Nonso Anozie: The Butler Dun It

June 13, 2020
After working with Kenneth Branagh on Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Cinderella and All Is True, as well as in the theatre, British actor Nonso Anozie, 41, reunites with the director for Artemis Fowl.

He plays Domovoi Butler, bodyguard to the young Artemis (Ferdia Shaw), who enters a magical world of fairies and trolls as he searches for his missing father.

Butler is a martial arts expert. What did you learn for this role?

Well, we did quite a considerable amount of training before we started. I wouldn’t call myself a kendo expert, but I’ve definitely done a lot of kendo training, a lot of hand-to-hand fights. It’s so funny that so much training goes into a fight that might last for twenty seconds.

How do you view the relationship between Butler and Artemis?

He’s kind of a father figure at times and sometimes the older brother. His duty is to protect the Fowl family. Domovoi Butler is a part of the long line of generational Butlers, who have looked after the Fowl family. So, it’s his duty. It’s something he loves doing. He loves the Fowl family.

Have you developed a similar relationship with Ferdia Shaw, the young actor playing Artemis?

Yeah, Ferdia is a great kid. I read with him when he did his audition. And I spent a lot of time with him off set. He likes Dungeons & Dragons and I played Dungeons & Dragons when I was a kid. I was very much a geeky kid and he likes that kind of stuff. And so, we found a lot of things in common.

Does Butler ever question Artemis’ actions in terms of how villainous they may be?

Yes. He’s constantly asking whether he thinks that’s the right thing to do. Or maybe we’re taking too much of a risk. Artemis does so much research, he’s so diligent with knowing his enemy. I think that he trusts some of the choices that he later lets Artemis make for himself, and then it’s almost following in his wake. He does question it. But I think in the end, it’s for the good of everybody.

You shot some sequences in Vietnam. How was that?

That was a funny, funny shoot. That was an experience. Riding down the street in Vietnam, with thousands of other bikes around you that don’t know you’re even filming, is an experience. We did a lot of training on motorbikes before we actually went out there. I don’t think anything can prepare you for it. It was amazing. They were real. They did have eight bikers that were around us to protect from any unexpected sideswiping or anything like that. But it was really unexpected!

How did you work on the distinct look of Butler?

We decided that the Butler family have this recessive gene, almost similar to albinoism or vitiligo that passes through the family. [In the Fowl house], you’ll see some of the other portraits of the brothers, some of them have white hair, some of them have blue eyes, some of them are bigger and smaller. Different traits that have been passed down. It was something that we talked about – what his look would be, maybe it would be bearded or maybe he would be totally bald, and this came up. I think Carol [Hemming], our makeup and hair head, had some ideas and showed us some pictures and I was like ‘That!’ And Ken loved it. And then he said, ‘But the beard’s got to go!’ I was like, ‘Agh, I don’t want to lose my beard.’ But it went and I actually really love the look.

How does Butler react to the world of fairies etc?

the same way that most people would react. I think he’s got a lot of training and focus when it comes to dealing with day-to-day situations, but I think anybody would be shocked to see a flying fairy or a 70 foot troll coming at them! As an actor, you’ve got to look at how the character reacts. So, I would probably scream and run for the hills, but he’s got a job to do.

Artemis Fowl is available on Disney+ now.

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