His Dark Materials is not an attack on the church, executive producer says

By Keiran Southern, PA in San Diego

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials novels are not an attack on the church, the executive producer of the upcoming TV adaptation has said.

The BBC has teamed up with US network HBO to bring the trilogy of books to the small-screen for a star-studded series featuring Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ruth Wilson.

Sir Philip’s trilogy – consisting of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass – were controversial upon release due to their strong criticism of organised religion.

Speaking at a panel at popular culture convention Comic-Con in San Diego, Jane Tranter, the executive producer of His Dark Materials, said critics who had not read the books had made “assumptions” about their content.

She said there needs to be “some facts on the table” in the debate around the series and religion.

Sir Philip was not attacking a particular religion, Tranter said, rather a “form of control” and “deliberate attempts to control information and not allowing people to be free”.

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is starring in the BBC’s adaptation of His Dark Materials (Matt Crossick/PA)

“It doesn’t equate to any particular form of religion in our world and we should be clear on that”, she added.

Earlier, Miranda told the audience inside the famous Hall H at San Diego Convention Centre it was easy to say “yes” to starring in the series.

The Hamilton creator will play adventurer Lee Scoresby.

Miranda revealed he was working on Mary Poppins Returns in London when  Tranter and series writer Jack Thorne offered him the part.

Miranda said: “They said ‘His Dark Materials’ and I said ‘yes’. I didn’t even know what the part was, I would have sharpened pencils for this.”

He said he is a huge fan of the books and read them with his wife when they started dating. “They have a really special place in my heart”, Miranda added.

James McAvoy is among the stars of the TV adaptation of His Dark Materials (Ian West/PA)

British-Spanish actress Keen, 14, takes a starring role as the silver-tongued young girl Lyra, while McAvoy plays her uncle, Lord Asriel. Wilson stars as the evil Mrs Coulter.

His Dark Materials takes place in a fantasy world where human souls take the form of animals, called Deamons in the books.

The Golden Compass was adapted for film in 2007 starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman but was panned by critics.

Asked why she wanted to adapt His Dark Materials for TV, Tranter said: “I like a challenge. I thought it was time for the books to be liberated in a space which could do them justice.”

Tranter, who was behind the BBC’s hugely successful revival of Doctor Who, said the many adaptations of His Dark Materials “have been brilliant in their own ways”, but the “real estate of television” has changed.

“I just felt it was time”, Tranter added.

His Dark Materials will be released in late 2019. Comic-Con is now in its 50th year and was established in San Diego.

It is one of the biggest dates in the entertainment industry diary and regularly hosts major reveals from Hollywood studios.