Audiences desperate to see BBC's His Dark Materials TV show have a big reason to smile this week - casting is complete and production is finally underway. Nearly three years have passed since BBC announced they'd partnered with Bad Wolf Productions to adapt Philip Pullman's popular trilogy into a television series. But in February, Bad Wolf wrapped A Discovery of Witches and tweeted their plans to get started on His Dark Materials. Since then, it's been a steady stream of great news regarding casting and production.
The story follows the precocious Lyra Belacqua as she finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy that eventually leads her to alternate universes. Along the way, she meets myriad dynamic characters of wildly varying degrees of morality. In March of this year BBC announced Logan's Dafne Keen would play Lyra, Lin-Manuel Miranda would play good-natured adventurer Lee Scoresby and Oscar-winner Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) would direct. June saw the addition of James McAvoy as Lyra's enigmatic Uncle Asriel and Clark Peters as Lyra's fatherly caretaker Dr. Carne.
The only major characters yet to be cast were Lyra's friend Will and her nemesis Marisa Coulter. There's yet to be any word on Will, which makes sense since he doesn't appear until the second novel so probably won't turn up for some time on the show. But today Variety reported that Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) would play the woman who oversees the kidnapping of Lyra's best friend and sets the girl on her journey at the beginning of the story. Variety also confirmed that principle photography had begun in Cardiff, Wales.
By all accounts, the series has every reason to be a runaway success. It's bursting with high-caliber talent, both in front of and behind the camera, and that's necessary when dealing with such beloved and dense source material. Pullman's trilogy is aimed at a YA audience, but it's loosely based on Milton's Paradise Lost and deals with fairly advanced religious themes surrounding the nature of reality and spirituality. Warner Brothers famously tried to adapt the series into its next big fantasy juggernaut after Lord of the Rings concluded and they just as famously failed. Despite starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman as Asriel and Coulter, the film flopped at the box office and subsequent sequels were canceled.
One of the reasons the movie failed was its inability to squeeze Pullman's incredibly complex work into a feature length film. The BBC has a much better shot at success with a series format that can take its time exploring Lyra's world and its inhabitants. As of yet, there's no premiere date for the series, but its conceivable we could see something as early as 2019. That said, the series is ridiculously special effect heavy, so it could very well be later than that. Either way, given their track record, it's safe to say Bad Wolf will do whatever's in the best interest of the project.
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