The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  eddie on Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:08 pm

I've raved about the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy in the Literature section. Now it gets the Hollywood treatment:
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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Steven Zaillian on the difficulties of adapting Stieg Larsson

Stieg Larsson's crime trilogy is being adapted for Hollywood, starting with director David Fincher's Boxing Day blockbuster. 'There was no pressure to lighten it up,' reveals its screenwriter

Alex Godfrey

The Guardian, Saturday 17 December 2011


Rooney Mara. Photograph: Merrick Morton

Last month, David Fincher chose to play it coy when Entertainment Weekly asked about his latest film's Oscar chances. "There's too much anal rape in this movie to get nominated," he said. "I think we're very safe." But he's not safe in the slightest. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, his adaptation of Stieg Larsson's wildly successful novel (55m copies of the trilogy sold to date), is an exquisite work of art, regardless of some of its brutal content. "There was never any pressure from the studio to lighten it up," says the film's screenwriter, Steven Zaillian. "They understood that part of the reason the book is so successful is because it doesn't tiptoe around those issues."

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (US)
Production year: 2011
Countries: Rest of the world, USA
Cert (UK): 18
Runtime: 152 mins
Directors: David Fincher, Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Joely Richardson, Lena Endre, Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Peter Haber, Robin Wright, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Sven-Bertil Taube, Yorick van Wageningen

Indeed, the studio, Sony, went further, embracing the problematic content and telling Fincher to build an adult franchise. Zaillian in turn was given carte blanche to go for it, with virtually no briefing. "There was really very little discussion, he recalls. It was, 'Read the book, see what you think.' And, 'We're not interested in setting it in the United States, we want to go to Sweden [where the novel is set].' That was basically the whole conversation."

As one of Hollywood's screenwriting elite, Zaillian, 58, has written for Spielberg (Schindler's List), Scorsese (Gangs Of New York), and Ridley Scott (Hannibal, American Gangster). His films often involve outcasts solving puzzles – Clarice Starling in Hannibal, Billy Beane in Moneyball, Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is no exception. At its heart is the relationship between disgraced magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and the damaged, socially inept Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the hacker he hires to help crack the case of Harriet Vanger, who disappeared from her family's foreboding island in the mid-60s. As with Fincher's 2007 film Zodiac, it focuses heavily on the nuances of their investigation.

"I'm really interested in the process of anything," Zaillian says. "Follow the money, follow the story, follow the lies, whatever it is. This story has all of that. I love learning about things that way."

'I didn't change anything just for the sake of changing it. There's a lot right about the book, but one part, I thought we could do it a different way, and it could be a nice surprise'


Daniel Craig

He hopes Dragon Tattoo audiences will enjoy learning too – at least those who aren't familiar with Larsson's novel, let alone its two sequels or the Swedish film trilogy. For those who are, there will still be some surprises; one of the book's major plot points has been substantially changed. So how much was his writing governed by the novel's legacy?

"Not a lot," shrugs Zaillian. "I would say there is a kind of low-grade anxiety all the time, but I was never doing anything specifically to please or displease. I was simply trying to tell the story the best way I could, and push that out of my mind. I didn't change anything just for the sake of changing it. There's a lot right about the book, but that part, I thought we could do it a different way, and it could be a nice surprise for the people that have read it."

Sony is banking on the majority of the film's audience being Dragon Tattoo virgins. As successful and acclaimed as the Swedish film was in the States, it was still relatively minor. Says Zaillian: "People who would go to an arthouse cinema and watch a Swedish movie and read subtitles … it's a small percentage." David Fincher's film is tougher, sadder and a whole lot more beautiful than the Swedish one. It's also more complex, which may surprise at least those who were opposed to it when it was announced.

"I know we are playing into the European, and certainly the Swedish, predisposition that this is just a gigantic, monetary land grab," Fincher said recently in an interview with the Fincher Fanatic website.

Indeed, the most vocal critic was the original director, Niels Arden Oplev. "Even in Hollywood," he told the Word & Film website last year, "there seems to be a kind of anger about the remake, like, 'Why would they remake something when they can just go see the original?' Everybody who loves film will go see the original one. It's like: what do you want to see, the French version of La Femme Nikita or the American one?"

The Guardian reads these comments to Zaillian, who hasn't heard them, and he responds by saying that by the time his projects are officially announced and statements like that are made, he's usually already finished the job. "There's a lag time, so I didn't have to work with that," he says. "But I don't like the idea of remaking things, it's not something that I look to do. I've only done it once before, with All The King's Men [which he also directed], and it didn't turn out so well! It was the same thing: people attacked it for being not the original. So I get it, and it's not something that I look for, and that's the reason I didn't see the Swedish film. I didn't want to remake it."

'I imagined someone who could move through the streets of Stockholm almost invisibly even though she looks the way she looks … it's almost like a forcefield'


Rooney Mara. Photograph: Merrick Morton

Zaillian and Fincher spent a lot of time discussing the themes of Larsson's novels and how best to communicate them. This took them into some dark places, such as the psychological difference between rapists and serial killers, for example. A particular line of dialogue, which has one of the film's more deplorable characters psychologically bribing Salander, sums up that difference incredibly succinctly.

"We were talking about the main difference between the two, and this is really David, he's an expert on the subject," Zaillian half-jokes, in reference to the director's previous serial killer studies, Seven and Zodiac. "A rapist, or at least our rapist, is about exercising his power over somebody. A serial killer is about destruction; they get off on destroying something. It's not about having power over something, it's about eliminating it. What thrills them is slightly different."

Such diligent psychological exploration is also naturally afforded to Salander, and Rooney Mara's stunning performance elevates the character – already iconic – into cinema's hall of fame. Here, she's fantastically multi-layered, more aggressive than before, with a constant underlying rage, while also more feminine and in some ways more vulnerable. She looks and seems like an alien.

"I always imagined that she's someone who could move through the streets of Stockholm almost invisibly," says Zaillian, "even though she looks the way she looks, because of the way she dresses and the way she behaves. And it's not by design, I don't think. It's almost like a forcefield: 'Stay away from me.' She has no social graces. She has more experience with the dark side of human nature than the rest of us, but she has very little experience with the normal interaction between civilised people. And she just doesn't know how to behave."

Fincher has yet to sign up for a sequel – the public will be the judge of that, he joked at a Bafta Q&A last Sunday – although Sony is forging ahead, with Craig and Mara contracted for a new trilogy. Zaillian, meanwhile, is currently in the middle of the second screenplay.

"OK!" he laughs when I ask how it's going, not wanting to discuss it right now. "I hate everything until I'm deeper into it. It's going fine." On the basis of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I'm inclined to believe him.

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  eddie on Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:10 pm

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo rethinks the Hollywood remake

David Fincher has spritzed his US version of Larsson's book with a respectful faux Swedishness. Could this be a step forward?

WARNING: Plot spoilers follow


Patched up? … Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in David Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

"Remake" has become a dirty word in cinema. Hollywood can do what it likes to its own movies, but it's how it treats everyone else's that has made it notorious: money-obsessed, and as culturally sensitive as Stalin after a night on the Stolichnaya. Director David Fincher admitted as much at the start of the publicity run for his remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. "I know we are playing into the European, and certainly the Swedish, predisposition that this is a giant monetary land grab," he told the fansite FincherFanatic.com. "You're co-opting a phenomenon. Now, there are plenty of reasons to believe we can make it equally entertaining of a movie. But the resentment is already engendered, in a weird way. It's bizarre."

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (US)
Production year: 2011
Countries: Rest of the world, USA
Cert (UK): 18
Runtime: 152 mins
Directors: David Fincher, Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Joely Richardson, Lena Endre, Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Peter Haber, Robin Wright, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Sven-Bertil Taube, Yorick van Wageningen

It's unusual for a director to be so transparent about the whole painful process – and his version of Dragon Tattoo seems to be the new, culturally enlightened face of US remakes. The film, instead of being roughly uprooted and repotted on Yankee soil, takes place in a kind of ersatz Sweden. Daniel Craig keeps his English vowels, but most of the cast speak the English dialogue with Europeanised accents of various weights. That includes Rooney Mara's Lisbeth Salander, who even slips in a "Tack!" [thanks] at one point. It's the one blatant move from Fincher, who everywhere else makes sure the film never betrays its setting with his usual forensic zeal. He even recreated a lakeside dock in an LA studio after he was refused shooting rights by the Abba member who owned the location.

That's the new school of remakes. Hollywood's normal way during the noughties was more like what Salander does to her guardian with a dildo. For every The Ring (even shorn of Japanese uncanniness, the Gore Verbinski version rightly had its admirers), there were the Quarantines, the One Missed Calls, the Dinner for Schmucks. Nasty bastardisations. These were operating under the old unilateral ethos – render a foreign-language story palatable for the subtitle-phobic US audience – that occasionally produces such sizeable hits as The Birdcage ($124m US domestic) or Vanilla Sky ($101m). But with Hollywood's creative gas-tank running on empty and a desperation for ideas, the remake took on the air of the easy option in the noughties. There were too many, put together with too little care.

It probably came down to economics. The critic Gary G Xu has compared the remake factory to a kind of outsourcing – pushing R&D costs on to other parties – that could be seen as part of the wider Asia-wards shift of industrial production. In the book East Asian Cinemas, Xu writes: "Outsourced are the jobs of assistant producers who are the initial script screeners, of the personnel involved in the scripting process, of supporting crew for various details during production, of the marketing team and, increasingly, of directors. Sooner or later, the unions within the Hollywood system will come to realise the outsourcing nature of remaking."

It's a fascinating idea. Hollywood saves money by cherrypicking stories and creative talent that have been roadtested in other markets. But was it truly cost-effective? A lot of the noughties remakes still played it cautious. Many of them, especially the J-horror smash-and-grabs, were low- to medium-budget films that, without heavy marketing muscle, made modest US box office in the $15-30m range. (This partly explains the shoddy quality.) Of the ones that spent higher, there were several prominent flops that failed to connect in the market for which they had been reshoed: Bangkok Dangerous ($45m budget/$15.3m US domestic), Dark Water ($60m budget/$25m) and Let Me In ($20m budget/$12.1m). Of the really big successes, you'd imagine the star power, script overhauls, beefed-up production values and marketing needed to propel them upwards would easily offset the modest initial savings made by buying in intellectual property. The Departed ($132m US domestic), The Ring ($129m), The Grudge ($110m), Vanilla Sky, Insomnia($67.3m) all cashed in. But at that level, they were beyond remake economics – they were playing the high-stakes blockbuster game.

Fincher, with a $100m budget, is at this table too. But his Dragon Tattoo, spritzed with its light fragrance of Scandinavian malaise, is clearly a step towards a new kind of remake for the era of international box office. Audiences are better travelled than they used to be and more ready to sample culture in a foreign-language. Where remakes come into being, maintaining the essence of the original work is becoming a plus point – like with the British adaptation of Wallander. The US Dragon Tattoo also follows in the footsteps of Columbia's remake of J-horror The Grudge – which also kept its predecessors' Japan setting. It was more elegant, though, in explaining the transition to English-speaking characters: they actually are English speakers (Sarah Michelle Gellar's character is a care nurse who takes a job in Tokyo at the hexed house of the three previous Japanese movies).

So foreignness can be a selling point for a remake now. Fincher safeguards the Swedishness with what is essentially a form of posh dubbing – substituting actors instead of a new audio track. But his method surely has its limits. It's hard to imagine it working outside of a western setting: anything set in Asia or Africa would seem ridiculous, or even a bit colonial. And it hides what is, in many ways, still a traditional remake. The black-lacquered title sequence announces the new ownership, and the ascension of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy to global media-brand status. Of course this could only be permitted to happen in Hollywood hands: this is Scandinavian crime fiction as 007 extravaganza. It's gone respectable, in other words, and on one crucial point it pushes even further in making sure that the star of the show is palatable to her new public: Lisbeth Salander actually asks permission from Mikael Blomkvist to kill with the serial killer, and she doesn't even get to deal the mortal blow. She is no longer Noomi Rapace's feminist avenging angel (though Fincher's version is truer to the book on this point than its Swedish adaptation).

The new Dragon Tattoo exists in a strange remake twilight – half-native, half-Hollywood – and that may be the compromise for the next few years. But really, we shouldn't care whether films take this respectful route or go in for the unabashed story-heist of old. The greats, from Shakespeare to Shaw, went for the grand theft with no apologies. They knew you can't keep a good yarn locked up. The local always has the universal buried within it; a true remake is the one able to dig that out.

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:32 pm

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – review

David Fincher directs Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in an icebox-fresh take on this familiar thriller

Xan Brooks

The Guardian, Friday 16 December 2011


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo stars Rooney Mara as the traumatised computer hacker and ward of state Lisbeth Salander. Photograph: Merrick Morton/AP

David Fincher turns the film noir white with this steely, stealthy adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Taking the thriller genre's staple ingredients of murder, sexual sadism and familial corruption, he casts them into the cold, throwing the action across a remote private island, where big pale houses sit against a big pale sky. Outside the snow is flying and the river has frozen. Inside, behind closed doors, it's positively arctic.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (US)
Production year: 2011
Countries: Rest of the world, USA
Cert (UK): 18
Runtime: 152 mins
Directors: David Fincher, Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Joely Richardson, Lena Endre, Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Peter Haber, Robin Wright, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Sven-Bertil Taube, Yorick van Wageningen

Daniel Craig gives a spry, winning performance as Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced Stockholm journalist who accepts a commission from wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who lives far to the north amid a smattering of brothers and sisters he can hardly bear to speak to. Nominally, Vanger wants Blomkvist to research his memoirs, though what he's really after (or what he says he's after) is the identity of whoever abducted his teenage niece more than 40 years before. "You will be investigating the most detestable people you are ever likely to meet," Vanger announces with relish. "My family."

The film's arrival is the latest instalment in the curious afterlife of the author, Stieg Larsson, who died from a heart attack in 2004. Since then, his posthumously published novel – the first part of his Millennium Trilogy – has sold upwards of 30m copies, as well as spawning a successful Swedish-language film version in 2009.

No doubt many viewers will now be familiar with the yarn's constant twists and turns. Happily, it barely matters: Fincher's expert handling makes this feel as though it's been lifted fresh from the icebox – assuming "fresh" is the right term for a film so steeped in the murk of human cruelty, and so excitedly disgusted by its subject-matter.

Blomkvist's investigation eventually brings him into contact with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a turbulent computer hacker and ward of the state, brutalised by the authorities and burning with rage. Salander trusts nobody, possibly not even herself. When Blomkvist tells her, "I want you to help me catch a killer of women," it's the first time she manages to look up and meet his gaze.

If only more high-concept Hollywood thrillers were as supple, muscular and purely gripping. In less experienced hands, this would surely have wound up as lurid, trashy pulp. Yet Fincher plays it straight and keeps it serious. He brings a sense of space and rough edges to a machine-tooled plotline that bounces us remorselessly from clue to clue.

He makes us care about Blomkvist and Salander as they rattle over the island and through the corridors. The route leads them past Nazi skeletons in the closet and arcane references to the Old Testament – all the way down the steps to the basement. Sooner or later, films like this one always wind up underground, in the basement. It's where the secrets are buried, the lights are turned on and the tale turns infernal.

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  eddie on Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:46 am

'Pirate’ Girl With the Dragon Tattoo DVD confuses Americans

By Orlando Parfitt | Movie Editor's Blog
Yahoo! News

We can't decide if this is a huge gaffe or great marketing.

The American DVD of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' looks just like a pirated home-burned disc, with the title scrawled in magic marker.

It's a reference to lead character Lisbeth Salander - a computer hacker who doubtless burned the odd dodgy DVD in her time.

Fans will also have noticed 'Magda - 32016' on the disc - a reference to one of the victims in the book.


Confusing... Dragon Tattoo disc looks fake

However, the unconventional artwork has confused many American film fans, with many returning the DVD thinking it was fake, according to The Washington Post.

Amazon has been forced to put a notice on their site reassuring punters they are not buying an illegal version of the movie.

It reads: "It has come to our attention that there has been some confusion on the DVD disc art as it appears to look like a bootlegged copy. Please note that the disc art is in fact the final approved disc art provided to us by the filmmakers."

US rental service Redbox put up a similar notice: "NOTE TO RENTERS: The handwritten look on the disc of this movie is legitimate and is intended to look like a burned DVD."


Hacker... Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander (Credit: Sony)

It's not the first time the gimmick has been used. The disc for "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" featured a similar design.

We contacted Sony, who told us they had not confirmed yet what the disc art for 'Dragon Tattoo' would look like in the UK.

But don't be shocked if your copy looks illegal when it goes on sale on 23 April.

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  nombre de otro on Thu Aug 16, 2012 12:04 am

where have her eyebrows gone?

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  pinhedz on Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:09 am

The Swedish one had eyebrows I love you I love you I love you I love you


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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  Lee Van Queef on Mon Sep 17, 2012 4:10 am

I've read the trilogy. I generally enjoyed it, the biggest compliment I can say is that I couldn't put any of the books down. They are the crack cocaine of literature.

I thought the first book was excellent, except for the last third or so - by then there started to be too many twists and it felt a bit like scoobie doo. The 2nd one wasn't all that I didn't think, at times it was just plain stupid - such as when a giant (who can not feel pain) is fighting a famous boxer. Third one nicely finished it all off. But the first one was by far the best IMO. I don't want to sound too snobby, but they were all written rather badly, but I guess that could have just been the translation.

Haven't seen any of the films, I intend to do so.

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  pinhedz on Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:37 am

Nothing against Daniel Craig, but I'd recommend the series starring Noomi Rapace.

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  Lee Van Queef on Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:29 am

pinhedz wrote:Nothing against Daniel Craig, but I'd recommend the series starring Noomi Rapace.

Thing is, I would completely avoid the Hollywood version on instinct, but David Fincher is one of my favourite directors so definitely want to check it out. Problem is, not sure I have the will to watch 4 films - let alone possibly 6!

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  pinhedz on Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:18 am

Seems like a lot for one sitting--are you allowed to take breaks in between? jocolor

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:42 pm

i havent seen the swede version, but unless they managed to match David Fincher cueing Enya's "Orinoco Flow ( Let's Sail Away)" for Stellan's torture scene, then USA is still the pig winner

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Re: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:45 pm




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