Good news, Pullman fans! The cult fantasy book series His Dark Materials is coming to the screen – and it looks very promising! Many fans were unimpressed with the film adaptation which starred Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman but the BBC have stepped in to make a worthy adaptation of the much beloved book series.
So, what do we know so far?
As this is the first series, it makes sense for the show to cover Northern Lights which is the first book in the trilogy. There is a second series that has been confirmed which will cover the events of The Subtle Knife but the third series has yet to be confirmed. If it were to take place, however, then it would cover the events of The Amber Spyglass. The screenplay was written by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and the director is Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). Phillip Pullman himself has said that he is excited to see how his work looks on screen. Jane Tranter is the executive producer and has assured fans that they will be happy with the adaptation that they will be receiving. She called the original books ‘glorious works of literature’ and asked why they would want to mess with them. She continued, “Philip Pullman leaves these little threads in his work, where there is a hint at someone’s back story, or a hint at what someone might be doing when something else is happening. We can pull at these threads and make a little more of them.”
She also said that it was the most challenging piece of work of her career. Even though exact figures haven’t been released, it’s also one of the most expensive pieces of television that the BBC and HBO have seen for a long time – so hopefully, it is worth it!
Joining the production crew are our stars. James McAvoy (Split) is taking on the role of Lord Asriel who will star alongside Ruth Wilson (The Affair) who will play the dangerous and enigmatic Mrs Coulter. But who will be taking on the role of Lyra? Dafne Keen, who previously wowed audiences in her performance in Logan will be playing the orphan who undergoes a terrific adventure. Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders) will be playing Lord Asriel’s daemon Stelmaria. Meanwhile, Andrew Scott (Sherlock) will be playing explorer Jopari in the second series which is now in production.
Hamilton fans are overjoyed to see that Lin-Manuel Miranda will also be joining the His Dark Materials cast, adding to his repertoire of performances in Mary Poppins Returns and In The Heights by portraying the balloonist Lee Scoresby. He said that he has been a fan of the books since 2005 when he discovered them for the first time and explained how much fun he had on set during production. While it will look to us as if he was in a hot air balloon the entire time, Lin-Manuel spent a majority of his time in the studio working with a green screen and the rough frame of a hot air balloon. This didn’t stop him, however, as he said that he didn’t think twice when he was approached for the part and that every day on the set was a ‘new adventure’. He continued in the on-set interview, “Today I’m swinging in the hot air balloon, tomorrow I’m having a bar fight, tussling with stuntmen all day.”
Other stars include Clarke Peters (The Wire), Anne-Marie Duff and Georgina Campbell from Black Mirror, Will Keen (The Crown) and James Cosmo (Game of Thrones). Others include Lucien Msamati as John Faa, Geoff Bell as Jack Verhoeven, Mat Fraser as Raymond Van Geritt, Archie Barnes as Daemon Pantalaimon, Daniel Frogson as Tony Costa and Lewin Lloyd as Roger Parslow, Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina Pekkala and Simon Manyonda as Benjamin de Ruyter.
But what is His Dark Materials about?
For those of you who haven’t read the books then the popular trilogy began in Oxford in a parallel universe that exists in a pre-industrial state where people are constantly accompanied by creatures called daemons. The daemons are animal manifestations of their own souls which constantly change shape while the character is a child until it finds its true form. For example, Lord Asriel’s daemon is a snow leopard and Marisa Coulter’s is a golden monkey. Lyra has a daemon called Pantalaimon and the pair of them live in Oxford. She was left at Oxford by her uncle, Lord Asriel so that she could be raised by the scholars there and the Master. She has a happy life and causes mischief for the scholars while playing with her friends.
However, everything changes when the mysterious Mrs Coulter offers Lyra the chance to live with her.
Jack Thorne said of the books that they were the ‘most beautiful set of books’ that transport audiences into a world of imagination that can bring forth escapism from the world we know now. He also revealed that he was a massive fan of the series and that this has only been amplified when he was given the task of adapting them. He continued, “It’s the constant invention, the way the story never sits still and that the characters constantly surprise you.” Similarly to the rest of the cast and crew, he said what a delight it has been for him to work on this production and praised Hooper’s analytic mind and ‘amazing’ eye, Joel’s ability to build a beautiful world and how lucky they were for a ‘dream cast’. The mix of newcomers to the screen and some fan-favourites shows an eclectic mix of a cast which will bring strong performances to the table.
The air date has been confirmed by the BBC as the 3rd of November and will be available internationally on HBO on the 4th November. There are eight episodes in total which will air for the rest of the year until mid-December. It finished filming in Cardiff and Oxford at the end of last year.
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