Catholic pressure means no Golden Compass sequel

Catholic pressure means no Golden Compass sequel December 16, 2009

ACTOR Sam Elliott has accused the Catholic Church of pressurising Hollywood producers to scrap the final parts of Philip Pullman’s classic fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials.
Studio bosses have shelved plans to film the final two instalments of the fantasy, despite the success of the first movie, The Golden Compass, two years ago.
According to this report, the film starring Elliott, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, angered Catholics who accused it of promoting atheism.

In the book trilogy, set in a series of parallel worlds, heroine Lyra fights the Magisterium, an evil organisation some have interpreted as being based on the Catholic Church.
The Magisterium wields huge power and experiments on children. In a climactic battle angels fight each other and “God” is presented as a frail, ancient and powerless figure.
Catholic campaigners in America organised a boycott of The Golden Compass. Right-wing US broadcaster Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, attacked its release in 2007, calling it a “war on Christmas”.
Elliot, who plays Lyra’s ally – aeronaut Lee Scoresby – has challenged O’Reilly to a TV debate and claimed money could not be the reason for the series being shelved.
The production company, New Line, had said the making of the second and third films was dependent on the financial success of The Golden Compass. The movie had a budget of $180million (£110million) and made $380million (£234million).
Asked what happened to the series, Elliot said:

The Catholic Church happened to The Golden Compass, as far as I’m concerned. It did incredible’at the box office, taking $380million. Incredible. It took $85million in the States. The Catholic Church … lambasted them, and I think it scared New Line off.

I would have loved to have gone after them. I would have liked to have sat down with Bill O’Reilly and talked it out. There are two sides to that coin. It’s a shame as it’s a great trilogy.

The boycott was organised by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League For Religious And Civil Rights. He told the Evening Standard:

I am delighted the boycott worked. Just as the producers have a right to make the movie, I have a right to protest.
The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to the wonders of atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time. Everyone agrees the film version was not anti-Catholic, but that hardly resolves the issue. The fact is that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic.

He added:

I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie.
I also knew this boycott would work because once the word got out that the movie was bait for the books, Christian parents would take their kids to see Alvin And The Chipmunks. Which they did, in far greater number.

Pullman has dismissed the accusations, saying:

I am a storyteller. If I wanted to send a message I would have written a sermon.

A spokesman for New Line Cinema declined to comment.

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  • barriejohn

    No, we certainly DON’T want Christian children “introduced to the wonders of atheism by the back door”, Mr Donohue; far better to introduce them to the “wonders of pederasty” by the back door!

  • shargraves

    The books are simply wonderful, and I can’t wait for my little boy to be old enough to read them.
    The church has once again thru fascist means has imposed its own brand of hypocrisy.
    The sooner this grubby, corrupt, sex-obsessed, intellectually stunted, morally disabled, ignorant, bigoted death cult just fucks off – the better.
    We need more Philip Pullmans out there writing terrific kids books, so future generations of youngsters aren’t warped into these deeply disturbed individuals like Stephen Green or the 40% of america that thinks the flintsones is documentary, by getting indoctrinated into the idiocy that is the bible.

  • barriejohn

    Of course, the Catholic Church would NEVER act in a deceitful way in its dealings with children, or in the way that it passes on its ideas to them, would it? And what about that ridiculous statement, that I can’t quite get my head around, that “the producers have right to make the film” while he has the God-given right to stop them! Is it just me, or is there a complete lack of logic in evidence here?

  • OpenMind

    Was it not because it was a poor film?
    Have to say I’m unimpressed with Pullman’s trilogy – guess that means I’m out of step with all the critics who acclaim him as some sort of genius.
    Also, If the catholic church couldn’t do anything about The Life of Brian and all their waffle about the (again poor) Da Vinci Code then is this any different.
    The fundies will always be protesting and the film industry will only sometimes be acquiescing? Don’t buy it myself, if there’s a dollar to be made the film will get made.

  • Alec s thompson

    So the catholics dont like fantasy stories? Rotfl at the irony 😀

  • It bombed because it was rubbish.

  • barriejohn

    The Catholic League For Religious And Civil Rights.
    Is that some kind of a sick joke?

  • Ivan

    “Is it just me, or is there a complete lack of logic in evidence here?”
    I think maybe you’ve hit on the problem with religion there 🙂

  • Marcus

    I can remember at the time of its making that the producers of this film were worried about upsetting the catholics, and as a result the final movie was a deliberately watered down version of the book, which is much more open in its condemnation of things religious.
    But what is Bill Donohue really worried about anyway? Could it be that he doesn’t want good catholic children questioning the deceits and fear and false hope that he and his chums drip-feed them from birth? What a crime that would be. Especially at christmas!

  • You’re overstating the power of the catholic church, and especially you’re falling for Bill Donohue’s self-promotion hook, line and sinker. Dan Brown’s films have done very well. Golden Compass did well in the rest of the world, but bombed in the USA (for a number of reasons: saturation, marketed to the wrong demographic, just not good enough, etc). Because of the way the film was financed (the studio pre-sold the international rights), that meant it was a financial disaster for the studio.
    Much as I love a conspiracy, Bill Donohue and his petty hate machine had nothing to do with it.

  • barriejohn

    The American Catholics planned
    To have the new Pullman film banned;
    But those who have seen
    The first film on screen
    Say the reason’s because it was panned!

  • Serai

    “I am delighted the boycott worked. Just as the producers have a right to make the movie, I have a right to protest.”
    I’d prefer it if he’d limit his protests to doing what I do when I don’t like a film, I don’t go and watch it! His glee at preventing others entertaining themselves as they see fit is exactly what is wrong with religion. They have this perverse need to impose their beliefs on others.
    I don’t particularily like the bible, but I am not going to try and prevent them printing any more of them, much as I believe the world would be a better place without the bibles and korans. I also believe in letting people decide for themselves what they wish to watch read or listen to!

  • When I first saw the trailer for the movie I nearly cried; it looked so beautiful. When I finally saw the movie I nearly cried; it turned out to be awful.
    I think people want to blame the church for influencing their decisions (then and now) rather than put the blame on themselves for not delivering a money maker in the first place.

  • H. Davids

    ‘Catholic League For Religious And Civil Rights’ is that the new name for the Inquisition? And another case of the pot and the kettle: no religion would ever stoop as low as to deceitfully attempt to introduce Christian children to the wonders of itself, would it?

  • I’m in agreement with some of the comments here; the Catholic church likely had very little to do with this.
    I’m a huge fan of Pullman’s series. They’re well written and entertaining. The real problem is that the screen adaptation of The Golden Compass was a huge mismatch of scenes from the book that didn’t flow at all. It was an atrocity – an insult to Pullman’s work. Scenes were out of order, the character development was destroyed, and the movie came out bland.
    As much as I’d like to pin it on another religious group doing what religious groups do, the fact is that The Golden Compass was just a terrible movie, and likely couldn’t overcome the stench it left in a sequel.

  • Angela_K

    Donohue and his chums have an inflated sense of their influence if they think they can halt the money and might of Hollywood. Both films were pretty dire and let the catholics rather lightly.

  • valdemar

    Can’t say I’m a big Pullman fan, either. If the film didn’t do well, maybe that’s because it didn’t appeal enough to any particular group. But it’s not surprising that an actor who’d like to do the sequel is pretty pissed off at a religio-political goon squad like that promoted by Donohue. Mixture of motives, but anti-Catholicism is seldom if ever wrong.

  • barriejohn

    @valdemar: I agree. It’s no wonder that Sam Elliott is so pissed off: this is his living that we’re talking about here – and I can’t remember when he was last in anything half decent!

  • I still love this:

    DAKOTA hides in a closet and watches her uncle, DANIEL CRAIG, interact with a member of the MAGISTERIUM.
    Oh, the Magisterium. You guys must be the symbol of religion that religious folks are all pissed off about.
    Actually, in the movie we're just a symbol of conformity and blind obedience.
    Er, so organizations like the Catholic League saw conformity and blind obedience, then decided it must represent their religion?
    Yeah. Kinda telling, huh?


  • Ash Walsh

    ’tis a pity we Don’t hear the same triumphantism from Donohue and other Jesus Freaks when shopping paedos!

  • barriejohn

    You’re right, @ nullifidian. I don’t know alot about these books, but it’s pretty obvious that nowhere does it say that these people actually DO represent the Catholic Church. If the mitre fits, as they say!

  • @barriejohn: You’re right, Pullman doesn’t mention the catholic church anywhere. What he does mention is a vicious, manipulative, dogmatic, anachronistic, backward, lying, self-serving, closed-minded authoritarian clique that he names “The Magesterium”.
    Seeing as the name didn’t give the catholics anything to compare their church against, it really only leaves the description.
    Very telling indeed.

  • OpenMind

    Re: The structure of the magisterium
    Its crystal clear in the books that the magisterium represents the catholic church simply from the reporting structures within the organisation and description of dress of some of the magisterium characters. Thus its disingenuous to suggest that the actual catholic church has no basis to see itself in the portrayal of the magisterium.
    Although the scope of the books is ambitous (for which I actually applaud Pullman) its actually (IMO) the story and character development (particularly mid way through the second volume) which lets it down. I really felt Pullman would write himself into a corner and suddenly out of left field an entirely new concept not in keeping with the story / characters to date would lurch in and then the story would settle and mover forward again. Case in point beings Will’s father who upon finding himself in another world in the middle of nowhere “realises he’s a shaman” (despite no indication of any of this in the world he’s from and no developmental hints in the world he finds himself in) and is able to summon someone (Lee Scoresby) to come and pick him up and drop him off where he needs to be.
    So – the scope and ambition of the theme = great
    but – execution of the actual linking and flow of the events in the story = mashed.
    Not impressed with the books as a result.
    Just feels like Pullman drew a lot of praise for the huge (and striking) thematic backdrop for the story but drew little critique on the actual story / character development.
    I’m sure many will disagree with me.
    This, combined with the usual Hollywood predilection to pull key scenes out of sequence / leave scenes out to make “better cinema” would IMO make for a proper turkey of a movie.
    ….and this is from a lifelong sci-fi and fantasy fan who after reading the first book (and really enjoying it immensely) was gutted when the story began to disappear up its own wazoo in the second (still read all three just to have a complete opinion btw).

  • lilliana

    Thats gay The Golden Compass was a great movie and I’m pissed that they will not be making the trilogy. It just amazes me how ignorant and scared some people can be, aren’t we living in the 21th century people. This whole ordeal is just pathetic if you ask me.

  • Connie

    I loved the movie as well as the book and have been looking forward to a sequel. I really don’t care what the catholic church feels about the movie or anyone else for that matter. I thought the movie was very entertaining and inspired me to read the book. I enjoyed that even more than the movie. Both were excellent.

  • qtpietruitt

    can i just say: THIS IS BASED IN FANTASY!! it is NOT REAL… any intentions of the magesterium mirroring the catholic church is probably not an intentional “hit” on the church or it’s structure, politics or beliefs… I cant wait for my son to be old enough to understand how wonderful it is to use his imagination while reading!! also if u call $380mil internationally and $85mil domestically a bomb, what kind of numbers do u consider a success?? if harry potter’s magic, mythical world, talking(singing)chipmunks, vampires going to high school or even the world that avatar is based in can be accepted then what the heck is soooooo wrong with this magical, mythical, FANTASY world? i hope that new line reconsiders or someone else with enough money to make this movie with it’s all-star line up comes thru because i have been anticipating the other two movies for a long time now… i hate when stories leave u hanging…. please, someone make the rest of this story come to life!!

  • auturmn

    such a shame that imagination and fun are to be kicked out by religon .both my kids watched it and loved it ,did they say that god is not real after wards um….. no they enjoyed the fantasy and fun of the film and didnt look for the anti christ and their heads did not start spinning

  • ivorbiggun


  • I am totally tired of Middle Eastern religions messing up life and my freedom to choose. This film was entertainment as was The DaVinci Code and Name of The Rose, the latter hardly cast the Catholic Church in a good light for its disgraceful treatment, torture and murder of countless millions over the centuries, a mantle which has been taken over by extreme Islam. Did we hear a peep out of Catholics when that was shown? “No” So why the Golden Compass.
    As to teaching atheism, children will make up their own mind, whether to accept a highly fictional book written by people who were clearly pro-Roman, did not appreciate the life of a Jewish family and probably did not know anyone connected to Jesus of Nazareth, or not to accept it. I know I made my choice when I started studying ancient history to be an atheist, at least in terms of ORGANIZED religion. The simple fact is organized religion is really an excuse for men to behave abominably in the name of this religion or that religion. I think this would be clear to any child reading history, including religious history.
    So Bill Donohue leave religion to religion and quit behaving like a “NAZI”. We do not need your kind of censorship in the world. You clearly are a very ignorant man oblivious to the world around you to be focussed on a fictional book, namely the bible. If you should happen to read this comment, then you should read your own allegedly good book about “casting the first stone”. You are clearly a man with no morals just a desire to build a sad society of religious clones with no minds of their own.
    I hope they make these films and that Hollywood shows some guts. Trouble is Hollywood is clearly run by some incredibly dull people which would explain the conveyor belt of nonsense films that dribbles of it these days. Finding a good film is like trying to find a gold coin in a barrel of pigshit. Messy!!!

  • trish

    Can we say it is a movie it is fiction.What happend to the freedom of choice, free speach? If we let any organization dictate what can or can’t be made then we are no better than the other 3rd world countries.It starts out small my friends and before you know it we won’t have a choice on anything? I was raised catholic went to a parocial school my children where baptized in the catholic church no where did i feel that the movie was refering to the catholic church my kids saw the movie loved it didn’t come away w/questions of why am i catholic think i want to change my beliefs. So i guess if they don’t make the sequals i just have to get the books and read them.

  • Valerie Watkins

    I can not believe there will be no sequel to The Golden Compass. My Husband and I have been waiting, so I decided to google it. I thought it was a magnificent movie. We have watched The Golden Compass over and over again. My family loves it. I don’t understand the protest as it is just a movie. Children aren’t taught from movies, they are taught from home and I feel they understand the difference in watching a movie and reality. I think it is a shame that such a wonderful movie would get scrapped. With all the wrong things in the world that should get attention they would choose this. What’s next!

  • Terryn

    Wow! Can’t believe that some people have nothing better to do than to try and choose what others will entertain themselves with! Many other comments have already covered the important issues here, so I won’t restate everything, but I just feel that I also have to say I would like to see the sequels … or be forced to read the books. Isn’t that just what this group didn’t want to happen? They are trying to keep children from seeing the movies and then reading the books. But if we can’t see the sequel, those of us who would have been satisfied with the “watered down” version will now be forced to read those books.
    I am not Catholic, but I am a spiritual person, and I can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. My choices in sci-fi / fantasty entertainment don’t stop me from having a healthy spiritual relationship. Hearing about the Catholics fears does make me wonder why they are so afraid. Probably has something to do with the lost membership (money and power) they have experienced recently.

  • Victoria

    Movies like this comes around like once in a generation. My sister who is very christian absolutly loved this movie and in fact went to church the next day and never once questioned gods existance.
    Sadly those who cant see past the pages of their bible dont stop to realize that they are the ones destroying the youth….Good little catholic girls are the ones getting pregnant good little catholic boys are dealing drugs and they have the gaull to critisize other movies well how about they clean house first?
    The catholic church is failing and fewer and fewer people even give a flying leap.
    What is that saying about those who live in glass houses? The movie was a fantastic story that left both me and my husband wanting more!!!
    The church does not realize that people who watch movies like this arent looking for a reason to hate god the catholics are giving them a perfectly good reason all on their own!!!! It says in the bible that all those who come before my father must come before me….
    It does not say that all those who come before my father go see the child molester with the pointy hat!!!! so by their own standards they are condemned so GROW UP!!!!! they interperet the bible in ways that fit their own needs and i am sad to say that many people follow them.
    I am a christian and i do not look at that movie as a way to bash god but a way to tell a lovely story Its like harry potter all over again….
    a sad sad sad situation

  • paula

    The Golden Compass was an great adventure. I am a christian, I considered it a fantasy that’s all. If( in my OPINION) any one person is comparing it to the Cathlic religion it is them.
    they did the sme thing with Harry Potter, again it is a story, for entertainment only.

  • kevin

    whats the point? religon is the cause of the majority of problems in the world, as shown with this film, its a FILM, a fantasy adventure based film. I think people need to get a grip,especialy the catholic church, drama queens. They released the divinci code that competly questions religon, so whats there problem.

  • william welsh

    I am just in the process of finishing the third book and they are brilliant so I am MOST disappointed to hear the second and third movies will not be made.
    Yes the first movie was not exactly Lord of the Rings but still entertaining.
    The Church has NO right on what movies should be made, perhaps they should make as much fuss about the violence in movies today if they want to comment at all.
    Ok the books do make you think of religion and your views but there again every sad event makes you question God, as does most human beings that have lost loved ones.
    Let us hope some brave film maker will make the two movies, are you reading this Mr Speilberg and Mr Jackson ?

  • John Stephen

    Maybe the Catholic Church needs to stop running around complaining and campaigning to people not to see it. It’s a fantasy film. and a rather good one at that. Just maybe they need to stop sticking their noses into other peoples Entertainment, and start doing something about all these Pedophile Priests they have all over the place, instead of covering up incidents and then moving them to new Parish’s where they are free to molest more children. It seems the Priests ignore the laws that require that anyone with knowledge, to report it to law Enforcement, so the catholic Church is not obeying the laws of the land.
    In short, the Catholic Church need to take care of their own business, and start doing some housecleaning of their own before they start trying to force other people to see to stay away from anything. They could start by warning the Parents to tell their Children to stay away from these Pedophile priests the Church knows exist, and where most of them are, and turn them over to the law!
    I can only imagine what the Catholic Church thinks of Harry Potter. The Bible tells us that the Creation was done by God, by “Fiat”. That’s a very old world term for “Magic”! I think the Catholic Church is more concerned that People might get the idae that the Church is very much like the magisterium in the movie!

  • Kyle

    I went to see this movie WITH my church! Im super disappointed that there is not going to be a sequel

  • FreedomandJusticeForAll?

    We live in a free country…Our young men and women are overseas fighting and dieing for that freedom and yet we cannot even watch the movies we want to see???? For some reason I feel that we have gone back in time several centuries in which the church was the end all be all. I am a church going member and TOTALLY disagree with the squashing of the Golden Compass sequels…My family and I have been waiting to see this film and had to wait for it to come out on DVD/Blueray as the local theaters refused to show it. This country was built by persons just like us that did not agree with the dictatorship of the church and yet here we are in a new millenium facing the same battle….Will history ever STOP repeating itself?

  • Sick & Tired

    To Serai & Jon Kitten:
    Yes, a religious group (CATHOLICS) have slated the Golden Compass movie and condemned any sequels. It is THEM that have a huge problem with this, so there was ABSOLUTELY NO need to mention Islam or anything even remotely related to Islam. I’m a Muslim (or “Moslem” as you would understand it) and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and believe that anyone who didn’t is still entitled to their opinions but should not impress it on others.
    If you only knew anything true about my religion (and not what you think you already know, which is not very much at all), you would know that it is most certainly not oppressive and everyone has the right to their own beliefs.
    I saw this movie as pure fantasy and had nothing to do with any religions. You want people to view these movies open-mindedly, yet you are so ready to criticise what you know nothing about! So wake up and stop being hypocritical!
    I loved the movie and hope there will be sequels. In the meantime, I’m going to keep busy by reading the books.

  • Keith Kerns

    I am a teenager 17, confirmed through the Catholic Church. I read the Golden compass back in 2006 and watched and enjoyed the Golden Compass film as a good, but not great, representation of the fabulous books. I recently re-watched the movie and was curious when a sequel would be releasing see it has been a bit over two years since the original’s release. I was simply appalled at what I found.
    To recap at my view on religion as a whole: I was raised by Catholic parents, dad that rarely attended Church, and the most open-minded Catholic of all-time, my mom, who went to Church regularly. Through a bout with what I thought was a serious condition, I found myself thinking a lot about death and through this I have questioned everything about the Church. Reading history on their past, the biggest piece of fiction of all-time, the bible, I have began to think of myself as a “religious agnostic.” While I’m Cathloic and believe in God, I truly find myself closer to the spiritual teachings of the Buhdists, not the narrowminded, hypocritical view of the Christians.
    I understand the last two installments of the series being met with Cathloic protest but the first book was very tame, only vague symbolism. Yet even as being tame, New Line took out of thirty minutes of film (google it) reordered sequences, placing the ending shots at a climatic middle sequence where they are out of place, and flat out removed the book’s ending, which greatly dissapointed me and my mom who saw it with me and enjoyed it reasonably, laments whenever I mention it “The ending was simply horrible.”
    So now I see the horrible fate of this series has ended, possibly putting an end to the career of what I thought to be a very good young star, Dakota Blue Richards, and I now find myself even further pushed away from the Church. Through this you realize all the Catholic Church wants is your loyalty, not what you do after you pledge. They don’t protest movie that display violence and prostitution (Departed, American Gangster) yet make sure any movie questioning them (Da Vinci Code, Golden Compass).
    Basically they attempt to get us (the youth) to join them even closer, and end pushing people like me even farther away. Anyway, this my rant. I hope that if these sequels truly never do get made (still I hope) I am sure eventually there will be a remake/reboot in the next decade or so, and give this series new hope. I sure hope so. TO be honest though, the first book was the best so they saw the greatest chapter. Thanks for listening and remember lawlolawl

  • Jon Kitten

    A response to the article by “Sick and Tired”
    If you actually read what I wrote you would find I did not make reference to all of Islam, I mentioned specifically the extremists of Islam, as your faith like the Christian faith does have extremists. There was nothing hypocritical in what I wrote, but I do question your motives for such a comment or are you just blowing hot air because I was making a comment, any comment about Islam. Have you heard of free speech? If you do not believe in free speech, then I would have to question your motives for looking at this website.
    My comments in my article state “extreme Islam”, if I had written “Islam”, then you may have had cause to complain, but I did not, so get your facts straight. You can try and deny such things have happened in Islamic history, but I think you would expose yourself to a certain amount of ridicule as I can think of many examples of this throughout history.
    I have many Moslem friends and I respect their beliefs as much as they respect my freedom to choose. While I do not share their beliefs I know enough about Islam to be informed and make a choice based on this and my friends do agree with me that extremists in any religion are bad for everyone. Perhaps you should consider that.
    I am glad you liked the movie and I agree with those comments you made about it. The books are excellent and well worth a read.
    Perhaps in the future, before launching into a sad attempt to be personally insulting, you may consider what you have read before writing, particularly on a website called “The Freethinker”.

  • Matt Westwood

    That really is cowardly.

  • Matt Westwood

    That really is cowardly.