‘Dragon Tattoo’ casting raises questions

Will violent, sexy actioner click with U.S. auds?

There is a lot riding on the shoulders of Rooney Mara, the 25-year-old American thesp who won the title role in Columbia Pictures’ “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

It’s a big commitment: The casting covers a trio of high-profile pictures. In addition, readers of the three books — published in 44 countries and selling more than 40 million copies worldwide to date — have a clear picture of the iconic savant hacker Lisbeth Salander.

Sony won’t comment on the budget for the pics, but it appears that the studio, director David Fincher and producer Scott Rudin aren’t thinking cheap. According to insiders, scribe Steve Zaillian’s deal for the second pic is said to be record-breaking.

After a long search, Columbia wasn’t convinced Mara was perfect casting, but Fincher prevailed in a debate that was waged through this weekend. Fincher, who directed her in the studio’s upcoming “The Social Network,” convinced the top execs. (Mara also appeared in this year’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”)

The Stieg Larsson trilogy also includes “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” While the books’ runaway success would seem to create a slamdunk for the studio — witness the success of the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” book-to-film adaptations — there are also hot books that haven’t translated to B.O. (Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones,” the biggest bestseller of 2002, couldn’t find much traction with moviegoers last year, even with Peter Jackson directing.)

Another hurdle for the studio is the success of the trio of Swedish-language film adaptations. That trio has grossed $202.9 million worldwide so far. After the other two bowed in the U.S. this year, “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” launches Oct. 15. Since overseas B.O. accounts for the majority of a film’s B.O., the worldwide tallies are all-important, but there’s little precedent for anticipating reaction to English-language remakes.

There’s also the question of the American appetite for a dark property that will necessitate a hard R rating for its key scenes of rape, sadism and murder. Insiders say a top Col exec twice passed on the property when it was brought to the studio by helmer Marc Forster. It wasn’t until Sony chairman Michael Lynton read the books that he insisted on the studio making the pics with Rudin producing.

Daniel Craig co-stars in the three-picture adaptation of the late Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, with Robin Wright co-starring and Stellan Skarsgard cast in a supporting role in the first installment. The studio is also in talks with Max van Sydow to play the key role of Henrik Vanger.

Columbia mulled a number of name actresses for the role of Salander, including Natalie Portman, who refused to test for Fincher, and Kristen Stewart, who worked with Fincher as a child in “Panic Room.” Ultimately, Mara — great-granddaughter of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. and New York Giants founder Tim Mara as well as sister of “Brokeback Mountain” thesp Kate Mara — landed the role.

Fincher is a final-cut director whose work include serial killer pic “Zodiac,” which was critically acclaimed but topped out at $33 million domestically, and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which was his highest-grossing pic with $127 million.

“Dragon Tattoo,” which begins shooting next month in Sweden, is set to bow worldwide Dec. 21, 2011.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content