Monday, November 19, 2007


From Northern Lights to The Golden Compass: Philip Pullman's bestselling novel comes to the big screen

AT FIRST, EVA GREEN WAS quite intimidated by Philip Pullman. “Well, wouldn't you be?” she asks with an English accent that barely has a trace of her Parisian roots. “The man is a genius and when you meet him he's like an academic, a don or something...”
Green, best known for playing Vesper Lynd in the last James Bond movie Casino Royale, joined a stellar cast — including 007 himself, Daniel Craig, as Lord Asriel and Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter — in the director Chris Weitz's big-screen version of Pullman's book The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights in Britain).

Pullman, a frequent visitor to Shepperton Studios, was apparently happy to stand on the sidelines and watch proceedings. “The first time I met him he knocked on my dressing-room door,” recalls the 27-year-old Green, who plays the 400-year-old witch Serafina Pekkala. “I opened it and he was standing there and said [adopts deep voice]: ‘Let's talk about Serafina...' I thought: ‘Oh my God, does he think I'm going to be all right?'
“But he was lovely. He's very articulate and very enigmatic but he's a sweet man and I hope he won't be disappointed. He was like a child and kept saying ‘Oh I love that scene...' It must be amazing when you are the author and you see your words come alive in front of your eyes.”

Related Links
· Imaginary worlds from Pullman to Pratchett
· Erica Wagner on why she's nervous about going to see The Golden Compass

It must indeed. Although Weitz, a Cambridge-educated American, faces the far more daunting task of pleasing not only Pullman, but the army of fans of his trilogy His Dark Materials, and a studio, New Line, which has invested more than £75 million in the project and is planning two sequels if the first film is a success.
Weitz, 38, was making About A Boy in London in 2002 when a friend suggested that he read Pullman. “I loved the scope of the books,” he says. “They are incredibly ambitious and by the third book they kind of expand into this vast Miltonic scale. It was great storytelling and it was clear it wouldn't be a problem to adapt.”

He's right. At the heart of The Golden Compass is a great adventure — a young girl, Lyra, who believes she is an orphan, is raised among academics in an imaginary Oxford where she runs wild with the street urchins and gypsy children.
When numerous children are kidnapped — including Lyra's friend Roger — by a sinister group known as the Gobblers, rumours abound that they are being taken to the North, where they are they are subjected to grisly experiments. Lyra vows to rescue them.

All well and good, but bringing Pullman's exotic characters to life on screen — human beings whose souls manifest themselves as animals (known as daemons), flying witches, talking bears — and surreal cityscapes of London and Oxford and the North Pole, was another matter.

The full story from The Times here,.

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