Changing direction

New Line 'Compass' points back to Weitz

New Line has handed “The Golden Compass” back to Chris Weitz, who’s replacing Brit helmer Anand Tucker as director.

Weitz, who penned the script, was originally attached to direct the first installment of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy before stepping down in late 2004 due to the daunting technical challenges. He’s changed his mind now that the fantasy-adventure has started to take shape.

New Line said Tucker (“Shopgirl”) has left the film due to “differences in creative direction.” Mini-major’s still planning to begin production this fall in the U.K. and release “The Golden Compass” in November 2007.

New Line’s most ambitious project since “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy centers on Lyra, a girl who travels to the far north to save her best friend, encountering armored bears, witches and other fantastical characters along the way.

“Though I’m disappointed that New Line and Anand didn’t end up seeing eye to eye, when I was told the job of directing ‘The Golden Compass’ was open, there was just no way that I could pass it up,” Weitz said. “I feel very confident in the creativity and expertise of the technical crew that is assembling to take on this challenge.”

Scholastic Entertainment, which published Pullman’s trilogy in the U.K., and Weitz’s Depth of Field are producing. Sibling Paul Weitz and Andrew Miano exec produce.

Pullman noted Chris Weitz has an extensive background in English literature. Weitz holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English lit from Cambridge U.

New Line production topper Toby Emmerich, who made the announcement Friday, said, “Chris absolutely overdelivered on the script.”

The mini-major interviewed 50 directors before surprisingly opting for Tucker last summer.

Should “Compass” work well, New Line may shoot the second and third installments, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass,” back-to-back.

The Weitz brothers were co-writers on “Antz,” “Nutty Professor II” and “About a Boy,” which Chris Weitz directed.

His “Compass” directing assignment means producer Michael De Luca will be seeking a new writer to replace him in penning “The Game,” the bigscreen adaptation of Neil Strauss’ book about pickup artists, for Columbia.

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