity and gender with the conversations of today. Be sure to read more over at EW.

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