His Dark Materials lead is cast

Chris Weitz has found his Lyra Belacqua

While we were all beginning to think that the first His Dark Materials film – The Golden Compass (blasted American title! What's wrong with Northern Lights?) – might be one of those cinematic labours of Hercules that drags in directors and spits them out, we’ve got to admit that Chris Weitz is making progress.

He’s gone ahead and cast the lead character of Lyra Belacqua, the girl who sets out on a dangerous mission through a fantastical realm. And just who is the actress playing Lyra, you ask? Well, her first name is Dakota, and… Aha! Gotcha! Bet you were thinking we were going to follow-up with the surname Fanning, right? Wrong!

The lucky young lady plucked from obscurity is Dakota Blue Richards, who won the part up against 10,000 other girls after a huge casting sweep. Looks like the Dark Materials crew are going the Harry Potter route.

Weitz plans to start shooting in September right here in Blighty, while studio New Line aims to have the film unspooling on 16 November 2007 (in the States at least). We won’t stop holding our breath until the reels are running through the projector, but at least it’s a good start.