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LONDON — Dakota Blue Richards, the 13-year-old British actress who makes her debut in the leading role of New Line’s upcoming “The Golden Compass,” has been cast to play the central character in Gabor Csupo’s “The Secret of Moonacre.”

The $27 million project, previously announced with the title “The Moon Princess,” started shooting Monday in Budapest.

Lucy Shuttleworth and Graham Alborough penned the script based on the classic children’s novel “The Little White Horse,” by Elizabeth Goudge.

Richards plays Maria, an orphan sent to live with her uncle in mysterious Moonacre Manor. There she enters a world of magical creatures and discovers that she’s the only person who can undo an ancient curse and save Moonacre Valley.

Richards heads a cast that includes Ioan Gruffudd, Tim Curry, Natascha McElhone and Juliet Stevenson.

Pic is produced by Meredith Garlick and Monica Penders for Australia’s Forgan-Smith Entertainment and Jason Piette and Michael Cowan for the U.K.’s Spice Factory. Co-production partners are Eurofilm in Hungary and Metropolitan in France.

Production financing was brokered by Spice Factory and sales outfit Velvet Octopus, with Aramid Entertainment and the U.K. Film Council’s Premiere Fund providing the coin. Velvet Octopus has already secured pre-sales with Warner in the U.K., Metropolitan in France, RCV in Benelux, Showtime in South Korea and Quality Film in Latin America.

Development coin was provided by South Pacific Pictures, Sensible Films and the Australian Film Commission.