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Producer Deborah Forte Talks About "The Golden Compass"

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Producer Deborah Forte Talks About

Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards in "The Golden Compass."

© New Line Cinema

Producer Deborah Forte welcomed members of the online media onto the London set of New Line Cinema’s The Golden Compass, an epic tale based on the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Showing off the film’s set, it’s very obvious Forte, New Line Cinema, and everyone involved in the production are excited about bringing Pullman’s impressive fantasy to the big screen.

Deborah Forte on the Appeal of The Golden Compass: “This project for me started almost 11 years ago when I read the manuscript for The Northern Light, which is the name of The Golden Compass in the U.K. When I read the manuscript for the book, I thought to myself, 'Who is this extraordinary writer?' I had never read Philip [Pullman’s] work before. And wherever he's going, I want to go with him. It struck me that this material was singularly visual, emotional and cinematic. I called him about making a film and he said, 'Okay, I think it's a good idea. Even though films never get made from books that are options, let's see what happens.' It took a very long time. It's 10 years later now and it's been a really interesting journey."

The Process of Bringing The Golden Compass to the Big Screen: "When this began and we got a wonderful script from Chris [Weitz], it was clear that we had pretty big aspirations in terms of the cast for this movie,” explained Forte. “And when Philip and I sat down to talk about the film 10 years ago, we both said that our first pick for Mrs. Coulter would be Nicole Kidman. We had our little dream cast lunch session that all producers have and very rarely are able to realize. And many years later, we do have Nicole Kidman. We have Daniel Craig. We have a fabulous cast, Tom Courtenay and Jim Carter. It just goes on and on with wonderful actors, Simon McBurney, who populate this story and who are authentic.”

Finding the Right Young Actress to Play Lyra: The Golden Compass won’t work if Lyra isn’t exactly right and Forte’s proud of the fact they found Dakota Blue Richards to play the crucial role. “She is both an uncommonly good actress and personified a lot of characteristics of Lyra as a person. It's one of those really wonderful moments when we asked New Line if they would allow us to move forward with an open casting call for this film, which is sort of weird on a very big movie to cast an unknown, and they said, 'Yes, let's see who you can find.' We did three open call sites. The first one was Cambridge and Cambridge actually turned out the most promising candidates, even though many of these girls traveled the farthest. In retrospect it makes sense because the kids who were most passionate about the material were willing to travel any distance to try to audition for this part. And Dakota Blue Richards was among the first group.”

Forte added, “Just by way of an anecdote, I keep in close contact with Philip and he kept calling me to ask me how it was going and if we had seen any promising candidates. I said to the casting agent, 'Just send him the DVD with the 40 kids that we selected because it's going to take weeks to go through them. We have two other locations, so we'll keep him busy for a while.' And he called me 48 hours later and said, 'It's one of two girls.' And one of them was Dakota. So it was just interesting that everyone saw Dakota and felt the same way. He went through another month long exercise to make sure that he looked at everyone and turned over every stone, but he knew all along that he wanted Dakota. And we're very, very, very proud of her and the way that she has been part of this film. She's a very, very important part of this film."

The Visual Style of The Golden Compass: “Every one of the people you're going to hear from and talk to had a certain approach to this which is guided by Philip's approach, which is to take something that is real and relatable and familiar. This is not a world with huge gargoyled monsters or magic. There's no real magic in this world. It's a real world but there's a twist - some sort of main twist - and I think that's the brilliance of what people here have created. They've created a world that to the audience is going to be [authentic]. It's going to be relatable and familiar at first glance. And then you're going to notice things, just the way you do when you read the books. ‘Hey, this isn't the Oxford I know right now. What is this?’ But it's Oxford. I think that that is a really big distinguishing characteristic that's involved with the material we're adapting and our approach to adapting the material."

Not much changed from the original design of the film to what was actually shot on the set. “It is very rare that a film of this scope and size and duration to have the initial concept art, which was created a very long time ago, actually be the template for almost every shot in the movie. I must say what Dennis [Gassner, production designer] and his team created with Chris [Weitz] is all here. We have not strayed very far from any of these images so it's just a wonderful visual photograph for the film.”

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New Line Cinema's The Golden Compass hits theaters on December 7, 2007.

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