New Line Greenlights "The Golden Compass" -- for $150 Million

by | June 29, 2006 | Comments

Fans of Philip Pullman’s "His Dark Materials" series have reason to rejoice this morning: New Line Cinema has given an official greenlight and production date to "The Golden Compass," which will be brought to the big screen by Oscar-nom Chris Weitz.

Thanks to for the New Line press release:

"New Line Cinema has officially greenlit production on "The Golden Compass," the highly anticipated adaptation of the first of author Philip Pullman’s bestselling "His Dark Materials" trilogy, it was announced today by New Line’s Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne. Production on the $150 million-budgeted film is scheduled to begin September 4 in the UK, with Oscar-nominated writer/director Chris Weitz ("About a Boy," "Antz") at the helm.

"’The Golden Compass’ is the most ambitious film that New Line has undertaken since ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy, and we have assembled a remarkable creative team, headed by Chris Weitz, to bring it to fruition," commented New Line’s Shaye and Lynne.

Newcomer Dakota Blue Richards has been cast in the lead role of Lyra Belacqua. Richards landed the role after filmmakers conducted an extensive casting search throughout England, during which they saw more than 10,000 young girls. Open calls were held in Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter, and Kendal, before Richards was chosen from the Cambridge call for an audition and subsequent screen test.

"Dakota made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy," says writer/director Weitz. "We wanted a completely new face for Lyra, but I was surprised that any young girl, especially one without training, could light up the screen as Dakota does."

Pullman adds, "I’m delighted with the casting of Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra. As soon as I saw Dakota’s screen test, I realized that the search was over. Dakota has just the combination of qualities that make up the complicated character of this girl, and I very much look forward to seeing the film take shape, with Dakota’s Lyra at the heart of it."

Helping to bring "The Golden Compass" to the big screen will be an all-star production team that includes Oscar-winning production designer Dennis Gassner ("Road to Perdition," "Big Fish"), Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth Myers ("L.A. Confidential," "Emma"), and Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Mike Fink ("X-Men," "X2: X-Men United," "Road to Perdition").

"The Golden Compass" is being produced by Deborah Forte of Scholastic Entertainment and Weitz’s Depth of Field production company. Paul Weitz (an Oscar nominee for "About a Boy") and Andrew Miano will serve as executive producers on the film. Bill Carraro will also serve as a producer on the film.

Based on the bestselling and award-winning Pullman novels, the "His Dark Materials" trilogy is comprised of "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass." It revolves around a young girl who travels to the far north to save her best friend. Along the way, she encounters shape-shifting creatures, witches, and a variety of otherworldly characters in parallel universes."

In addition to the facts laid down in the press release, we also have a potentially juicy piece of casting news from the guys at IGN FilmForce: "According to England’s Daily Mail, (Nicole) Kidman has been offered the key part of Mrs. Coulter — scientist, socialite, and conspirator. With the actress’s good looks, charm, and intensity, she could be just right for the part; apparently Pullman himself has endorsed her for the role. As of yet, however, there’s no word — official or otherwise — that Kidman has accepted the part."

Hmmm, guess I better take a visit to the library….

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