|It's been a while since we last reported on the status of the His Dark Materials films. You may remember that this fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman has been set for the screen for some time, but after director Chris Weitz bowed out at the end of last year (see here), things seemed to stop deader than a particularly lifeless doornail. Well, it looks like the project may get back off the ground with the news that Anand Tucker is in talks to direct the first instalment, Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass, as it's known across the pond).|
"Who is this Anand Tucker?" we hear you cry. Well, Tucker is the British director behind the really rather good Hilary and Jackie, way back in 1998, and the upcoming Shopgirl with the intriguing pairing of Steve Martin and Claire Danes, which is due out here on December 9. He was also a producer on Girl With A Pearl Earring, and was previously a successful documentary maker.
According to the press release by the studio, New Line, Tucker beat more than fifty interested filmmakers to get to this stage (he's still in talks), but the studio were impressed by his pitch, which included conceptual art, special effects demos and a 20-page director's manifesto. Even more encouragingly, Philip Pullman himself is on record as saying, "I warmly welcome Anand Tucker as director of the first 'His Dark Materials' film," says Pullman. "He respects the integrity of the narrative and his ideas are exciting and well thought out."
The story follows a young girl called Lyra, her daemon familiar (basically a walking soul) called Pantalaimon and a quest to the North Pole to save her best friend. Along the way are treacherous parents, armoured polar bears, witches and a hole between realities. The following two books take Lyra and her companions to Heaven and Hades and war between the two – so think more Lord of the Rings than Harry Potter.
It's a monumental story, and we're looking forward to seeing it onscreen. So is Tucker right for the job? Well, we hope so. Hilary and Jackie certainly showed that he can draw out brilliant performances from his actors, and there's a buzz around Shopgirl. However, Weitz decided that he wasn't right for the job after seeing the sheer scale of the effects he'd have to tackle – and Anand hasn't worked with effects on a grand scale before either. Let's hope that he doesn't get scared off by a few armoured bears and shape-shifting familiars.