Back when auditions were going on for David Fincher’s remake of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ were going on, lots of compelling names were thrown out there. 3 in particular struck me as strong choices. They were Katie Jarvis of ‘Fishtank’ fame, Rooney Mara (who obviously won the job), and Scarlett Johansson. I’m a big Johansson fan, and thought she might have turned her career back around with this gig. Apparently Fincher thought she had the goods too, but ultimately didn’t choose her for a rather interesting reason. Vogue Magazine has a nice write up on the upcoming film and Fincher’s work with Mara, but buried within this article is Fincher explaining why Scarlett isn’t his Lisbeth Salander. Here’s the few paragraphs that tell this particular story:
To tell the story of how Rooney Mara landed the role of Lisbeth Salander, one must go back to David Fincher’s last film, The Social Network. That movie, as you may recall, opens with five minutes and 22 seconds of blistering dialogue between Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his fictional college girlfriend, Mara’s Erica Albright, on a relationship-ending date in a pub. “I remember the feeling that I needed a foil for Jesse and his intense inability to see other people,” says Fincher. “I needed somebody about whom the audience could go, ‘Dude! She’s right there!’ ” Radiating intelligence and self-possession, Mara was a natural for the part.
Then, as Fincher was putting the finishing touches on the film, he started casting Dragon Tattoo. “I had seen a lot of actresses,” he says. “I was beginning to get to the point where I was thinking, Maybe conceptually you are talking about a person who doesn’t exist.” One day his casting director said, “What about Rooney?” He resisted at first. “I believe in casting people whose core—that essential personality you can’t beat out of them with a tire iron—has to work for the character.” He needed someone who was dissociated, antisocial—the exact opposite of Erica Albright. But when he saw Mara’s audition, he was “struck by how different it was from what I felt I already knew about her.”
Mara pipes up: “You didn’t really know me at all, though.”
“I worked with you enough to have an opinion,” he says.
“I was only on The Social Network for four days, so I didn’t really get to know anyone,” says Mara.
“Twenty-four hundred takes,” says Fincher.
“Twenty-four hundred takes but only four days,” says Mara.
“It was a foundation,” says Fincher. “It was a, Wow, here’s someone who just keeps trying. Try this, try this, try this. . . . ”
And so began an agonizing period for Mara. “It was like, ‘Come in. We need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ That’s all I thought about and all I did for weeks.” She mentions a time Fincher said, “Go out and get really, really drunk and come in the next morning so we can take pictures of you.” He wanted to show Sony that she could look strung out. “And I did it!” says Mara. “Threw up all night!”
Meanwhile, Fincher was also screen-testing every conceivable Salander on the planet. “We flew in people from New Zealand and Swaziland and all over the place,” he says. “Look, we saw some amazing people. Scarlett Johansson was great. It was a great audition, I’m telling you. But the thing with Scarlett is, you can’t wait for her to take her clothes off.” He stops for a moment. “I keep trying to explain this. Salander should be like E.T. If you put E.T. dolls out before anyone had seen the movie, they would say, ‘What is this little squishy thing?’ Well, you know what? When he hides under the table and he grabs the Reese’s Pieces, you love him! It has to be like that.”
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