Harvey Weinstein will make his bid for Y.A. fantasy franchise by re-teaming with his old foe, Disney, and returning to an old property, Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl.
For those familiar with young adult titles, Artemis Fowl may seem like a blast from the past. Though the final book was released just last year, the first installment of the series, about a young criminal mastermind doing battle with demons and pixies, was originally published in 2001, catching the post-Harry Potter wave. The book was originally part of Weinstein and Tina Brown's collaboration, Talk Miramax Books, at which point the movie rights were also acquired.
But then things went kablooey. Weinstein and his brother Bob left Disney-owned Miramax in a spectacular huff in 2005, and the book series became part of Disney Publishing, the New York Times's Brooks Barnes explains. As for the movie project, Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter writes that it "fell under the Disney banner and sat dormant for years." He adds that the "project, however, was one of the titles that Weinstein would be allowed to produce as part of the separation settlement."
Though Disney acquired Miramax in 1993, a partnership that yielded many Oscar and box office successes, the relationship was never easy. As Laura M. Holson wrote in the New York Times, the Weinsteins fought over "huge losses from Talk magazine, now defunct, as well as over the ballooning size of movie budgets and Disney's refusal to release what would prove to be one of the Weinsteins' most profitable acquisitions, Fahrenheit 9/11." Now, years later, it seems like a punchline that Weinstein is back working with Disney. "If you would have told me five years ago I would be producing a project with Disney I would have thought you were crazy," Weinstein said in a statement.
But it would seem that the promise of big Y.A. franchise bucks has hastened some hatchet burying. Though it has stayed moldering in some dusty Disney storage locker for years, many see Artemis Fowl as material ripe for movie adaptation. Wicked author Gregory Maguire, who knows a thing or two about lucrative adaptations (albeit in musical form), wrote in his New York Times book review that "what Colfer has done, and very ably, is to pitch a great movie idea. Pure gold, in fact." The story was even billed as "Die Hard with fairies" in its publicity kit. Over the years, some movie folks have taken notice of the books' rich potential — as recently as 2011, My Left Foot's Jim Sheridan was looking to direct — but it never gained quite enough traction, even in these Y.A.-mad times. Until now.
The project, with its plucky young hero and dark-but-not-too-dark adventure, seems perfect for the Y.A. franchise-obsessed moment, joining the ranks of the other hopeful up-and-comers like Divergent and the Ender's Games. Per Kit, Michael Goldenberg of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is handling the screenplay; a natural fit. Still, we'll have to wait and see if Harvey and Disney can work harmoniously enough to finally give Artemis its long-awaited big break.