'Artemis Fowl' Image Gives Us A First Look At Judi Dench As The Curmudgeonly Commander Root

When you want an actor to give off an air of "gravelly, Churchillian, curmudgeonly" authority, you turn to Dame Judi Dench. The legendary actress made headlines when she was cast as Commander Root in Artemis Fowl, taking on a character originally written as male. But if you're going to gender-bend any character in this urban fantasy film, there's no better option than with the Dame herself.

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Entertainment Weekly debuted the Artemis Fowl image of Dame Judi Dench in a pair of pointy ears and her LEPrecon uniform, preparing her troops for a siege on Fowl Manor, where protagonist Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) is keeping LEP officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) hostage. It's our first real look at Dench in character, after we saw a brief glimpse of her in the trailer.

For director Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench was the only option to play Commander Root, hot-tempered leader of the elite fairy police force, the LEPrecon. "When we started to rehearse, she leant forward, and her shoulders stooped and her voice dropped, and then suddenly this gravelly, Churchillian, curmudgeonly figure started to emerge," Branagh told EW.

But this gender-flip changes the dynamic of her relationship with Holly Short, who in the books was the first female LEPrecon officer, resulting in the stakes being heaped against her. But Branagh assures Artemis Fowl fans that the Root gender-flip, which comes with author Eoin Colfer's blessing, will maintain that same tense respect:

"We have tensions and passions inside her relationship with her fellow officers and with Root, but they're also to do with her achieving her work on merit. It felt as though what we needed, whoever was 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, and who, to some extent, was partly on her side, was partly her sponsor, was partly her mentor, and in a way sort of a role model. So the tensions between them, which come from the book, exist here but they're in a different kind of form, and they can be as complicated as they are in the here and now in our own world. It felt like conversations like that had moved on."

I'm still on the fence with this decision to gender-bend Root, as much as I love everything about Dench. I wonder if it will affect McDonnell's depiction of Holly Short, who was a lovably brusque character with a chip on her shoulder. But the casting has Colfer's blessing, so I'll give Branagh and co. the benefit of the doubt.

Artemis Fowl is scheduled to hit theaters on August 9, 2019.