"The Golden Compass," New Line's adaptation of the first part of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, finally has a leading lady.
After an open casting call throughout England, producers have chosen newcomer Dakota Blue Richards to take the starring role as Lyra Belacqua. After open auditions in Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter and Kendal yielded more than 10,000 eager young women, Richards -- who tried out in Cambridge -- snagged the part.
Now, with Chris Weitz in place again to direct, "The Golden Compass" is set to begin production in September in the United Kingdom.
"Dakota made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy," says Weitz, who also adapted the script. "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."
New Line has budgeted a whopping $150 million for the project, which is already holding down a November 16, 2007 release date.
"'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," say New Line's Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne.
"The Golden Compass" introduces viewers to Lyra, a young orphan living in and around Oxford University in a reality that mostly resembles our own, but also includes some unusual twists like friendly daemons, armor-clad polar bears and a mysterious Dust which may hold truths about physics, humanity and some kind of divine power.