New Line has made the left-field choice of British director Anand Tucker to direct “The Golden Compass,” the first installment of the Philip Pullman fantasy trilogy “His Dark Materials.” Given that the pic is New Line’s most ambitious and expensive outing since “The Lord of the Rings,” the selection of Tucker is a major surprise. His debut film from 1998, the low-budget musical biopic “Hilary and Jackie,” garnered three Oscar nominations. He’s since made just one film, the yet-to-be released Steve Martin comedy “Shopgirl.” New Line was well aware of Tucker’s resume and interviewed 50 directors since Chris Weitz left the production in December, citing the daunting technical challenges of the epic. But nobody wanted the job as badly as Tucker, who won it with a presentation that included a 20-page outline, conceptual art and visual effects demos. Pullman’s trilogy is about a girl who travels to the far north to save her best friend, encountering shape-shifting creatures, witches and otherworldly characters in a parallel universe.. Tucker was hooked when he read the book almost a decade ago. He has since quietly lobbied for the directing job.