The Golden Compass Director Answers Fan Questions

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Chris Weitz. director of The Golden Compass, was kind enough to answer a handful of fan questions sent in to MTV's Movie Blog.

Here's a sample:

Q: Some changes were made in the adapting process â€" taking out talk of religion, original sin, beating death, etc. â€" to avoid controversy. And yet, some religious groups are still upset. If you can't please everybody either way, if it's not possible to avoid controversy by taking religion out, do you feel more or less emboldened to put it back in the rest of the films?

A: It's very important that people understand that nobody just hands you a couple hundred million dollars and says "Go ahead, knock yourself out!" What you have is a dynamic â€" you could call it a debate â€" between me, the filmmaker, and them, the studio â€" that, one hopes, results in a good film. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.

The Golden Compass Movie Poster

It is my job to fight, by hook or by crook, for the best adaptation of the book possible. It is their job to get the movie to pay back its investors. Even Peter Jackson had to deal with this dynamic, which is why there were shorter theater releases and longer DVD releases of the LOTR movies. But also consider that there was practically nothing that might be deemed controversial in LOTR (other than what you might consider some reflexive racism on Tolkien's part).

So, how does one go about adapting a book that has controversial elements into a film that a very wide variety of people can enjoy, without betraying the original? One tries to be clever about it. I realized that the overt stating of some of the themes in "The Northern Lights"/"The Golden Compass" would never â€" this is important to make clear â€" never EVER get across the goal line. There isn't a wide enough audience for that â€" yet.

If I wanted to popularize this series of extraordinary books and open them to a wider reading public than ever before, I was going to have to make some compromises. But I also knew that as a filmmaker one has more means of expression than dialogue, and that dialogue is a more subtle business than characters saying exactly what the characters say in the book.

Sometimes I transpose elements - for instance, the biblical ideas that Asriel addresses towards the end of the book are voiced in a different context (and at shorter length) by Mrs. Coulter at Bolvangar in the film. Sometimes I turn textual or narrative arguments into visual ideas.

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The Golden Compass Quotes

Ragnar Sturlusson: Is that all?
[hits Iorek]
Ragnar Sturlusson: Is that all? IS THAT AAAALL?
[Iorek swings at him and breaks his lower jaw off, then bites him in the throat, killing him]
Iorek Byrnison: Yes, that is all.

Lyra Belacqua: [upon receiving the alethiometer] What is this?
Master: It's an alethiometer. It tells the truth. You are meant to have it. You keep the alethiometer to yourself, it's of the utmost importance to yourself, to all of us, and perhaps to all creation.