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New Line Cinema has given an official greenlight to The Golden Compass, the first part in a fantasy novel trilogy.

The three novels that make up the His Dark Materials series, were written by fantasy fiction author Philip Pullman. The books include: Northern Lights (released as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

The story follows the coming of age of Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they "wander through a multiverse and a backdrop of epic events." The books were marketed to children, but it has garnered a large adult readership. The story features fantasy elements such as gypsies, witches, and armoured bears.

The Golden Compass will be the most ambitious film that New Line has undertaken since The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Chris Weitz will direct the $150 million-budgeted film which is scheduled to begin shooting September 4th in the UK. Weitz was a writer on Antz, and wrote and directed About a Boy and American Pie (uncredited alongside his brother Paul).

Newcomer Dakota Blue Richards has been cast in the lead role of Lyra Belacqua after an extensive casting search throughout England.

According to England's Daily Mail, Nicole Kidman has been offered the key part of Mrs. Coulter, who is a scientist, socialite, and conspirator. Kidman has not yet accepted the part.