Irish-born newcomer Ferdia Shaw has been cast in the lead role of Disney’s Artemis Fowl, the live-action adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s children’s books. Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Lara McDonnell and Nonso Anozie have also joined the cast of the pic, which Kenneth Branagh is aboard to direct from Conor McPherson’s script. Shooting starts early next year in the UK.

The project was originally optioned by Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s Miramax in 2000, reuniting the Weinsteins with their former owners Disney (Disney Publishing Worldwide published the book series). After the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal surfaced in October, Disney removed him from his producer role; Branagh and Judy Hofflund are producers.

Artemis Fowl
Disney Worldwide Publishing

The books’ plot centers on 12-year-old Artemis, who finds himself in a battle of strength and cunning against a powerful, hidden race of fairies who may be behind his father’s disappearance.

An August 9, 2019 release date has been set. Disney said it auditioned 1,200 candidates for the role of Artemis before choosing Shaw, who will make his onscreen debut. Gad will play Mulch Diggums, a kleptomaniacal dwarf who works for the fairies — and himself; Dench will play Commander Root, the steely leader of the fairy police force; McDonnell is set as Captain Holly Short, the elf hero; and Anozie will play Butler, Artemis’ formidable bodyguard.