The heroine of His Dark Materials emerges as a star!

Dakota Blue Richards storms unto the world stage as Lyra, the heroine of The Golden Compass and upcoming 'His Dark Materials' sequels. The girl is a star. She owns this movie, holding her own against a formidable cast and even more impressive shooting schedule. She spends ninety percent of the film interacting with her daemon, armoured polar bears, and all manner of creatures that were added in post production. Not bad at all for a child who had never acted professionally or done a feature film.

We liked her tremendously. She came off as being awestruck and completely natural. A lot of child actors are creepy as hell, little robots controlled by evil stage parents. Dakota is nothing of the sort. She'll do well if she keeps her attitude up. Dakota already has another film wrapped. She'll be seen next year in The Secret of Moonacre.

Did you read the books? Were you a fan before you did this?

Dakota Blue Richards: Yes, I was. My mum had read the books to me when I was about nine. I really loved Lyra.

As a fan of the books, what did you want the movie to capture?

Dakota Blue Richards: Philip Pullman had the way of making them feel real. I mean, armoured bears? I think it was very important that the film kind of captured the realistic-ness of it all.

Did you find the green screen work difficult? How did you act opposite a daemon that isn't there?

Dakota Blue Richards: I found the green screen work to be very, very hard. I think that was the hardest bit. And the less green screen there was, the easier it became. Working with people like Daniel and Nicole was so much easier than working with Iorek. Because of course, he wasn't there. And doing green screen work really makes you have to think about everything twice. You have to firstly imagine that everything's there. And you have to think about other people before you can think about yourself. That's really hard and really confusing and you can get very lost. Especially when I didn't know what the animators were going to make it look like.

Were you surprised by how everything looked in the end?

Dakota Blue Richards: It is a bit surprising. I find watching myself really crazy and really embarrassing.

What characteristics do you and Lyra have in common?

Dakota Blue Richards: They're very different things, her bravery, her courage and how she would go so far for her friends and what she thinks is right. What I see in myself is probably more the way that she kind of talks a bit more than she should.

If you had a daemon what would it be?

Dakota Blue Richards: It would either be a ring-tailed lemur, or a white hare, or a hedgehog.

Nicole [Kidman] started her career as a child actress. Did she give you any advice at all about starting your career at such a young age?

Dakota Blue Richards: I don't think so. I remember that she did mention that she kind of started around my age. I had a book, a hardback copy of the book. And she wrote in the book "Stay true to yourself", which I think is very important.

So how do you do that?

Dakota Blue Richards: Daniel Radcliffe told me once that you should always keep the people around you that you know are going to tell you the truth.

Wow, when did you run into him?

Dakota Blue Richards: We did a kind of work experience type thing. Basically the studio just sent me to the Harry Potter set to speak to people who'd kind of been through the same kind of thing I had.

Emma Watson's actually a huge fan of His Dark Materials, did you talk to her?

Dakota Blue Richards: Yeah, yes I did.

Do you see yourself as sort of following her career path?

Dakota Blue Richards: Yeah, some people already have. I think there is like a big difference between us. I mean I don't know her very well. I've met her once. I wouldn't say we were that similar.

Do you still go to regular school?

Dakota Blue Richards: Yeah.

How important is it to remain part of that world and keep your same friends at school?

Dakota Blue Richards: I think that's very important to me. If you don't have your friends, you start to go a bit mad. That's why in the future I don't want to be constantly acting, going from one film to another. I just think it would be so very lonely to be away from your friends and family for so long and no proper kind of routine.

What would you want to do if you decide to give up the acting?

Dakota Blue Richards: I don't want to give up the acting completely, but I do want to be a supply teacher in primary schools.

Really, why?

Dakota Blue Richards: Well, partly because I want to be a teacher. Generally as a rule, children don't like their teachers. I want to be one of the few teachers that kids are generally excited about. I want to be one of the cool teachers. The reason I want to be a supply teacher rather than a full time teacher is, you know, as a supply teacher you can take time off.

Next up for you is The Secret of Moonacre?

Dakota Blue Richards: We're finished.

How was that experience?

Dakota Blue Richards: I loved that story as well. To be honest, in some ways I preferred working on that more than this, and in some ways I prefer this more than that. We were out of the country shooting that and there was one other child on set at the time and she was Hungarian and she didn't speak any English and my Hungarian is terrible. It's very hard to be away from your friends for long.

How different a character is Maria from Lyra?

Dakota Blue Richards: Maria is very much a lady, whereas Lyra is not and not wanting to be one.

What would you say is the basic set up of "Moon Acre"?

Dakota Blue Richards: There are two families who are against each other: the Merriweathers and the Demonts. And, this is very, very basic and simple. One of the Merriweathers has to team up with one of the Demonts to kind of set something right.

In the sequel to The Golden Compass, Lyra has a romantic subplot. How nervous are you about doing that?

Dakota Blue Richards: Well, of course I'm nervous. But I'm trying not to think about it so much because that way it won't be as scary, just the thought of it. And I know my friends are going to try to embarrass me as much as they possibly can.

The Golden Compass is in theaters everywhere this Friday and is rated 'PG-13' for sequences of fantasy violence.

Julian Roman