Dakota Blue Richards

Dakota Blue Richards
Dakota Blue Richards

Richards as April in Dustbin Baby
Born 11 April 1994 (1994-04-11) (age 17)
South Kensington, London, England
Occupation Actress
Years active 2007–present

Dakota Blue Richards (born 11 April 1994) is an English actress. Her debut was in the film The Golden Compass, as the lead character Lyra Belacqua.[1][2] She was also cast as the lead of another two movies, Dustbin Baby and The Secret of Moonacre, the latter of which was released February 2009.[3] She also played the character Franky Fitzgerald in the third Generation of the BAFTA winning, E4 television series Skins.[4]


Early life

Dakota Blue Richards was born in South Kensington, London, the daughter of Ruby Richards, a social worker.[5][5][6] She was named Dakota Blue because her mother wanted a combination of a place-name and a colour.[5] Dakota was inspired by the Sioux tribe, members of whom her mother had become friends with during a year in America;[6] her mother also liked the fact that it was unusual as a name. Blue was Dakota's father's nickname,[7] and her mother thought it went well with Dakota.[5]

The family moved to Brighton shortly after Dakota was born, where she attended St.Peter's Infant School, St Andrew's Primary School,[citation needed] and later attended Blatchington Mill School. On school days she took drama classes and often missed school to go to auditions. She was not an active participant in class assemblies and school plays, and she missed out on the part of Mary in the nativity play.[citation needed] [5] At 11 she moved onto the nearby K-BIS Theatre School.[6] She had always enjoyed acting, but considered it "just a fun little hobby thing" and "never really thought [she]'d get into doing it professionally". She attended Newlands School in Seaford from Year 8 up to Year 11.[8] She now attends Brighton College sixth form.


The Golden Compass

In June 2006, it was announced that Richards had been cast in the lead role of Lyra Belacqua in The Golden Compass.[1][2]

When she was nine years old, Richards had the His Dark Materials books read to her by her mother after a friend encouraged her to read them and lent them the trilogy. She immediately loved Lyra, feeling that she could "be her".[5] After she saw the stage adaption at the National Theatre, she says she "just wanted to be Lyra".[8] Richards found out about the auditions for the film from a family friend, who saw an item on CBBC's Newsround.[8][9] She was desperate to go but had to convince her mother. Her mother agreed to take her, but only if it wasn't raining[8] and on the condition that she wouldn't be too upset if she wasn't chosen.[10] Richards attributes her success at the audition to her mother's suggestion of not brushing her hair that day, so that she would look "wild", like Lyra.[5] She was given a callback to the London casting office, along with 60 other girls,[9] followed by a second recall and a screen test.[8]

Philip Pullman, author of the books, said that, "As soon as I saw Dakota's screen test, I realised that the search was over."[11] He also described her as "marvelous" and "a very good actress".[2][9] Chris Weitz, the director, added that Richards "made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy" and that he "was surprised that any young girl, especially one without training, could light up the screen as she does."[11] Richards received the call from the director to tell her she had got the part after a bad day at school. Trying to put him on speaker phone, her mother accidentally hung up on him instead and he had to call back to give her the news.[10] Although excited to have the part, Richards hardly believed it was happening until she was called for her costume fittings.[12]

Filming began on September 4, 2006.[13] Because Lyra appears in almost every scene, Richards was required on set for 98 out of the 100 days they spent shooting.[14] She received private tutoring from two individual tutors on set[15] between takes; she commented that it was "harder to engage with the school work"[7] because of the way it was constantly interrupted by filming; though she also noted, "I think I actually improved academically from being privately tutored."[5] At weekends she went home to Brighton and caught up with her friends,.[8] She noted at the time that, on set, "being the only child for long periods can get lonely".[7] Initially she was nervous of her famous co-stars but found them to be "nice".[8]

The movie was released worldwide in December 2007. Richards' portrayal in the film was well-received by critics, although the degree to which critics praised her varied widely. Her performance was variously described as "efficient",[16] "a decent job",[17] "nicely played"[18] and "enchanting";[19] one review called her "terrific casting",[20] but others noted that her "Artful Dodger-ish 'urchin' accent [...] comes and goes a bit"[18] and that she "struggles with lumpy dialogue".[17] Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert was more effusive, calling Richards "a delightful find" who was "pretty, plucky, forceful, self-possessed, charismatic, and just about plausible as the mistress of an armoured bear and the protector of Dust."[citation needed]

Other roles

Richards (left) as April with Marion (played by Juliet Stevenson) in Dustbin Baby

Before The Golden Compass was released, Richards had already been cast as the lead in another movie, The Secret of Moonacre, her second book-to-film adaption, in which she would play Maria Merryweather from the book 'The Little White Horse'. Principal photography took place between early October and late November 2007.[7][21] The film was released February 2009.[3]

In December 2008, Richards played April Johnson in Dustbin Baby, the BBC dramatisation of the Jacqueline Wilson novel of the same name. She said that April was a difficult character to play, as "she is a really different person to me. On the one hand, she does go through normal things that I can relate to, such as fighting with your parents or getting presents you don't like; but on the other, she has had such a hard life."[22]

Richards has also been announced as appearing in a psychological thriller, Lovely to the Last and also in a film called Rain. Richards mentioned to The Times newspaper how proud she was of herself for working very hard to keep herself active within show business.[citation needed]


Richards plays Franky Fitzgerald — a smart but timid and isolated teenage girl — in series five of E4's teen drama series Skins, which premiered on 27 January 2011. As a member of the third generation of its young cast, which was first revealed on 5 August 2010, Richards said It's "crazy to be part of this Skins phenomenon, it's as much a lifestyle choice as anything because of the attention that comes with it."


Year Title Role Notes
2007 The Golden Compass Lyra Belacqua
2008 Dustbin Baby April Johnson
2009 The Secret of Moonacre Maria Merryweather
2009 Five Miles Out Cassey/Cass
2011–2012 Skins Franky Fitzgerald
TBA Lovely to the Last TBA


Year Organisation Award Film/TV Result
2007 Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics' Choice Award[23] The Golden Compass Nominated
London Film Critics Circle Breakthrough Award[24] Nominated
2008 Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actress[25] Nominated
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award[26] Nominated
2011 TVChoice Awards Best Actress[27] Skins Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Lyra cast in Dark Materials film". CBBC Newsround. 29 June 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_5120000/newsid_5128500/5128532.stm. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Higgins, Charlotte (30 June 2006). "Dark Materials film gets green light". London: The Guardian. http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1809554,00.html. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "Richards Returns In Moonacre". SciFi Wire. 3 December 2007. Archived from the original on 3 February 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080203093713/http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=3&id=45952. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  4. ^ Skins
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "The 13-year-old girl who could be richer than Daniel Radcliffe". The Daily Mail. 23 November 2007. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?in_article_id=495917&in_page_id=1773&ICO=TV_SHOWBIZ&ICL=TOPART. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  6. ^ a b c Steele, Francesca (28 November 2007). "Dakota Blue Richards: aka Lyra Belacqua". London: The Times. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article2955533.ece. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  7. ^ a b c d Lawrence, Will (30 November 2007). "Dakota Blue Richards: The 13-year-old poised to conquer the world". London: The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/11/30/bfgolden130.xml. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "The calm before the storm". London: The Guardian. 30 November 2007. http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,,2219107,00.html. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c "Brighton schoolgirl prepares to become film star". The Argus. 21 November 2007. http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/localnews/display.var.1848997.0.brighton_schoolgirl_prepares_to_become_film_star.php. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  10. ^ a b "The Arctic Adventurer". Newsweek. 25 December 2006. http://www.newsweek.com/id/44254. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  11. ^ a b Irvine, Lindesay (29 June 2006). "Lyra found for $150m Dark Materials film". London: The Guardian. http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1808763,00.html. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  12. ^ "Lyra actress chats to Newsround". BBC News. 22 May 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_6680000/newsid_6681400/6681473.stm. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  13. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (19 August 2006). "Bond actor Daniel Craig to play Lord Asriel". London: The Guardian. http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Guardian/0,,1853803,00.html. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  14. ^ "The Golden Compass!". JoBlo.com. 29 May 2007. http://www.joblo.com/index.php?id=16128. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  15. ^ ""Lyra speaks" on Scholastic live webchat" (PDF). Scholastic Kids, Torre degli Angeli. 19 December 2007. http://gmrealm.co.uk/hdm/webchat/log.pdf. 
  16. ^ Landesman, Cosmo (2 December 2007). "The Golden Compass". London: The Sunday Times. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/film_reviews/article2961371.ece. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  17. ^ a b "The Golden Compass". Empire magazine. 5 December 2007. http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=134647. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  18. ^ a b Bradshaw, Peter (30 November 2007). "The Golden Compass". London: The Guardian. http://arts.guardian.co.uk/filmandmusic/story/0,,2218883,00.html. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  19. ^ "Blockbuster is a guilty pleasure". The Sun. 26 November 2007. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/film/article506717.ece. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  20. ^ Christopher, James (27 November 2007). "The Golden Compass". London: The Times. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/film_reviews/article2956068.ece. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  21. ^ "Lyra actress Dakota gets new role". CBBC Newsround. 2 October 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_7020000/newsid_7024500/7024571.stm. Retrieved 5 December 2007. 
  22. ^ McNulty, Bernadette (19 December 2008). "Dustbin Baby". London: The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/3851819/Dustbin-Baby.html. Retrieved 21 December 2008. 
  23. ^ "13th Annual Critics Choice Awards - Best Young Actress". VH1. http://www.vh1.com/shows/events/critics_choice_awards/_2008/nominees_detail.jhtml?id=bestyoungactress. Retrieved 16 May 2008. 
  24. ^ "Atonement film up for more awards". BBC News. 14 December 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7144127.stm. Retrieved 16 May 2008. 
  25. ^ "2008 nominees and winners". Young Artist Awards. http://youngartistawards.org/noms29.html. Retrieved 16 May 2008. 
  26. ^ "2008 Saturn Awards". IMBD. http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Academy_of_Science_Fiction_Fantasy_And_Horror_Films_USA/2008. Retrieved 16 May 2008. 
  27. ^ "2011 TVChoice Awards 2011". E4. http://www.e4.com/blog/skins-news/post/cjmhs7beelsqnbeg9fjle/view.e4. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 

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