EXCLUSIVE: The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper and Dafne Keen, the breakout star of Marvel’s Logan, have signed for the big-budget adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy epic His Dark Materials. I hear that the in-demand director has just closed a deal to helm the eight-part series following lengthy negotiations, while Keen will play main character Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe. Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda is also joining as adventurer Lee Scoresby.
I understand that Hooper has been keen for some time to oversee the series, which is produced by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner’s Bad Wolf in association with New Line Cinema for BBC One, but that he has been trying to make the dates align so that he can do both this as well as the live-action adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats for Universal and Working Title.
Keen, meanwhile, is coming off the back of Logan with Hugh Jackman, where she played Laura, Wolverine’s daughter, otherwise known as X-23. She also starred in Spanish drama The Refugees, which is produced by BBC Worldwide and Atresmedia for La Sexta. Miranda’s star is also exceptionally high off the back of his hit stage musical Hamilton and Disney’s Moana. The multi-hyphenate acts in upcoming musical fantasy Mary Poppins Returns and is a producer on Lionsgate’s fantasy The Kingkiller Chronicle.
BBC One ordered the series, which is written by National Treasure and Wonder writer Jack Thorne, in 2015. Pullman’s work, which featured three books: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, is a complex tale of physics, philosophy and theology featuring witches and armored polar bears. It tells the story of the coming of age of two children, Lyra and Will, who wander through a series of parallel universes.
Bad Wolf and distributor BBC Worldwide have also been talking to a number of international broadcasters and streaming services about the project, which is thought to be one of the most expensive British dramas to date. I hear that Apple and Netflix are among the suitors for the U.S. and global rights. Endeavor Content co-reps North American rights with BBC Worldwide.
Northern Lights introduces Lyra whose search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children and turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. In the second book, The Subtle Knife, she is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds. As Lyra learns the truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny, the two young people are caught up in a war against celestial powers that ranges across many worlds and leads to a thrilling conclusion in The Amber Spyglass.
Northern Lights was previously turned into a feature titled The Golden Compass in 2007 starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. The series is set to start production in Wales soon and the producers are expected to announce casting in the coming weeks. It will be exec produced by Pullman, Tranter, Gardner, Toby Emmerich and Carolyn Blackwood for New Line; Piers Wenger and Chris Irving for BBC One and Deborah Forte for Scholastic.
Keen is represented by Independent Talent, Let’s Work Together and Rick Genow at Stone Genow, while Hooper is also represented by Independent Talent and ICM.