Dakota Blue Richards, the 13-year-old British actress who made her debut in the leading role of New Line's upcoming The Golden Compass, has been cast as the central character in Gabor Csupo's The Secret of Moonacre, according to Variety. The film is based on the classic children's novel "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge.

Richards plays Maria, an orphan sent to live with her uncle in mysterious Moonacre Manor. There she enters a world of magical creatures, and discovers that she is the only person who can undo an ancient curse and save Moonacre Valley.

Richards heads a cast that also includes Ioan Gruffudd, Tim Curry, Natascha McElhone and Juliet Stevenson.

Lucy Shuttleworth and Graham Alborough wrote the screenplay.

The $27 million project, previously announced with the title The Moon Princess, started shooting October 1st in Budapest.