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Would ‘The Golden Compass’ Be Easier to Market if Philip Pullman Were Dead? Philip Pullman Thinks So!

From left, Pullman; book.Photo: Getty Images, Courtesy of New Line Cinema

The December issue of The Atlantic contains a lengthy piece on The Golden Compass, this holiday season's most anticipated epic fantasy film about killing God, and the lengths to which New Line Cinema is going to scrub their $180 million movie of the more controversial elements of the book series (the His Dark Materials trilogy by atheist author Philip Pullman) on which it's based. The biggest challenge? Getting Pullman to STFU.

Much to the obvious delight of New Line's publicity department, The Atlantic's Hanna Rosin visited the novelist at his home near Oxford, England. Pullman — who's previously tried to market the film by telling reporters, "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief," and "My books are about killing God" — thinks the film studio's job would be easier if he were dead.

All things being equal, Pullman told me, New Line would prefer he were, well, the late author of The Golden Compass. Dead? “Yes! Absolutely!” If something happened to him, there “would be expressions of the most heartfelt regrets, yet privately they would be saying, ‘Thank God.’”


Hilariously, Pullman continues, wondering if by editing out the anti-Christian elements that made the original novel such a hoot, New Line isn't hurting the film's box-office chances instead of helping them:

“I think if everything that is made explicit in the book or everything that is implied clearly in the book or everything that can be understood by a close reading of the book were present in the film, they’d have the biggest hit they’ve ever had in their lives. If they allowed the religious meaning of the book to be fully explicit, it would be a huge hit. Suddenly, they’d have letters of appreciation from people who felt this but never dared say it. They would be the heroes of liberal thought, of freedom of thought … And it would be the greatest pity if that didn’t happen."


“I didn’t put that very well. What I mean is that I want this film to succeed in every possible way. And what I don’t want to do, you see, is talk the other two films out of existence. So I’ll stop there.”


Probably a good idea.

How Hollywood Saved God [The Atlantic]