What Do Paul Bettany and Nicole Kidman Have Against Christianity?

According to Cinematical, Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany have joined the cast of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass as the “villainous” Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel.

If this report is just a rumor, I’m doubtful.
If it’s true, I’m baffled.
I hope it’s a rumor.

Paul Bettany’s a talented actor, no doubt about it. But why would he be so drawn to films that paint Christianity as the source of evil? The Da Vinci Code wasn’t enough for him? It’s harder and harder to remember that he did once play a man of faith… in The Reckoning. (No doubt the studio will once again try to excuse The Golden Compass as “just fiction,” even though the story specifically targets Christian faith and Biblical accounts as lies and wickedness.)

And why would Nicole Kidman, who identifies herself as a Catholic, participate in a fantasy that goes out of its way to declare her own faith as a heap of lies? The saga doesn’t stop there… it re-stages Adam and Eve’s fall as a triumph of the human spirit, and depicts God as somebody who needs to be overthrown. “It’s just pretend” doesn’t cut it.

If it’s true… how very disappointing. I would have hoped both of these talented actors would know big-screen bigotry when they smell it.

Film critics are already complaining about how M. Night Shyamalan mocks film critics in Lady in the Water. Will they be equally willing to observe that Philip Pullman isn’t just making a mockery of foolish Christians, who often deserve a good lampooning… but he’s slandering the Christian faith itself?

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Thanks, Joanna. Not sure what happened there… I must have pulled the wrong link from the clipboard.

  • Adam Walter

    big-screen bigotry

    I am so going to steal this phrase at some point in the future…

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    To “excise” the anti-religious theme, you’d basically have to re-write the story and reject what the author has boldly and repeatedly claimed was the motivation to write the books in the first place.

    And even if they do soft-pedal the anti-Christianity stuff, it’s still going to make the books bestsellers again, so Pullman will still get an even larger platform for his bigotry.

  • Anonymous

    In following this film off and on, I’ve noted that it has gone through various script traumas. My last recollection was that the religious theme (anti-religious) had been excised…not sure if that’s true or not.

  • Gene Branaman

    “. . . and depicts God as somebody who needs to be overthrown.”

    In fact (& you probably know this, Jeffrey), God’s (or, as Pullman calls Him, The Authority) death is the main goal of Pullman’s trilogy! Aimed at the kiddies, of course! Don’t even get me started on the various offensive plot point in HDM.

    I especially loved this quote from the piece you linked, Jeffrey: “Kidman will be thrown into the role of villain, playing the insidious Mrs. Coulter, while Bettany will be taking on Lord Asriel.” Um . . . hello – they’re both villians who want to kill their own kid, & each other! But then, there’s nary a likeable character in Pullman’s HDM universe. Including, sadly, Pullman himself, who is rumored to be JK Rowling’s inspiration for Guilderoy Lockheart.

    Kidman’s been rumored to be on-again/off-again/on-again director Chris Weitz’s personal choice for Mrs Coulter. With all the publicity of her recent marriage & how she’s returned to her faith, I’m really hoping she doesn’t do this film. I mean, wasn’t Birth enough? Can’t she stop doing films about the deconstruction of the innocence of children?

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Check that IGN link — they actually note that the Kidman thing is currently still just an unconfirmed rumour, even though a British newspaper was apparently very confident about it. Until we hear confirmation of Kidman’s involvement in this film, this reminds me of how everyone used to say that she was going to play the White Witch.


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