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. She was cast as the lead of two other films, Dustbin Baby and The Secret of Moonacre, the latter of which was released February 2009. She also played the character Franky Fitzgerald in the third generation of the E4 teen drama Skins.
Richards was born at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in South Kensington, London. She was named "Dakota Blue" because her mother wanted a combination of a place and a colour. The family moved to Sussex shortly thereafter. At school, she took very few drama classes and she was not an active participant in class assemblies or school plays; she missed out on the part of Mary in the nativity play. Nonetheless, throughout primary school, she attended weekend drama classes and took time out of school to attend auditions. When she finished St Paul's Primary School, she began attending Blatchington Mill School in Hove and the K-Bis Theatre College.
The Golden Compass
When she was nine years old, Richards had the His Dark Materials books read to her by her mother, feeling that she could "be her". After she saw the stage adaption at the National Theatre, she says she "just wanted to be Lyra". She received private tutoring from two individual tutors on set, she noted, "I think I actually improved academically from being privately tutored."
Philip Pullman, author of the books, said that, "As soon as I saw Dakota's screen test, I realised that the search was over." Chris Weitz, the director, added that Richards "made what should have been an extremely difficult decision quite easy." The Golden Compass was released worldwide in December 2007. Richards' portrayal in the film was variously described as "efficient", "a decent job", "nicely played" and "enchanting"; one review called her "terrific casting". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian commented that; "Lyra is nicely played by 13-year-old newcomer Dakota Blue Richards, though with an Artful Dodger-ish "urchin" accent that comes and goes a bit", while Empire noted that she "struggles with lumpy dialogue". 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."
Richards played Franky Fitzgerald â" a clever but timid and isolated teenager â" in series five and six of the E4 teen drama Skins, which premiered on 27 January 2011. Originally she auditioned for the role of Liv Malone, and only became Franky at the very end of the audition process. 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." In her second series of the show, her character Franky changed dramatically, becoming a self-destructive and impassioned rebel.
Before The Golden Compass was released, Richards had already been cast as the lead in another film, 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. The film was released February 2009.
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."
Richards has also been announced as appearing in a psychological thriller, Lovely to the Last and also in a short film called Rain. Richards mentioned to The Times newspaper that she was proud of herself for her effort in keeping herself active within show business.
In April 2012 she shot a British indie feature The Fold in Bristol and Cornwall, playing Eloise, the daughter of an Anglican priest. The film is written by Poppy Cogan, winner of the Harpers/William Morris Short Script Award, and directed by John Jencks. It commercially opened in limited release in UK on 24 March 2014.
Richards has landed a title role in ITV thriller Lightfields alongside Jill Halfpenny and Kris Marshall. It's a supernatural five-part drama which follows on from the ITV drama Marchlands and tells the story of three families living in the same house with a ghost during different time periods.
In 2013 she heads up the cast of French filmmaker StÃ©phanie Joallandâs sci-fi thriller The Quiet Hour, about a brother and sister trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic England. In the same year she filmed the short movie Girl Power. Her next film is an erotic British comedy called Chick Lit.
Richards has made her stage debut in English Touring Theatreâs revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. The show is currently touring.
In 2011 Richards posed naked for Ocean 2012, a campaign to prevent overfishing. In the shoot naked celebrities (including Ben Kingsley and Lily Loveless) are photographed holding giant fish.
In 2013 she modelled for "Immortal Sorapol" AW13, a commercial shoot of a new London-based fashion brand. She has also been photographed by Joe Prileszky for Anathema Designs, a handmade jewellery from upcycled materials.
Richards resides in Brighton. In her free time she enjoys making art, especially in modern and abstract style. She is said to appreciate the photographer Christian Coigny, Tracey Emin's and Damien Hirst's works, Hayao Miyazaki, and Studio Ghibli films. In music, she has often declared herself to be a big fan of Lady Gaga.
She has revealed how she suffered torment at the hands of school bullies after she dyed her hair red for her role in The Golden Compass. In 2008, she attended a two-week camp in the Lake District organised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which aimed to bring together teenagers from different backgrounds to discuss discrimination.
Since 2010 she supports Action for Children, the first charity in UK to help vulnerable youth break through injustice and deprivation, also supported by many celebrities like Annie Lennox and Yoko Ono. In 2011 she fronted an advertising campaign to promote the new charity project.
Richards also backs The Young Actors Group, an acting school in Brighton opened in 2014 that gives children and teenagers the training to work professionally in stage and screen.
Awards and nominations
- Dakota Blue Richards at the Internet Movie Database