British playwright Tom Stoppard was involved in scripting but was dropped from the project after a new director, Chris Weitz, was brought on board. Deborah Forte, a producer, said that "When you're producing a film, you know you can't hold the audience for too long. It's all about making condensed choices." As for Pullman:
"I liked what Tom Stoppard wrote very much but I could see the studio's point of view." Reading between the lines, it seems that Stoppard took the story into more complicated realms than New Line thought wise for a teenage audience.
At one point Weitz resigned from the project "citing technical challenges". But apparently the resignation "followed an article in The Times that claimed the religious elements of Pullman's work would be toned down, as New Line wanted to ensure the film did not have problems at the American box office."
Pullman was greatly impressed by the work of John Milton while studying at Oxford.
"I learned a great deal from Mr Milton." Paradise Lost was "the greatest narrative poem in English" and the basis for Dark Materials' "landscapes of hell, fire, darkness and wild places."
According to Lawson, Pullman objects to religious power only "when it becomes political, achieves political authority — that's when it becomes dangerous. It's not [about] your private religious feelings about God ... I am not anti-religion."
But Melanie McDonaugh, a critic with The Evening Standard, says that the trilogy "is actually a rather blatant and exceptionally offensive anti-Christian polemic."
She also says that "readers should be alerted to [this aspect of the work] because it is a proselytising agenda".
Forte says the book is "a story about love, courage, responsibility, and honour".
As Lawson's kicker says: "Christian-bashing or coming-of-age story? Why Philip Pullman is under fire."
Pullman is 60 years old and "spent his early childhood with his mother and stepfather in Australia". He enjoyed Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding as a child.