There’s an article here on EmpireOnline that says that the playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard is in negotiations with New Line to write the screenplay for “His Dark Materials,” the fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman. This is great news for fantasy fans.

So, it seems that New Line is committing itself to intelligent fantasy – a genre that has barely existed up until now and least of all within the major movie production houses. Is the success of Peter Jackson’s version of The Lord of the Rings the reason for this sudden faith in the intelligence of fantasy-loving audiences? New Line is not alone in this – the Sci-fi channel engaged LOTR screenwriter Philippa Boyens to turn Ursula Le Guin’s first three “Earthsea” books into a screenplay.

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a great story and in my opinion it’s destined to be a fantasy classic – well, you can read what I think about it in the Tehanu’s Note about it. It’s also a controversial book, and I’d be interested to see if the film-makers try to tone down some of the philosophy in it. Their interest in Tom Stoppard for the screenplay seems to suggest that they are not. Apart from his witty lighter works like the “Shakespeare in Love” screenplay or his famous riff on Hamlet, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” Stoppard has written a number of plays centring on tough ethical and philosophical issues, such as “Arcadia,” “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and “Professional Foul.” These are plays about scientists, philosophers, and political dissidents. It’s hard to imagine Stoppard taking an intelligent book like Pullman’s and dumbing it down into mere eye-candy.

Here’s a biography of Tom Stoppard listing his major works.