Daniel Craig on Philip Pullman and religion

From today’s Brisbane Times:

In the scraps of pre-publicity released to date, Daniel Craig says he is clinging to Pullman’s original text “by his fingernails” and working especially hard not to have the author’s religious views watered down.

“The thing is,” Craig says, “having spoken to Philip at length – there’s nothing anti-religious about this film. It’s anti-establishment in a big way and anti-totalitarian and anti-controlling. But essentially it’s a film about growing up and how difficult that can be.”

Given that Craig is only one of the actors involved in The Golden Compass, I’m not sure how much influence he could possibly have on the philosophical slant of the film as a whole. But it’s an interesting, if somewhat contradictory, quote nonetheless.

Oh, and check out this quote:

[Producer Deborah] Forte, a woman of steely determination, described The Golden Compass as “the first full-scale fantasy film that has stars in it”. She discounted Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings, as “he is not a big-budget star”.

What a bizarre thing to say. I remember becoming genuinely excited about Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy when I heard that McKellen had been cast as Gandalf; it told me the filmmakers were truly interested in getting the right actors for the various parts. And now these guys dare to suggest that their film is better simply because it has a more expensive cast!?

And what’s this nonsense about “big-budget stars”? Thanks to the three X-Men movies (2000-2006), the three Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003) and The Da Vinci Code (2006) — in which everyone agrees Sir Ian was the best thing — McKellen now has seven films under his belt that grossed over $100 million in North America; indeed, six of them made over $200 million here.

Meanwhile, who has The Golden Compass got?

Nicole Kidman, who has been in only one film, ever, that grossed over $100 million in North America, namely Batman Forever (1995) — unless you count her vocal work in Happy Feet (2006).

Daniel Craig, who has been in three films that grossed over $100 million; two of them, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Road to Perdition (2002; my review), came out ages ago, and he had relatively minor roles in them anyway, while the third, of course, is Casino Royale (2006) — and generally speaking, Bond actors haven’t had a whole lot of success outside the Bond franchise.

And maybe Eva Green, whose only big hit to date is Casino Royale — though Kingdom of Heaven (2005) did okay overseas.

I’m not knocking the talents of these actors in any way. But is Forte really in a position to brag about the bankability of her stars compared to the bankability of actors in other fantasy films?

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  • I agree 100% that Forte is out of her mind for dissing Ian Mckellan like that. He’s an amazing actor and he has no less than one Oscar nom under his belt. That was a serious foot-in-mouth moment for her and I suspect McKellan will not be terribly forgiving of her for that one. I’d hate to be in her shoes and have to direct that man in one of my films tomorrow after saying something like that about him yesterday.

    But I do wanna come to Nicole Kidman’s defense:

    1) “The Others” for box office. She probably carried that box office completely by herself and it had legs that lasted for weeks and weeks, great WoM, and was her first solo effort after she and Tom split. A lot of people suspected she’d sink into oblivion after the divorce but instead she blossomed, and “The Others” was the first evidence of that future for her.

    2) “The Hours” for the Oscar. She deserved that Oscar. She’s very good.

    3) She’s just plain gorgeous!

  • Anonymous

    Hmmm, one of the fansites has the full transcript from the Oxford festival and Forte never dissed McKellan. It was the panel chairperson, I’m assuming someone not involved in the movie. I agree with you however that Kidman is not exactly box-office gold. But then her movies are not the kind that everyone would clamor to see. I’d actually be worried if Kidman starts to continuously make movies that are geared for box-office success. I think her small, arty movies such as Birth, Fur, and Dogville are what makes her career, and far more interesting than the works of Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts.

    Mark Lawson: Let’s talk about the casting for this film. This is the first fantasy film with A-List stars.

    Philip Pullman: Well I wouldn’t say that to Ian McKellen.

    Mark Lawson: He’s a great actor, but I wouldn’t really say he was an A-List star. What was your dream casting?

    Philip Pullman: My dream casting Nicole Kidman and Sir Laurence Olivier, circa 1945, but he was not available. The ambition was not to find the movie stars, but the best actor for the role. Nicole Kidman has amazing versatility she can be warm and cold, seductive and terrifying at the same time. It was essential to get Lyra right. I didn’t know how they were going to do it, but they did get it right.


  • Sheila West wrote:

    1) “The Others” for box office. She probably carried that box office completely by herself and it had legs that lasted for weeks and weeks, great WoM, and was her first solo effort after she and Tom split.

    Good point — in fact, after Batman Forever, The Others (2001; $96.5 million) is her second-highest-earning live-action film, with Cold Mountain (2003; $95.6 million) right behind it. Those are very respectable numbers for low– or mid-budget films (according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, The Others was budgeted at $17 million and Cold Mountain was budgeted at $79 million). But her more mainstream efforts, such as The Stepford Wives (2004) and Bewitched (2005), have tended to cost more and earn less.

    2) “The Hours” for the Oscar.

    Ah, well, Oscar ain’t box-office. 🙂

    I agree with Philip Pullman, BTW, that Kidman is ideally suited to the character she is playing in this film. There is an extremely good chance that she really is the right actor for the part. I just wouldn’t make a point of bragging that she’s a “big-budget star”.

    Anonymous wrote:

    Hmmm, one of the fansites has the full transcript from the Oxford festival and Forte never dissed McKellan.

    Thanks for the link. It looks like a number of quotes in the Brisbane Times story are not in the transcript, so perhaps they are pulling in quotes from other sources, including their own interviews; at least one paragraph in the story says “Pullman told me…”

  • If Pullman dreams of Olivier, then McKellen is his man. A-list actors do not guarantee quality; the value of A-list actors lies soley in box office potential.
    Besides, I kind of hope the Pullman films flop.

  • Brett

    I can’t decide. Are these people speaking this way because hubris – the main engine of Mr. Pullman’s creative work, nakedly and disastrously so after the first few of chapters of The Subtle Knife – is contagious? Or because the self-worship that Mr. Pullman admires is also endemic to Hollywood and its people?

    Either way, Mr. Pullman received enough of my money when I bought the one fine and two dismal novels of this series. So I’ll have to hear about it second-hand.

  • wasn’t charlton heston in a couple fantasy films? wouldn’t he have been an ‘a’ list star back in the day?

    just curious…