Dakota Blue Richards (born April 11 1994) is an English actress. Her debut was in the recently-released film The Golden Compass, as the lead character Lyra Belacqua. She has also been cast as the lead in another movie, The Secret of Moonacre, which is expected to be released in 2009..
The family moved to Brighton shortly after Richards was born, where she attended St Paul's Primary School. At weekends she took drama classes and sometimes missed school to go to auditions. She was an active participant in class assemblies and school plays, but missed out on the part of Mary in the nativity play. At 11 she moved onto the nearby K-BIS Theatre School. She had always enjoyed acting, but considered it "just a fun little hobby thing" and "never really thought I'd get into doing it professionally".
When she was nine years old, Richards had had the His Dark Materials books read to her by her mother. She immediately loved Lyra, feeling that she could "relate to her". After she saw the stage adaption at the National Theatre, she says she "just wanted to be Lyra". Richards found out about the auditions for the film from a family friend, who saw an item on CBBC's Newsround. She was desperate to go but had to convince her mother. Her mother agreed to take her, but only if it wasn't raining and on the condition that she wouldn't be too upset when she wasn't chosen. Richards attributes her success at the audition to her mother's suggestion of not brushing her hair that day, so that she would look "wild", like Lyra. She was given a callback to the London casting office, along with 60 other girls, followed by a second recall and a screen test.
Philip Pullman, author of the books, said that, "As soon as I saw Dakota's screen test, I realised that the search was over." He also described her as "marvellous" and "a very good actress". Chris Weitz, the director, added that Richards "made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy" and that he "was surprised that any young girl, especially one without training, could light up the screen as she does." Richards received the call from the director to tell her she had got the part after a bad day at school. Trying to put him on speaker phone, her mother accidentally hung upon on him instead and he had to call back to give her the news. Although excited to have the part, Richards hardly believed it was happening until she was called for her costume fittings.
Filming began on 4 September 2006. Because Lyra appears in almost every scene, Richards was required on set for 98 out of the 100 days they spent shooting. She received private tutoring from two individual tutors on set between takes but says that it was "harder to engage with the school work" because of the way it was constantly interrupted by filming; however she also says, "I think I actually improved academically from being privately tutored." At weekends she went home to Brighton and caught up with her friends, finding that, on set, "being the only child for long periods can get lonely". Initially she was nervous of her famous co-stars but found them to be "nice". The movie was released worldwide in December 2007.
Richard's portrayal in the film was overall well-received, although the degree to which critics praised her varied widely. Her performance was variously described as "efficient", "a decent job", "nicely played" and "enchanting"; one review called her "terrific casting", but others noted that her "Artful Dodger-ish 'urchin' accent [...] comes and goes a bit" and that she "struggles with lumpy dialogue". Pullitzer Prize winning critic Roger Ebert was more effusive calling Richards "a delightful find" who is "pretty, plucky, forceful, self-possessed, charismatic, and just about plausible as the mistress of an armored bear and the protector of Dust." Richards has been nominated for several awards for her role as Lyra including a Critic's Choice Award.
Before The Golden Compass was even released, Richards had already been cast as the lead in another movie: The Secret of Moonacre, a second book-to-film adaption, in which she would play Maria. Principal photography took place between early October and late November 2007. The film will be released in 2008.
|Year !||! Title !||! Role|
|2007||The Golden Compass||Lyra Belacqua|
|2009||The Secret of Moonacre||Maria|
|2009||The Subtle Knife||Lyra Belacqua|
|2007||Broadcast Film Critics Association||Critics' Choice Award||The Golden Compass|
|London Film Critics Circle||Breakthrough Award|
|2008||Young Artist Awards||Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actress|
|Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films||Saturn Award|
Lead in new Pullman movie cast.(Dakota Blue Richards acting in "The Golden Compass" based on Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials)(Brief article)
Jul 03, 2006; M2 BEST BOOKS-(C)2000-2006 M2 COMMUNICATIONS LTD The role of Lyra Belacqua in the film version of Philip Pullman's His Dark...