Atheist Author Tells of Disgust after America's Religious Right Halts Compass Movie Follow-Ups; Catholic Group's Leader Delights in Success of Anti-Pullman Campaign

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Byline: Darren Devine

ATHEIST author Philip Pullman yesterday spoke of his "disgust" at the triumphalism of America's religious right following its successful campaign to sideline attempts to dramatise the last two books in the writer's His Dark Materials trilogy.

Actor Sam Elliott, who starred in the film version of the first novel The Golden Compass, that grossed pounds 230m, says a campaign by conservative Catholics has halted plans to complete the trilogy. He said, despite The Golden Compass' global success, film industry executives have shown little appetite for follow-ups due to an uncompromising campaign by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Following protests led by the group's leader Bill Donohoe, that the film was based on a novel that introduces children to atheism, it made only pounds 53m in the US despite its success elsewhere.

The Golden Compass was produced by New Line Cinema, which has since been absorbed by Warner Brothers, and Elliott says the studio was put off by the inevitable controversy.

This means plans to turn into films the second and third novels in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, have effectively been shelved.

Mr Donohoe has said he was "delighted" by the effectiveness of his religious boycott - "I knew if we could hurt the box office receipts here, it might put the brakes on the next movie."

Pullman, who grew up in Harlech, Gwynedd, told the Western Mail: "If Sam is right then I am very disappointed because it obviously would have been very good to have seen the other two films made."

He said of Mr Donohoe's triumphalism: "It's disgusting, but only the sort of behaviour I expect of these people. It's rubbish (that the Golden Compass introduces children to atheism)."

Pullman, 63, said several important scenes shot during the making of The Golden Compass were not included in the film in the hope they would be used in a sequel.

Donohoe's campaign means unless a director's cut of the film, described by critics as a toned-down version of the novel, is released these will probably never be seen.

Pullman said: "The film finished about three quarters of the way into the book so there were a number of very important scenes that were shot and were very good, but we didn't see them in the film.

"Their justification was that they were going to use the scenes they'd shot, but at the start of the second film. It sort of made sense, but if what Sam Elliott says is true we won't see those scenes."

Pullman, who once said he was "trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief", suggested critics who depict him as a religion-hating anti-Christ are wide of the mark. He is supportive of Jesus' teachings, but says the notion they came from God was used to justify some of the darkest episodes in the Church's history. …