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The Golden Compass!

05.29.2007
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When venturing back into a fantasy world, New Line followed their instincts to replicate a precedent set by their successful launch of the first THE LORD OF THE RINGS installment back in 2001. The studio went "all out" with the intention of launching their newest multi million-dollar epic production. Nothing was spared at the Cannes Film Festival in the hopes of creating their next great trilogy.

Journalists were invited for a special preview of striking footage from New Line’s highly anticipated adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s first book of his best-selling trilogy "His Dark Materials". Our chosen destination was the quaint Cinema Olympia where notable screenwriter-director Chris Weitz (AMERICAN PIE and ABOUT A BOY) hopped on stage to give is a brief introduction before unveiling a spectacular ten-minute montage of THE GOLDEN COMPASS (opening wide on December 7th).

For those unacquainted with the story, THE GOLDEN COMPASS is a sensational, psychological and philosophical adventure set in an enigmatic parallel universe where people’s souls live outside of their body in the form of a daemon or animal, talking polar bears fight wars and children mysteriously disappear. Staying true to the visionary world created by Pullman, Weitz’s script revolves around a curious, young girl named Lyra who embarks on an adventurous journey in pursuit of rescuing her missing friend Roger. Her expedition originates in Oxford, London and takes her to the arctic north during which she makes a frightening discovery. Inadvertently, the revelation compels Lyra to ensue a fascinating and complex quest to save her own world, as well as ours.

Handpicked by creative director Weitz during an open casting call, talented newcomer Dakota Blue Richards was ideally chosen to embody the capricious role of Lyra. The star powered epic production also cast Nicole Kidman as the glamorous ice queen Mrs. Coulter, 007 agent Daniel Craig as the ruthless and secretive adventurer Lord Asriel, Bond alum Eva Green as a flying witch, and Sam Elliot as the aeronaut cowboy Lee Scoresby.

I was one of the many lucky reporters who viewed an earlier sneak peak back in January when invited to visit the set of The Golden Compass. Although the footage was raw and incomplete with minimal effects at the time, it was evident even in its early stages, that this creation was the making of something extraordinary. Having previewed the newest, edited footage in Cannes, I can attest that the breathtaking CG effects have surpassed my expectations and left me in awe.

The footage consisted of several extended scenes combined in an illustrious and vivid montage, which almost appeared to be a very long, enticing trailer. The sneak peak also included finished and digitally enhanced scenes previously shown at the set visit. It was amazing to compare and witness the CG edited version, which took imagination to a whole new level. Clearly, the $180 million invested digital fantasy intends on proving and exceeding its worth.

We were shown several scenes of Lyra being scolded by Lord Asriel, reprimanded by Ms. Coulter, interacting with her daemon, playing with Roger on the rooftop of Oxford’s Jordan College, saving armored bear Iorek’s life, and venturing from one world to another in search of a dear friend. In addition to her natural interaction with prominent co-stars, every scene reflected that Richards was the perfect embodiment of Lyra. It undoubtedly confirmed her innate talent and competence to successfully carry the film.

The daemons, bears and vast landscapes were stunning.  It was overwhelming to see Lyra riding on Iorek’s back through the vast, snow covered Swiss glaciers disguised as the Arctic north.  Some other brilliant CG enhanced scenes included the large sky ferry (zeppelin), flying witches, Mrs. Coulter’s fabulous mansion, shots of the Magistrate building and the ship brawl interjected with the appearance of Lee (Sam Elliot) in an attempt to help Lyra rescue Iorek.

If playing Bond wasn’t an affirmation of Craig’s talent and versatility, then wait until you see his performance as a callous scientist. Trading in his sleek Armani suits for a 1920’s Edwardian look, he sports a rough facial beard and resonates a tough charm that is intimidating and mesmerizing. He is the quintessential bad guy.

Nicole Kidman was born to play the part of Mrs. Coulter, which she was chosen for from the very beginning. She epitomizes the role of an elegant, vindictive government agent. Adorning a blonde bob, she looks unspeakably gorgeous and sophisticated in every scene she graces. Her captivating and commanding performance emanates a powerful combination of a manipulative charmer and relentless seductress.

The jaw dropping teaser ended with an exciting, in your face bear body slam which was an indication of what to expect from this grand, spectacular production slated for release December 7, 2007.  Fulfilling its intentions, the launch whet my appetite and left me hungering for more visual stimulation.

I was delighted to be invited to a follow up, intimate luncheon hosted at the Martinez Beach club overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with producer Deborah Forte, director Chris Weitz, Sam Elliot and Dakota Blue Richards. I chatted with the GC gang over a delicious lunch while discovering the following tidbits:

  • “Stunned by the imagination, daring and intelligence of the books” Weitz became dedicated in every aspect possible to pen and direct the film

  • It took about three years to bring Weitz’s vision of the film to life

  • Producer Deborah Forte embarked on THE GOLDEN COMPASS journey almost eleven years ago

  • Elliot proclaimed that GC was by far the most exciting CGI film he has been involved in

  • Elliot focused on strategically placed dots on the wall in order to shoot in front of the green screen

  • Richards was in every scene of the film aside from two which required her to shoot for 98 out of the 100 days

  • Richards most enjoyed the fighting scenes although she was disappointed when she didn’t shoot the scene where she falls out of the boat in order to avoid any potential accidents

  • Craig did most of his own stunts especially in the Swiss glaciers

  • Although beautiful, it was extremely dangerous on the snowy glaciers which reflected a blinding sunlight, prohibiting the cast from flying out of location

  • One of the stuntmen had an bad accident while filming on the glaciers

  • Weitz felt nervous about the reaction to the preview screening because it was proof of the film’s development and reassurance for the producers and studio

  • There were great expectations of the film and the sneak peak allowed Weitz to exhale with a sigh of relief

  • If the first installment is a success, Weitz will probably go on to direct the following sequels

Forte, Weitz and Elliot were equally personable, grounded and sweet. I was especially drawn to Weitz’s genuine aura and sensitivity. Expecting his first child within the week, he was excited and nervous to make it back home in time for the delivery. Not that I can blame Richards, the young and brave star of GC seemed a little overwhelmed as she made a champion effort to keep up with all the publicity. At her age, I’d rather be hanging on the beach with friends than have to sit around with adults and engage in movie talk. Overall, it was a very gratifying afternoon spent with a couple of GC’s friendly cast members, creators and New Line reps at a beach restaurant with an illustrious, dreamy background.

An extremely pleasing preview and luncheon could only be surpassed with a fierce party to celebrate and toast a successful marketing campaign of a much-anticipated film. Once again, New Line pulled out all the stops by orchestrating one of the most extravagant parties I have ever attended. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of New Line and the launch of THE GOLDEN COMPASS, the festivities were set in the magnificent garden of the Rothschild mansion just outside of central Cannes. We were shuttled to and from a surreal party to get a taste of what the finer lives of the rich and famous had to offer. The garden was decorated with a red carpet entrance, a gigantic dance floor, several bars and seafood stations, bear ice sculptures, a digital photo station with CG effects and oversized balloons displaying THE GOLDEN COMPASS in interchanging colors and languages.

Aside from Nicole Kidman who was shooting a film down under, the cast and crew of CG were present along with the cast of "Entourage", Brett Ratner and many more. It was a pure adrenaline rush to mingle with stars at a banging celeb soiree in one of the most captivating cities in the world. I am grateful to have had this experience and thank New Line for a truly magical and memorable evening in Cannes.

Click to check out the film's official site

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Source: JoBlo.com

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1:45AM on 05/30/2007

Questions:

I've only just finished the first novel, but (and I may well be wrong) since they didn't film all three movies back-to-back, won't this Dakota Blue Richards girl be too old for the part by the time they film even the second novel? (Which was why the Lemony Snicket novellas should've been done as an HBO mini-series or something...but that movie crashed anyway, so I guess it's a moot point.)

Or, like Harry Potter, does Lyra (and, reading the novel, I'd assumed that the "lyr" was pronouned as
I've only just finished the first novel, but (and I may well be wrong) since they didn't film all three movies back-to-back, won't this Dakota Blue Richards girl be too old for the part by the time they film even the second novel? (Which was why the Lemony Snicket novellas should've been done as an HBO mini-series or something...but that movie crashed anyway, so I guess it's a moot point.)

Or, like Harry Potter, does Lyra (and, reading the novel, I'd assumed that the "lyr" was pronouned as it is in "lyric"...but apparently it's not) age some between each novel?
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7:42AM on 05/29/2007
Dark Materials is one of my fav books of all time and probably the most controversial books I have read. Church is portrayed as evil and children's daemon or soul can change shape while adults can't because of children's free will and imagination. I'm sure some of the parts were edited out. Can't wait to see this on big screen though.
Dark Materials is one of my fav books of all time and probably the most controversial books I have read. Church is portrayed as evil and children's daemon or soul can change shape while adults can't because of children's free will and imagination. I'm sure some of the parts were edited out. Can't wait to see this on big screen though.
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4:44AM on 05/29/2007
mmmm Jack Daniels.
mmmm Jack Daniels.
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