His Dark Materials stars are open to adapting the Book of Dust next

Philip Pullman’s second trilogy of fantasy novels is set both before and after the events of His Dark Materials – and Lin-Manuel Miranda, James McAvoy and Dafne Keen are already intrigued by the possibilities

The cast of His Dark Materials with Philip Pullman's Book of Dust (BBC, Getty)

The new adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials opens slightly differently to the original book series, with the BBC version flashing back to the younger years of child heroine Lyra (Dafne Keen) as she is rescued from a flood by James McAvoy’s Lord Asriel.

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Specifically, this scene comes from Philip Pullman’s 2017 novel La Belle Sauvage, the first in his planned Book of Dust trilogy (a sequel, The Secret Commonwealth, was published in October 2019) – and while they still have three series of His Dark Materials to get through first, the cast of the new adaptation say they’re very interested in dramatising Pullman’s more recent works as well.

“I’m very open to being involved in this world, though it depends how young Asriel has to be, and how old I am by the time they get around to making it,” James McAvoy, who appears in the Book of Dust flashback scenes in His Dark Materials, told RadioTimes.com.

“I’d possibly do it. He’s meant to be, what it is, 12 or 13 years younger? I’m 40 now, so they’d better get a move on if they want to do it.”

“I was totally riveted by the Book of Dust,” added Lin-Manuel Miranda, who plays Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby in His Dark Materials.

“I don’t know that this show will get to go there, maybe if it has the success we hope it will have. But never say never. They’re great books.”

While the first Book of Dust novel is set over a decade before the events of His Dark Materials, the sequel – the Secret Commonwealth – picks up years after its conclusion, catching up with Lyra and Pan as 20-year-olds facing new challenges.

James McAvoy as Lord Asriel and Helen McCrory as Stelmaria in the His Dark Materials Book of Dust flashback (BBC)
James McAvoy as Lord Asriel and Helen McCrory as Stelmaria in the His Dark Materials Book of Dust flashback (BBC)

In other words, it’s a direct sequel set quite a while later – and Dafne Keen, who plays the currently-young Lyra in His Dark Materials, says she could definitely be coaxed back into Pullman’s world six years down the line.

“I mean, if we get that far I’d happily do it,” Keen told RadioTimes.com, “because I love Lyra and it’d be like coming back home, basically.

“So yeah, I’d happily do it I think.”

For now, any such Book of Dust adaptations are a long way off, with three series of His Dark Materials planned (based on the novels Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass), which are expected to air until 2021.

But if they do end up making a Book of Dust follow-up, well, we know one or two Philip Pullman super-fans who’ll be happy.

“All that stuff in the Book of Dust is fantastic,” James McAvoy said.

“I love the Book of Dust, it’s got a very different tone I think, it’s a smaller story and a smaller world but no less epic in its internal life for the characters.”

“Dark Materials is really one of the rare fantasy stories where the worlds just get richer, and more complex as they go,” Miranda agreed. “And I believe that’s continued with the Book of Dust.”

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His Dark Materials airs on Sundays on BBC1 at 8pm