An interview with Artemis Fowl’s Tamara Smart

Interviews, TV

With Artemis Fowl being released directly to Disney+ we obviously won’t have the premier we all envisioned, have you got a chance to watch the movie yet?

I got a private screening at the Disney headquarters in London which was awesome. I took my parents and they really loved it. I got to meet some of the producers and some of the people behind it too which is really nice.

Will you be holding a celebration of your own when it’s launched on Disney+?

I’m just going to spend it with family, I think my mum’s buying a red carpet which is crazy and everyone is dressing up. I was just going to watch it on my TV, have some snacks and enjoy it.

How did you get involved in the movie?

I originally auditioned for [the character of] Holly [Short] and I got pretty far. I actually met Lara [McDonnell, who plays Holly] at my last audition, which was a screen test where you get in the costume and audition alongside some other people to see how you look against them. I found out I didn’t get the part but I also found out that director Ken [Branagh] wanted me to play a different part, which was Juliet. [This] was really shocking to me because it doesn’t happen that much and I’m super grateful for it. I [then] found out that Lara was going to be on set so I was super excited that I was going to have a familiar face on set.

Tamara Smart is Juliet Butler. Photo Credit: Nicola Dove

For those that don’t know, can you tell us what Artemis Fowl is about?

Artemis Fowl is based on a book series by the amazing Eoin Colfer and it follows the journey of a 12-year-old boy genius, Artemis Fowl. He finds out that his father has been kidnapped and he doesn’t know who took him. In order to pay the kidnappers’ ransom, he has to steal something called an Aculos, and in trying to find his father he discovers an underground civilisation; the fairy world. He has to steal one of the most coveted dangerous fairy devices, the Aculos, from the fairy world.

You play Juliet in Artemis Fowl, how does she fit into the movie?

Juliet is a Butler and the Butlers have been protecting the Fowls for hundreds and hundreds of years. They need a bit of extra help to battle the fairy world so she comes in and helps to defeat the person who kidnaps Artemis’ father and also some of the fairy world, and maybe she defeats some big troll…

Speaking of the troll, what was that like to shoot?

It was a lot more underwhelming than most would people think it would be! There was no big troll, sorry to make you guys upset but we actually had a stunt coordinator carry a huge troll head because this troll is supposed to be like 13ft, 14ft tall. And so it’s on this huge, long stick and he’s chasing us around the house. And then one of the first AD’s is making all the noises, so he was like growling and screaming at the top of his lungs. So I mean it was scary but it was definitely not what you see on camera.

Where did you shoot the movie?

We filmed it in Surrey where quite a few famous films have been filmed and it was just this big lot where they built the house and built the lighthouse next to it. The house was real. They made like a mini beach leading down from the house which was awesome. And they also made the house very high up, so they could green screen the rest of the area. It was basically surrounded by motorway, so it was not in Ireland [where the movie is set]!

There’s a lot of stylistic world-building in Artemis Fowl, did you have any inclination of what the final film would look like?

Once I got the part, one of the first things [they did was] show us what the set was going to look like. We’d rehearsed a couple of stunt scenes two weeks prior so they showed us a mini 3D version on a piece of paper what it was going to look like. And I sort of I think I was a bit wary, I was like ‘wow, are they really going to make this come to life on the screens?’. I was super excited but the fact it wasn’t there added to the joy of it all, the joy of seeing it on screen.

But actually, I think it was one of the last days we were there, they made a whole Artemis Fowl exhibit just for the cast and crew to see and they actually made a huge 3D 14 foot model of what the troll was going to look like. They made the drool and everything. It didn’t move but it was like a huge statue of it, it was really really awesome. And they had a couple of other cool little things in there like gadgets and things like that we could have a look at. It was on the lot set so you could just drop by before going home, it was super cool.

Book author Eoin Colfer at Disney’s Artemis Fowl exhibit on set. Photo by Nicola Dove. © 2020 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

You mentioned you did you two weeks of stunt training, what was it like to do stunt work on set?

My first scene ever was a big Kendo scene. My second scene was filming up at the lighthouse. So they were two really intense scenes. [Also], it was May, so it was freezing cold and I had like ten lots of clothes on underneath and I was absolutely freezing both days. Actually, on the first day when we did Kendo, we had the costume people come in with hairdryers to warm us up. It was crazy. If you see the scene it’s very chaotic and they filmed it in 10-15 different shots but it was so worth it because it looks so good.

The [scene when I’m hanging from the banister] was probably my first huge stunt. I had a harness and there were two lines on it – one line was going straight up to the ceiling and the other was going over the edge. One was held by a stunt co-ordinator and one was being held by the ceiling of the house and that was nerve-wracking because we only did it in one take. It was a one-take wonder!

It was mostly nerve-wracking because I had boxes under me. It was a 4-5ft drop if I’d fallen so they put boxes and pads so that if the harness did break I would fall on the boxes. So I was really nervous looking down. They were literally cardboard boxes like you order from Amazon! I’ve seen it on different stunt shows and they said it really really works. So we just tried loads of different things; shouting, me doing one arm, me swinging towards it as if I’d just landed on it. We did a lot.

Tamara and the cast of Artemis Fowl had to do plenty of stunts on the movie. Photo Credit: Nicola Dove

Did you learn many new skills during your stunt training?

A lot. We focused a lot on Kendo and martial arts, boxing and kickboxing but I’m actually a dancer, I’ve danced since I was three. So I’m quite a sporty person but I honestly cannot say I got through those two weeks without being tired the first day! I couldn’t breathe and we only did it for like an hour. And I could not breathe at all! I think I’ve definitely learned a lot from that.

Was there much green screen to act alongside while shooting the film?

I’d say there is quite a lot because obviously it’s hard to film a movie with goblins and trolls but if we’re talking about goblins and trolls a lot of it was prosthetics which was really really weird to see. It’s sort of weird to see goblins walk next to you at kraft services!

The lighthouse [in the movie] was real. It was right next to the house and it was very very high up. I actually had my dad and my sister the day [we shot the lighthouse scene] and there were revolving stairs going up and up and up. Once you get to the top there’s a platform that is actually outside. My dad was right underneath my feet listening. It was very very safe and it was very very fun and it was very high up!

What was it like working alongside Kenneth Branagh?

He was very hands-on but also very freeing, so he’d let you do what you wanted to do. Obviously he is a director but he’s also an actor so he has insight into both roles. He’s a very freeing sort of director, he let us do scenes where we ad-libbed, he let us do scenes in weird accents so we can get a little bit more familiar with the scene – so we’re not just standing there saying our lines. we’d have feeling and meaning behind it. It was really amazing to work with him because obviously he’s been in such amazing movies. He was very inspiring.

Kenneth Branagh was very hands-on during shooting. Here he is with the movie’s makeup designer Carol Hemming and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos. Photo Credit: Nicola Dove

Was there much ad-libbing on set?

On my part not really but Josh Gad ad-libbed a lot in the best way! He is one of the most quick-minded people I have ever met. Something would just come out his mouth and you would try your hardest not to laugh. Honestly, in the best way, I’m surprised we got a scene done because it was so hard not to laugh!

Did you read the Artemis Fowl books before you started shooting?

I didn’t read them before I auditioned. But once I auditioned I started reading them and every book just got better than the one before. I was like even if I don’t get the part I’m going to watch this anyway because this is awesome.

You’ve starred in the Worst Witch and you’ll soon be in A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting – two book adaptations. Is there a book or series of books you haven’t starred in which you’d like to?

That’s a really hard question! So there’s a really amazing and talented English writer called Benjamin Zephaniah who’s done some amazing books. One that I’m really interested in now is called Face. It’s based on a boy but I’d love to play a version as a girl. It’s about him getting in a car crash and his face is disfigured. He has to have a false face, sort of like plastic surgery but it does not turn out that well and he really finds out who his true friends are. It’s a really interesting book!

Artemis Fowl is available now on Disney+

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