THE Catholic Church has been accused of scaring Hollywood producers into shelving the remaining two films in Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials.
The American actor Sam Elliott says executives at New Line Cinema halted plans for The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, despite the ”incredible” commercial success of the first in the trilogy, The Golden Compass.
The film, starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Eva Green, grossed more than $US360 million ($400 million) worldwide after its Christmas 2007 release. But after a campaign by factions of the church in the US, it took a modest $US85 million there. Bill Donohoe, of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, led the attack, calling on parents to boycott the film, saying it would prompt children to buy Pullman’s novels, which he described as ”atheism for kids”.
In the trilogy, a young heroine called Lyra battles a manipulative organisation called the Magisterium, which many have interpreted as being based on the Catholic Church.
The message in The Golden Compass was toned down compared with that in the book, published as Northern Lights in Australia, to appease the American religious right.
However, that did little to dampen their protests and it appears that campaigners’ tactics have worked, with no sign that the films will be made.
When asked what had happened to the remaining films, Elliott, 65, who played a Texan ”aeronaut”in the film, says: ”The Catholic Church happened to The Golden Compass, as far as I’m concerned.”
He adds: ”The Catholic Church … lambasted them, and I think it scared New Line off.”
Donohoe says he is ”delighted that the boycott worked”.
”I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie. The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time,” he says.
”Everyone agrees the film version was not anti-Catholic, but that hardly resolves the issue. The fact is that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic.”
Pullman admits the chances of the film trilogy being completed are fading. He says he has heard nothing from Warner Bros, which absorbed New Line last year, before adding: ”But I’m only the writer and we are always the last to know.”
New Line Cinema has declined to comment.