Chris Weitz hasquit as director on New Line Cinema's upcoming Philip Pullman adaptation HisDark Materials due tothe "technical challenges of making such an epic".

In a statementWeitz, whose credits include About A Boy, stressed that his departure was not tied to any creativedifferences regarding the fantasy project, and expressed satisfaction that NewLine is planning to move forward with the script he wrote for the film.

"Working on TheGolden Compass has beenan extraordinary high point of my career," Weitz said. "It will be anextraordinary film, but at this point in my life I am not the right director tobring it to pass. Though I remain honoured to continue serving as caretaker ofPhilip Pullman's work on the page as this project's screenwriter, the technicalchallenges of making such an epic are more than I can undertake at this point.

"I look forward to retaining my place as screenwriter andhelping to bring Mr Pullman's epic vision to cinematic life. I deeplyappreciate his support, and the understanding of everyone at New Line inallowing me to step aside."

New Line iscurrently searching for a replacement director. "His Dark Materials is an amazing story, and at this point wehave such a strong screenplay, I'm confident we'll have real interest fromA-level filmmakers," New Line production president Toby Emmerich said.

"Chrisover-delivered on the script, and I can only respect him for being realisticabout the physical, emotional, and technical demands of the project."

"I chose New Line Cinema not only because of theirprofound technical expertise when it comes to this sort of film-making, butmainly because of their evident commitment to the values and the heart of thisparticular story," Pullman added. "They know the importance of what it saysabout human freedom, and they want to say it with force and clarity."

The His DarkMaterials trilogycomprises The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and centres on a young girl who undergoes a magical journeyas she travels to the far north to save her best friend.

His Dark Materials is being produced by Deborah Forte of ScholasticEntertainment, the trilogy publisher, with Emmerich overseeing the projectalong with executive vice president Mark Ordesky and senior vice president ofEuropean production Ileen Maisel.