A Handy User’s Guide to Who Wants the ‘Dragon Tattoo’

By  · Published on May 7th, 2010

This is America, and in America we feel perfectly comfortable remaking everything. We remake our own films, we remake foreign films in English so people don’t have to read while eating their popcorn, and we remake the remakes we made a few years ago.

That’s the tireless perfectionism of the entire nation.

In that same vein of tireless, take-after-take perfectionism, David Fincher is setting his sights on joining the remake club by tackling the 2009 Swedish film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The film is one part of a trilogy of films based off the Stieg Larsson novels of the same name.

Considering the acclaim of the film, that ride to remake brilliance won’t be an easy one, and a key ingredient is going to be whomever plays Lisbeth Salander – the titular girl with her famous ink.

According to a report over at Deadline, every major young actress is showing interest in the part. We thought we’d take some time to dig through those resumes and see who best fits the bill.

First, we’ll use David Fincher’s own criteria (as according to unattributed quotes in the piece):

He’s looking for authenticity and a degree of fierceness and believability capable of delivering the intensity that the part on the page calls for.”

And of course, a description of the novel’s character thanks to Wikipedia:

Salander is presented as a genius with Asperger syndrome – she is a brilliant hacker, and solves the classic math problem Fermat’s Last Theorem. She is legally incompetent, officially due to events during childhood, but in reality to protect her father’s true identity.

It also claims that she once set a man on fire because he was abusive. No word yet on whether her tears cure cancer. Keep that in mind while combing through the list, and think about who you would cast.

Last but not least, a note on the physical aspects of the character from our resident Reject whose a fan of the novels and the movies, Rob Hunter:

Salander has a thin, almost boyish figure. She’s supposed to be small and nonthreatening, but then turn brutal when cornered. There’s a dark sexiness to her, though. Two other things that are major parts of her character – one, she’s actively bisexual and two, she has sex and is naked a lot throughout the book.

Something else to keep in mind. Are these actresses the one you see in your mind when you combine all of that together?

Carey Mulligan

The Pitch: Mulligan has two major things going for her. One, she’s an Academy Award-nominated actress. Several of the names on this list are, but Mulligan has the added bonus of being closer to being an unknown than anyone else. She had a breakout role in An Education but she hasn’t risen to massive fame yet because the film wasn’t a blockbuster.

The Problem: So far, we haven’t seen much in the way of fierceness from Mulligan. Hopefully we’ll see that darker side in Wall Street 2, but what she’s done on screen doesn’t speak to that specific brand of acting. Something tells me she’d be more than capable of setting her jaw and a guy on fire, though.

Ellen Page

The Pitch: Ellen Page is a bit more known, but her celebrity status isn’t large enough that it would overshadow a part at this point. If you’ve seen her in Hard Candy, then you know all you’d need to do is change her hoodie from red to black, and she’d be right there in the role. She’s also an Oscar nominee.

The Problem: In my mind, she’s still a little too young-looking. Granted that she is only a year younger than Mulligan at 23, and the character is supposed to be in her twenties, but Page has been playing high school roles even in her last projects. She has the small frame as described in the novel, but she still looks like a girl – not a woman.

Kristen Stewart

The Pitch: Stewart can be a fantastic actress when she wants to be or when the role seems right. Plus, she has the added bonus of having worked with David Fincher before on Panic Room. She’s a close match for the physical type described, and she’s proven to be unafraid in showing sexuality and skin on screen.

The Problem: Like Page, she also seems just a bit too young. One last random thought – she may be buried by the image of Bella from Twilight when it comes to other projects that don’t involve transforming into well-known rock stars. That’s probably negligible, but a small concern (unless she’s filming the last Twilight at the time, and then it becomes a big concern).

Mia Wasikowska

The Pitch: She’s a rising star who would probably be unrecognizable to Alice fans when she is gothed-up.

The Problem: She’s shown shades of acting ability in small roles like in Defiance, and she may have the chops acting-wise, but I’ve never seen them. She was thrust into the spotlight with Alice in Wonderland, but she doesn’t stand out much in it, and is more narcoleptic than fierce. She also doesn’t really fit the body type or the age range.

Natalie Portman

The Pitch: An Oscar nominated actress who showed ferocity back when she was 13 for Leon and years later in an SNL digital short where she threatened to take a dump in our shoes. She’s a major, bankable star who fits the physical description perfectly and doesn’t look like a little girl. There’s no debate that she could handle the role’s challenges.

The Problem: Portman made a big deal publicly about on-screen nudity and her regret at showing 1/8th of her butt cheek in Wes Anderson’s Hotel Chevalier. She would either need to change her position or the character would be slightly neutered.

Kiera Knightley

The Pitch: An Oscar nominated actress who has stayed out of the spotlight for the past few years, opting to do indie-r work and more British films. Still, she has that balance as a known entity that doesn’t get in the way of the character, and people who haven’t seen her in Domino will most likely have to change their entire perception of her from the huffy-trantrum-version of fierce she plays in the Pirates franchise. She also matches the physical description closely and is unafraid of nudity.

The Problem: There may not be one.

Anne Hathaway

The Pitch: Also Oscar nominated, and she’s brunette and the right age.

The Problem: When you think of Anne Hathaway, you think of that doe you saw last week on your nature hike – not a brazen woman who would set someone on fire. She’s sweet, and lovable, which is great. Just not for this part.

Olivia Thirlby

The Pitch: A strong young actress that showed chops in The Wackness and is relatively unknown. She also has the physicality and an eye for doing good dramatic work.

The Problem: The wildcard with Thirlby is that she hasn’t really shown or gotten a chance to show any killer instinct in her roles so far. She could very well be capable of it, and she’s delivered the emotional equivalent more than a few times.

Scarlett Johannsen

The Pitch: She’s young and famous and was just in that superhero movie that the kids like.

The Problem: Johannsen is the most ridiculous name on this list. She has absolutely none of the qualities that seem to matter when it comes to the part. She doesn’t fit the physical description at all (which seems to play a role in creating the character, whereas it can sometimes be tossed out for an adaptation), and frankly, there are stronger actresses on the list. She’s great, but this role is way too gritty for her.

An Unknown

The Pitch: She’s perfect, fits the physical description, won’t overshadow the part, feels fine with nudity and pouring gasoline over people.

The Problem: Have fun finding her. When you do, it could be amazing.

Clearly there are a ton of issues here, and even though Nikki Finke’s article is more of a dreamcasting session than a viable list of who is clamoring for the role, there are some good names that stand out here. I’d love to see an unknown take on the role, but Natalie Portman, Kristen Stewart, and Kiera Knightley would all do fantastic jobs.

The piece also mentions that the studio is trying to lock down a major name –Brad Pitt – for the leading role. That’s an issue for another feature, but even though he may be wrong for the role, I’d still love to see him work with Fincher again. They’re a phenomenal team, and Pitt seems to a bit of a muse for the filmmaker.

So the role is a hot one, but I honestly can’t tell why. The novels are a worldwide phenomenon, and the movies are also doing well, but I can’t see this as a career-maker or profile-raiser unless it’s an unknown. So why are these actresses all reportedly clamoring for it? Because they want to work with Fincher? A strong possibility. Because they want to display some violent, anti-social behavior? Most likely. Beyond that, it’s tough to understand why this is The Role To Get Right Now.

Hopefully we’ll find out why soon. Or at least find out who Fox wants for the project. If we wait on David Fincher, he’ll do 89 drafts of the announcement before he’s ready to get it out.

Who would you cast?

Editor’s Note: This list could not have been compiled without the help of Rob Hunter. All the funny lines are his.

Related Topics:

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.