Actor Blames Church for Cancellation of Sequels to The Golden Compass

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The Catholic Church is being blamed for a decision by New Line Cinema to cancel plans to film the final two installments in the controversial His Dark Materials trilogy in spite of the success of the first film, The Golden Compass.

According to London’s Evening Standard, actor Sam Elliott, who played a leading role in the first film, pressure from the Church is what caused the production company to shelve plans for the final two installments in the series.

When asked what happened to the series, Elliot said: “The Catholic Church happened to The Golden Compass, as far as I’m concerned. It did ‘incredible’ at the box office, taking $380million. Incredible. It took $85million in the States. The Catholic Church … lambasted them, and I think it scared New Line off.”

The film’s producers were not as impressed by the movie’s box office returns, however, and questions about the fate of the final two installments were being raised three days after the movie’s release in early December, 2007.

The problem has always been the film’s offensive content.

Based on the first of three books in the series by Philip Pullman, an avowed atheist who openly admits to his desire to promote atheism to children, the stories are blatantly anti-God and anti-Catholicism.

For instance, in the first movie, heroine Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) fights an evil and powerful Magisterium that conducts heartless experiments on children. God is presented as a frail and powerless figure who is eventually destroyed in the series.

Catholic and Christian organizations were understandably incensed by the film, not only for its blatantly negative portrayal of Christianity and the Catholic Church but because it was being marketed to children.

New Line responded to these criticisms by removing most of the offensive material before the film was released. But the timing of the movie, which debuted three weeks before Christmas in 2007, was obviously being done to promote Christmas book sales for Pullman’s trilogy, which would expose children to even more of his dark ideas. Producers hoped the film would spur book sales in the U.S., which were lagging far behind those of European stores where the books were topping bestseller lists.

Just before the film opened, powerful groups such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched successful boycott campaigns. As a result, the film had a less than stellar box office return, yielding only $26.1 million in the U.S. and Canada in its first three days of release.

The studio was said to be questioning the financial viability of the next two films ever since and has apparently decided not to take the chance on producing two more flops.

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(The Evening Standard contributed to this report)

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