UPDATE 4: Yes, Kidman it is. A blonde evil Coulter... hmmm...
Paul Bettany has been cast too. No, not as the boatman to the world of the dead, but as Asriel. What with that and playing "Silas", is Bettany hell-bent (no pun int'd) on burning all his bridges with the Catholic Church? Why? I mean, for Nicole Kidman, her reason's obvious: she's angry about the RCC refusing her a church wedding with Keith Urban. Yes, Nic, it's harsh, I know, but the RCC could hardly lecture Protestants (at least, in goood conscience and with a straight face) about how it's Rome alone who "still dares to condemn as sin the now commonplace practices of... divorce [and] remarriage..." if it simply handed out div-... err, annulments[*] like lollipops to the celebrities in its pews. Even though you were "only 23" when you married Mr Cruise, you knew full well he was a Scientologist. Deal with it.
[*] Apparently annulments (excepting, of course, the six that Henry VIII obtained) and divorces are completely different things, and only religious bigots with an agenda would confuse the two.
UPDATE 3: Probably just as well that the director of American Pie was pulled from the helm:
LYRA: Stop! Don't drink that wine!
LORD ASRIEL: Why? Because the Master of Jordan College slipped poison into it?
LYRA: No, because Cardinal-Inquisitor Stifflerius and his jackass-daemon Floridio pissed in the cup it while you were away barfing on Serafina Pekkala...
UPDATE 2: Abigail Nussbaum summarises His Dark Materials in a nu[ss]shell. (Link via the Andúril-Stone of Brisingamen).
UPDATE 1: Call it the Pullman Effect:
THE film version of The Da Vinci Code is attempting to reduce the offence that the best-selling book caused to Roman Catholics. Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen, is reported to have been so concerned that it has consulted Catholic and other Christian specialists on how it might alter the plot of the novel to avoid offending the devout. Film officials have held talks with Catholic groups and other organisations despite Dan Brown, the author, insisting that “it’s only a novel and therefore a work of fiction”, the New York Times reported yesterday. [...]
-- Dalya Alberge, "Da Vinci plot may get new twist to placate Catholics", The Times (UK) (8 August 2005)
Methinks someone in Hollywood's been comparing the box-office figures for Saved! (now re-titled Temporarily In a State of Grace! to placate Catholic audiences) against those for The Passion of the Christ (now re-titled The Passion of Mary And Her Son Wossisname, Y'Know, That Bearded Guy What First Invented Chairs and Tables, And Then Got Flogged By An Orc, also to placate Catholic audiences).
Date: 1 July, 2001
From: Head, Projects Section
To: Second Vice-President, Financing Division
Re: Another Freakin' Gibson Revenge Fantasy? In Aramic and Latin? Fracturum Da Mihi!
The precedent doesn’t inspire confidence. One of the world’s top movie stars, for decades a heart-throb to women around the world, decides after years of hedonism and spiritual emptiness to embrace a controversial minority religion, one often regarded with suspicion by outsiders, even sometimes labeled a "cult" and banned by countries such as France and Germany. Eventually, his devotion to his faith leads him to invest his own money, reputation and career into producing a film that will dramatise and convey his theological beliefs for a mass-market Hollywood audience...
… And we all remember what a fine advertisement John Travolta’s Battlefield Earth was for Scientology , don’t we. But Mel Gibson’s Passio Christi was much more successful as an advertisement for Semi-Sedevacantist Traditionalist Catholicism.
* * *
First the original scriptwriter (Tom Stoppard) was sacked; now the director (Chris Weitz) is off the project too. You'd almost think that someone up there doesn't want Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy to make it to the big screen. Keep searching, Ph.P, and one day you will find the Chosen One Who Was Prophesied, and then you can really show the world how foolish all that messianic religious superstition is.