April 23, 2014

David Fincher, Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig open up about “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” – AWARDS ALLEY


By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: Lisbeth Salander is back on the hunt.

The cyber-punk heroine of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy has been resurrected from the pages of the best-selling novel for a maudlin, stormy adaptation guided by cinematic master David Fincher. Though audiences around the world are intimately familiar with Larsson’s missing-persons mystery from the book and a 2009 Swedish film version, those who check out the latest “Dragon Tattoo” will find invigorating new translations courtesy of Fincher’s relentlessly unique approach to some of the story’s universal themes.

In New York City lately, the director addressed the media with his two leads – Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig – in tow for a lively conversation about unlikely relationships, Larsson’s appeal, and the power of Lisbeth, who Mara does not want to treat like an up-and-coming feminine superhero.

Read our review of the film right here!

“I hope not. That was never our intention. We always wanted to make her human. We never thought of her as a comic-book hero,” Mara told the press.

When casting for Lisbeth, Fincher says he was looking for “a magnetic” response to Craig’s protagonist.

“They’re sort of unable to be close to one another. They sort of push off of each other,” the director explained. “So I started looking at the things about Lisbeth that I wanted to see. And I didn’t see them initially in anyone that we were looking at. And Rooney was right under our noses in that I’d already spent four or five days with her on ‘The Social Network.’

“But again, when you cast somebody, you cast them for an inherent kind of quality,” Fincher continued. “You are going to be shooting 14-hour days. You are going to be tired. You’re not going to be able to conjure an armor or a façade every single moment. You want the actor to have a quality that you can’t beat out of them with a tire iron, that is that thing. And innate quality that they have. Rooney was somebody that we brought back time and time again, not because we didn’t see what we were looking for, but because initially … the problems that she was solving for me in ‘The Social Network’ – she was intensely feminine, very mature, warm, verbal, trying to build a bridge desperately to Jesse [Eisenberg] in that five-and-a-half minutes that she’s on screen – none of those qualities apply to Lisbeth. In fact, they are the antithesis.”

For those who are new to the story, Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a disparaged journalist hired by an eccentric multi-millionaire (Christopher Plummer) to find his missing niece. His investigation pair him with Salander (Mara), an intelligent, tortured computer hacker who endures untold hardships at the hands of the men who are hired to protect her from society’s ills (though she’s far more the angel of vengeance than we’re initially led to believe).

Addressing some of the film’s inherent themes, Fincher explained, “I don’t think that the bad are always rewarded. I don’t know that there are any truisms in the film. I know that there are things told from the specific points of view of these characters. We’re not trying to make something that’s quotable on mugs.”

Craig commented about Fincher’s finished product, which he’d just recently seen for the first time. “I contacted David and said, ‘There are rare occasions in my career where that was the movie that we set out to make.’ I was very, very pleased.”

Mara, however, hasn’t seen the film yet. Too disturbing for her, perhaps. Why? Well, she spoke of “The List,” a collection of tasks her director told her she’d need to learn how to do (or get better at) of she planned to play Salander in his adaptation.

“If I were to get the part, I would have to become a smoker, go off and be by myself for a year, be buck naked, endure a horrible rape scene, learn to ride a motorcycle … what else? Stuff like that.”

When asked if “starve yourself” was a requirement, Mara counters, “David was constantly trying to feed me on set.”

“And me, as well,” Craig chimed in. “With much more success.”

The relationship between the two lead characters appears to be what drew all three talents to Larsson’s story, even more so than the intriguing mystery that propels the narrative forward. Fincher himself admits to not being intrigued by the central plot, the missing-persons question that begs to be answered.

“The mystery of this movie wasn’t that interesting to me,” he said. “I mean, Nazis and serial killers and the evil that people do in their basements with power tools … The thing that was first and foremost was that I hadn’t seen this partnership before. I hadn’t seen these two people working together to do anything. I liked the thriller. I like the vessel of that. But I was more interested in the people who were front and center.”

“I think it’s a lot to do with honesty and trust,” Craig explained. “They shouldn’t have a relationship. They shouldn’t even meet in life. They come from completely different social classes. But I think … there are very few people in life who are straight with [Salander], and he is.”

“I agree,” Mara adds. “He’s also one of the first people in her life who appreciates her for who she is. He’s one of the first people to treat her with any sort of decency or respect.”

Obviously, “Dragon Tattoo” is the first part of Larsson’s trilogy, and while Swedish adaptations of the novels exist, Fincher playfully avoided the question as to whether he’d return to direct U.S. versions of parts two and three in the future.

“Classically, movie studios don’t make deals with directors, even if they’re a hope that there’s going to be three, because they want to make sure that you are going to behave,” Fincher said with a grin.

Find out if Fincher behaved for Sony now that his take on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is in theaters.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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