James McAvoy Wasn't The First Choice To Star In 'His Dark Materials'

Well, HBO’s adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ has launched and overall, the reaction has been positive.  James McAvoy is probably the biggest “name” in the cast, portraying Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel.  But as McAvoy recently spilled, he wasn’t the first choice to play the role.  In fact, he might not have even been the second or third.


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Speaking to Radio Times, the actor revealed:

“It was actually very last minute – I happened to be chatting to the casting director, who’s a friend of mine, waxing lyrical about how much I love the books, and then they got let down by whoever else was doing it originally.  So she called me up and said ‘Do you think you can start on Monday?’ That was on the Friday!  I think they’d possibly been let down by a couple of people last minute.”

Fortunately, McAvoy was already a huge fan of Pullman’s books.

“I know that character inside out, I know the books inside out, so I just hit the ground running.  I was prepared for it without having to prepare for it. I have a vision of that character, and I have a belief or certain goals and beliefs for what that character should achieve, and what should come across.  But I’m not just a fan – I actually deeply care about the books – so I would hate to watch this and go ‘Oh, that’s not the Lord Asriel I’ve always wanted to see!’ And I’m playing it!”

Daniel Craig portrayed Lord Asriel in the box office dud ‘The Golden Compass’, the first attempt at bringing Pullman’s works to life.


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With only one episode out, it’s hard to judge the series and its stars too harshly.  There has been some concern that McAvoy, who is 40, is a little too young for his role.  In the books, Lord Asriel is in his late 40s-50s.  But we’ll see how things go as more episodes are released.

New episodes arrive on BBC One on Sunday nights, and on Mondays in the U.S. on HBO.  There are eight episodes in the first season, and it has already been renewed for a second.