Move over, Da Vinci Code. A potentially bigger and even more controversial movie adaptation of a popular anti-Christian novel (or, rather, series of novels) could be in the works.
Variety reports that New Line, the studio that hired an obscure indie director named Peter Jackson to make the Lord of the Rings films, has now turned to another obscure indie director, Anand Tucker, to direct The Golden Compass, the first installment in Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy (my review).
Tucker has directed only three other films so far: Saint-Ex (1996), which starred Downfall‘s Bruno Ganz as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince; Hilary and Jackie (1998), which starred Emily Watson as famed cellist Jacqueline du Pré; and the upcoming Steve Martin film Shopgirl. The IMDB also lists him as a producer of Peter Webber’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003).
New Line had interviewed 50 directors since December, when Chris Weitz ankled, citing the daunting technical challenges of the epic. But nobody wanted the job as badly as Tucker, who won it with a presentation that included a 20-page outline, conceptual art and visual effects demos.
Though they still canvassed vets like Ridley Scott and auteurs like David Cronenberg, New Line brass ultimately gave Tucker the chance to follow the path from indie-style pics to blockbuster franchise assignments previously taken by the likes of Peter Jackson, Bryan Singer, Chris Nolan and the Wachowski brothers.
The paper adds:
New Line’s plan is to shoot the Weitz-scripted “The Golden Compass” as a stand-alone movie. Assuming it works, the studio may shoot the second and third installments, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass,” back-to-back.
Methinks this could almost work. Almost.
The Golden Compass is a rather exciting novel in its own right, with very little of the explicitly anti-Christian propagandizing that becomes a little more explicit in the second book and then overwhelms the third book. The books were released a few years apart, and if I had read each one when it was brand new, the first one would have had me waiting breathlessly for years for the next installments, while the third one — in which the storytelling is sidetracked by Pullman’s anti-religious sermonizing — would have filled me with a profound sense of betrayal. As it is, I went into the trilogy with a vague sense of how it would all end, so I was already kind of on my guard; but even then, that first book was such a vivid piece of world creation that I kind of fell in love with it.
So. If they made a stand-alone movie of the first book, and then never got around to filming the others, I couldn’t be happier!