New Line Cinema is in negotiations with British director Anand Tucker (Shopgirl, "Hilary and Jackie") to helm The Golden Compass, the feature film adaptation of the first installment of author Philip Pullman's popular His Dark Materials trilogy, it was announced today by Toby Emmerich, New Line's president of production.

Based on the bestselling Pullman novels, the His Dark Materials trilogy is comprised of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. It revolves around a young girl who travels to the far north to save her best friend. Along the way she encounters shape-shifting creatures, witches, and a variety of otherworldly characters in parallel universes. His Dark Materials is being produced by Deborah Forte of Scholastic Media, the publisher of the His Dark Materials books.

"I warmly welcome Anand Tucker as director of the first His Dark Materials film," says Pullman. "He respects the integrity of the narrative and will maintain that integrity in the film-making process. His ideas are exciting and well thought out, and I greatly look forward to seeing the project go forward in his hands."

After meeting with more than 50 interested filmmakers, New Line executives chose Tucker for the high-profile project thanks in large part to a comprehensive presentation the director had put together on spec. The presentation included conceptual art, visual effects demos, and a 20-page director's manifesto. Tucker also had extensive meetings with Pullman as well as the film's writer Chris Weitz. Tucker and Weitz will now work together to further develop the film's screenplay.

"His Dark Materials promises to be one of our most important films. We've been convinced by Anand's background and presentation that he is the ideal craftsman to deliver this project," commented Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, New Line's Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs. "New Line has a long tradition of finding talented filmmakers who possess the innate skills and vision necessary to accomplish extraordinary things when given the opportunity to work on a larger scale. We are confident that Anand fits that mold."

Tucker, whose latest film Shopgirl stars Steve Martin and Claire Danes and is scheduled for an Oct. 21 release, is a two-time BAFTA nominee and the winner of British Independent Film Award for Best Director for his 1998 film Hilary and Jackie. His credits also include the documentary The Vampire's Life about horror writer Anne Rice and Saint Ex, about the aviator and writer of The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupery. Tucker also served as a producer on 2003's Girl With a Pearl Earring.

"The opportunity to turn Philip Pullman's extraordinary story into a film is literally a dream come true," says Tucker. "I instantly fell in love with His Dark Materials when it was first published, and have been a huge fan ever since. I was entranced by the way the books reminded me of those first magical experiences of reading books when I was a kid. Phillip has created an incredibly universal story about a reluctant hero whose destiny is nothing less than to save Mankind."

New Line production president Toby Emmerich is overseeing the project along with executive vp Mark Ordesky and senior vp European production Ileen Maisel.

"Anand Tucker was the first person to call me when I began my quest to produce His Dark Materials," said Deborah Forte, President, Scholastic Media and a producer on the film. "He is the right director for the right project, paired with the right studio. I am looking forward to producing this movie with a director and a studio that exhibits the passion, vision and courage to make the His Dark Materials trilogy a success."