Don’t worry: this isn’t an introduction to string theory, but rather an introduction to the world of The Golden Compass. Director Chris Weitz brings Philip Pullman’s first installment of His Dark Materials trilogy to life in this epic fantasy, starring newcomer Dakota Blue Richards, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Sam Elliott.
A young girl, Lyra, is entrusted with the magical alethiometer (golden compass) that only she can decipher. This device tells the truth, which Lyra uses to help her young friends after they are kidnapped, and to evade the enemies determined to get their hands on it for using its power to rule the world.
“It ended up being a $250 million movie and at the middle of it, there’s a young girl that has never worked on a film before who they cast out of 10,000 people, and this kid just blew me away, in every way,” Sam Elliott remarks about the film and its lead actress. “Dakota worked harder than anybody. She worked in more scenes than anybody. She had to go to school when she wasn’t working. She never complained. She was always there in a totally professional manner, and the camera loves her!”
Elliott plays the role of Lee Scoresby, a man who encounters Lyra on her journey and offers his assistance.
“I was a little reluctant in the beginning,” explains Elliott, “but Chris sent me a letter right away, and he referred to Scoresby as the classic, iconic, laconic American cowboy.”
Elliott has nothing but praise for director Weitz.
“Chris is a very smart guy, number one. I think his adaptation is the thing that really got me because I hadn’t read Pullman’s books before. I got into them right away, but Chris’ screenplay was enough to get me interested. Although it was a small role, it was an incredible piece, and the part was good enough.”
The film is set to be a major holiday blockbuster, the result of which will determine whether the rest of the trilogy will be made.
“This was the first time ever making a movie that I realized that movies made nowadays are commenced based on a profit and loss statement,” Weitz comments. “It’s just the facts of the matter because it’s become this industrial process to make one of these films.”
Fans looking forward to the complete trilogy will have to wait for the box office results, including Elliot, who’s looking forward to the next film.
“The second book is really good to Scoresby. I hope we get lucky enough to make it.”
When discussing a scene in the second book, Elliott admits, “I was weeping when I read this scene … that’s the stuff, that’s what you really get passionate about in this game.”
The film has received some early criticism about being anti-religious.
On this issue, Weitz is very clear, “It’s a shame that people have misread the books either purposely or not. It’s ironic that most of these people haven’t seen the film, especially since one of the messages of the film is to not simply believe what people tell you just because they’re figures in authority. I think that His Dark Materials isn’t an anti-religious or anti-catholic story. I think that Philip Pullman has problems with the abuse of religion and the abuse of God for political gain.”
Weitz adds, “It’s a shame too that the Internet provides a weird way of communicability to second-hand information so that people who have never read the books are suddenly worried about a film which essentially is about trusting a child’s inner sense of goodness and justice, about loyalty, about courage and about freedom of thought as well. People should be free to judge the movie and the book for themselves.”
The Golden Compass is currently in theaters.