Weitz is New Line’s ‘Dark’ dude

Half of brother duo helming first of fantasy trilogy

New Line Cinema has tapped Chris Weitz to direct “His Dark Materials,” the Tom Stoppard-scripted adaptation of the award-winning fantasy book series by Philip Pullman.

Weitz is in talks to take a pass at the Stoppard script and direct “The Golden Compass,” the first of the three-book series.

Neither the studio nor Weitz’s reps would comment because the deal is still being negotiated.

The trilogy revolves around two kids in parallel universes who engage in life and death struggles alongside shape-shifting creatures, witches, armored polar bears and otherworldly f/x characters.

Led by production prexy Toby Emmerich, New Line has flirted with several directors with event film experience. Insiders said Weitz wanted the assignment bad enough that he wrote a long dissertation on exactly how he envisioned the trilogy translating to the bigscreen, and that Pullman, Stoppard and studio brass liked what they saw.

Weitz has always previously co-directed films with brother Paul, graduating from the bawdy “American Pie” to the more sophisticated comedies “About a Boy” and “Down to Earth.”

Giving an f/x franchise to a director whose signature special effects shot so far involved a horny kid and a defiled apple pie isn’t unprecedented: Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne famously rolled the dice with three “LOTR” films, even though director Peter Jackson was coming off the flop “The Frighteners.”

Stoppard has already completed a strong script for the first film. Though Pullman followed up “The Golden Compass” with “The Subtle Compass” and “The Amber Spyglass,” it is unclear whether New Line will make two or three films. Though the final installment became the first kid book to capture Britain’s prestigious Whitbread Prize, it is considered a tough screen translation, and the studio might make two films that combine elements of all three books, sources said.

Depth of Field, the shingle run by the Weitz siblings, will likely be involved. While Paul Weitz is currently directing his first solo comedy under that banner with the Dennis Quaid starrer “Synergy,” sources close to the duo said the sibs intend to direct films together, for the most part.

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