‘Compass’ points to tyke

Magnetic tyro cast in New Line fantasy

New Line has tapped 12-year-old newcomer Dakota Blue Richards as the lead in “The Golden Compass,” its high-profile adaptation of the first book in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” fantasy trilogy.

Richards was chosen for the Lyra Belacqua part from among more than 10,000 girls during the U.K. casting search.Production starts Sept. 4 in the U.K. under helmer Chris Weitz.

New Line has staked out a release date of Nov. 16, 2007 for the $150 million pic. Story centers on a girl’s travels to save her best friend and her encounters with armored bears, witches and other fantastical creatures.

Weitz, who also penned the script, was originally set as the director for “Compass” but stepped down in 2004 due to the technical challenges and was replaced by Anand Tucker. But Tucker ankled last month due to creative differences and Weitz came back aboard as the project began to take shape.

“Compass” is produced by Deborah Forte of Scholastic Entertainment and Weitz’s Depth of Field. Bill Carraro will also produce, with Paul Weitz and Andrew Miano exec producing.

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