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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 09:48 GMT
Rings makers turn to Whitbread winner
Philip Pullman was named winner of the Whitbread Prize
Pullman's final book in his trilogy won the Whitbread
Whitbread Prize winning author Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy will be made into a film by the production company behind The Lord of the Rings.

New Line Cinema has bought up the rights to the His Dark Materials trilogy following the success of its first Tolkien film, according to industry paper Variety.

The Amber Spyglass, the final book of Pullman's trilogy, was the first children's novel to win the coveted Whitbread Prize, picking up the 30,000 cheque in January.

The Lord of the Rings
Critics loved the big screen adaptation of The Lord of the Rings

The trilogy is comprised of Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

The book opens with 11-year-old orphan Lyra, growing up in Oxford, whose life changes when she foils an assassination attempt on her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel.

Magic

At the same time, children begin to disappear, and Lyra's subsequent adventures fill the three novels.

Science and magic feature heavily in the series but they are described as being much darker than JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Pullman's UK publisher, Scholastic, has control of the film rights for six years and it chose New Line as the studio to take His Dark Materials to the big screen.

"New Line demonstrated an absolute enthusiasm for this material,'' Scholastic executive vice president Deborah Forte told Variety.

Courage

"They were willing to move fast, and they had the experience of Lord of the Rings under their belt.

The Amber Spyglass has sold more than 1 million copies in the UK
The Amber Spyglass has sold more than one million copies in the UK
"It does require some courage. It's complex material. It's very rich with adventure and detail.''

Negotiations are underway to stage a play of the entire trilogy at London's National Theatre, to be directed by Nicholas Hytner in 2004.

The first instalment of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has so far taken $700m (495m) at the international box office.

The second is due for release around Christmas 2002 and the final one a year later.

Pullman's novel I Was A Rat was turned into a TV mini-series starring Tom Conti in 2001.



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