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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Schoolgirl lands Lyra film role
Philip Pullman
The film is based on Philip Pullman's bestselling book
A 12-year-old girl has been chosen to play young heroine Lyra Belacqua in a film based on Philip Pullman's novel His Dark Materials.

Dakota Blue Richards was selected from thousands of hopefuls who attended open auditions earlier this year.

Open calls were held in Cambridge, Oxford, Exeter, and Kendal for the lead role in The Golden Compass.

Filming is due to start in the UK on 4 September, with Oscar-nominated director Chris Weitz at the helm.

'Easy' decision

The Golden Compass is the first planned adaptation of Pullman's bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy.

The trilogy comprises The Northern Lights - called The Golden Compass in the US - The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

It revolves around a young girl, Lyra, who travels to the far north to save her best friend.

Along the way, she encounters shape-shifting creatures, witches, and a variety of otherworldly characters in parallel universes.

Dakota was selected from more than 10,000 hopefuls when she attended the Cambridge audition in April.

"Dakota made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy," said Weitz.

"We wanted a completely new face for Lyra, but I was surprised that any young girl, especially one without training, could light up the screen as Dakota does."

Pullman said he was "delighted" with the casting of Dakota.

"As soon as I saw Dakota's screen test, I realised that the search was over.

"Dakota has just the combination of qualities that make up the complicated character of this girl, and I very much look forward to seeing the film take shape, with Dakota's Lyra at the heart of it."

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