ACTOR Sam Elliott has accused the Catholic Church of pressurising Hollywood producers to scrap the final parts of Philip Pullman’s classic fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials.
Studio bosses have shelved plans to film the final two instalments of the fantasy, despite the success of the first movie, The Golden Compass, two years ago.
According to this report, the film starring Elliott, Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, angered Catholics who accused it of promoting atheism.
In the book trilogy, set in a series of parallel worlds, heroine Lyra fights the Magisterium, an evil organisation some have interpreted as being based on the Catholic Church.
The Magisterium wields huge power and experiments on children. In a climactic battle angels fight each other and “God” is presented as a frail, ancient and powerless figure.
Catholic campaigners in America organised a boycott of The Golden Compass. Right-wing US broadcaster Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, attacked its release in 2007, calling it a “war on Christmas”.
Elliot, who plays Lyra’s ally – aeronaut Lee Scoresby – has challenged O’Reilly to a TV debate and claimed money could not be the reason for the series being shelved.
The production company, New Line, had said the making of the second and third films was dependent on the financial success of The Golden Compass. The movie had a budget of $180million (Â£110million) and made $380million (Â£234million).
Asked what happened to the series, Elliot said:
The Catholic Church happened to The Golden Compass, as far as I’m concerned. It did incredible’at the box office, taking $380million. Incredible. It took $85million in the States. The Catholic Church … lambasted them, and I think it scared New Line off.
I would have loved to have gone after them. I would have liked to have sat down with Bill O’Reilly and talked it out. There are two sides to that coin. It’s a shame as it’s a great trilogy.
The boycott was organised by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League For Religious And Civil Rights. He told the Evening Standard:
I am delighted the boycott worked. Just as the producers have a right to make the movie, I have a right to protest.
The reason I protested was the deceitful attempt to introduce Christian children to the wonders of atheism in a backdoor fashion at Christmas time. Everyone agrees the film version was not anti-Catholic, but that hardly resolves the issue. The fact is that each volume in the trilogy becomes increasingly anti-Catholic.
I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie.
I also knew this boycott would work because once the word got out that the movie was bait for the books, Christian parents would take their kids to see Alvin And The Chipmunks. Which they did, in far greater number.
Pullman has dismissed the accusations, saying:
I am a storyteller. If I wanted to send a message I would have written a sermon.
A spokesman for New Line Cinema declined to comment.