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BBC Greenlights TV Series Based on Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’

In 2007, New Line Cinema produced the film 'The Golden Compass,' which was based on 'Northern Lights'

LONDON — The BBC’s flagship channel, BBC One, has commissioned an initial eight-part series based on Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy novel in three parts, “His Dark Materials,” from Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema, which will be produced in Wales.

“His Dark Materials” has been published in more than 40 languages, and has sold worldwide close to 17.5 million copies.

The first part of the trilogy, “Northern Lights,” introduces Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. Lyra’s search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children and turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust.

In “The Subtle Knife,” she is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds. As Lyra learns the truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny, the two young people are caught up in a war against celestial powers that ranges across many worlds, and leads to a thrilling conclusion in “The Amber Spyglass.”

“His Dark Materials” is the first commission from Bad Wolf, a U.K./U.S. production company founded by former BBC executives Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, and co-sited in South Wales and Los Angeles. Bad Wolf just partnered with HBO in the U.S. for a non-exclusive first-look deal, as Variety exclusively reported. The show is New Line’s first move into British television. The series will be executive produced by Pullman, Tranter and Gardner for Bad Wolf, Toby Emmerich and Carolyn Blackwood for New Line Cinema, and Deborah Forte for Scholastic.

Pullman said: “It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media. It’s been a radio play, a stage play, a film, an audiobook, a graphic novel — and now comes this version for television.”

He added: “In recent years we’ve seen how long stories on television, whether adaptations (‘Game of Thrones’) or original (‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire’), can reach depths of characterization and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel. And the sheer talent now working in the world of long-form television is formidable.

“For all those reasons I’m delighted at the prospect of a television version of ‘His Dark Materials.’ I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none. As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”

Tranter said: “It is an honor and a joy to be part of the team responsible for bringing Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels ‘His Dark Materials’ to the BBC. Ever since they were first published these books have been a huge influence on so much of my thinking and imagination, and it is enormously inspiring to be now working on them for television adaptation. The broad horizons of television suggests itself as the best of vehicles to capture the expansiveness of the story and worlds of Lyra and Will, and I am looking forward to seeing how ‘Northern Lights,’ ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass’ will occupy their place in an audience’s imagination across many episodes and seasons.”

Since first publication in 1995 of “Northern Lights,” the three books have been acclaimed worldwide and have won many awards. In 2001 “The Amber Spyglass” was the first and only children’s book to win the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award, in 2007 “Northern Lights” won the Carnegie of Carnegies, and in 2005 Pullman was awarded by the Swedish Arts Council, the children’s literature equivalent of the Nobel Prize, The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Previous adaptations of the novels include Nicholas Hytner’s stage production of the trilogy, which was produced in two parts at the National Theatre in 2003-4. In 2007, New Line Cinema released the film “The Golden Compass,” which was based on “Northern Lights.” It starred Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra.

Polly Hill, controller BBC drama commissioning, said: “It is an honor to be bringing Philip Pullman’s extraordinary novels to BBC One. ‘His Dark Materials’ is a stunning trilogy, and a drama event for young and old — a real family treat, that shows our commitment to original and ambitious storytelling.”

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