David Fincher Interview For ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’
‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ is the first film in Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy. Directed by David Fincher, the film stars Rooney Mara as the troubled but brilliant computer hacker and investigator Lisbeth Salander, and Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, investigative journalist and publisher of ’Millenium’ magazine. The film also stars Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff, David Dencik, Yorick van Wageningen, Bengt C.W. Carlsson, Mathilda von Essen and Goran Visnjic. ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ is out now in the US, and December 26th in the UK.
The opening sequence, which was stunning, features a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song.’ It’s notoriously difficult to get Led Zeppelin’s music in a movie, and I was wondering if you could tell us the story on that?
David Fincher: Led Zeppelin is very protective, as they should be – they have an amazing catalogue. I think they wanted to make sure that we respected it and it was our intention all along to communicate the idea that we didn’t want to run it into the ground. We didn’t want to use it in every television spot. We wanted to pick specific places like the teaser and the title sequence to do it. I think that they were…it was actually pretty easy. We needed to make sure that they understood that it was going to be a cover. We weren’t going to be licensing the actual performance. We wanted to do it with a woman’s voice. So it kind of went down like clockwork.
I always enjoy your title sequences, it’s always interesting to see how you introduce a film. How did you come up with the approach that you wanted to take with the title sequence for this?
David Fincher: I think title sequences are an opportunity to sort of set the stage or to get people thinking in different terms than maybe whatever they understand the movie to be going in. Often times, when movies are marketed they are marketed towards the idea of, “What is the consensus that everybody has that will get them into the 7 o’clock show?” So often times a title sequence can help to sort of reorient their thinking. I liked the idea of this sort of primordial sort of tar and ooze of the subconscious. I liked the idea that it was sort of her nightmare.
I was wondering how crucial it was to keep the story set in Sweden when you were making this, and to not move it to Seattle or someplace else?
David Fincher: It was never presented to me as, “Try to figure out a way to transport this to the United States.” Mike De Luca (Producer), Amy Pascal (Sony Pictures Co-Chairman), and Scott Rudin (Producer), to a certain extent, were extremely supportive of going to Sweden and shooting Sweden for Sweden. I mean, if you have a forty something reporter and his twenty something hacker girlfriend and you transport that to upstate Connecticut, it’s just a different thing. It ends up being a different story. So it seemed to me that it needed to take place in Sweden. It felt very much…when you are in Stockholm and you drive out of this cosmopolitan city that is un-pockmarked from the Second World War and you get fifteen minutes from out of downtown and you are suddenly in these rolling farm lands that look like Pennsylvania or something. It is a very interesting, from downtown to nowhere in nothing flat – it is an interesting kind of terrain. So it never occurred to me that we would change that. Although there were talks about if it would be cheaper to shoot in Canada, but they there short lived.
When you were casting this, what qualities were you looking for in an actor specifically to play your vision of Lisbeth and Mikael?
David Fincher: The casting process began with Daniel Craig. Obviously, you build your universe, it is like building a basketball team. You start with kind of the anchor. You have to anchor it and we started with Daniel. I was thinking that I knew him socially and I knew him on the screen as a different kind of person. I knew him to be self-effacing and to be playful and witty. I knew that I needed that for Mikael as well, that I wanted a very masculine kind of centre to the film. The androgynous side of the movie would be carried by Rooney Mara, that was her job. I was looking for a sort of Robert Mitchum centre. Then when we had Daniel, and that was fairly complete we started to look at what are the elements that sort of….because they are sort of unable to be close to one another. They sort of push against each other. 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. I had already spent four or five days with her on ‘The Social Network.’ But when you cast somebody you cast them not only for….I look for an inherent kind of quality. You are going to be shooting fourteen hour days and you are going to be tired. You are going to not necessarily be able to conjure armour or a façade every single moment.
You want the actor to have….I liken it to a quality that you kind of can’t beat out of them with a tire iron. There is that thing that maybe you don’t….you are looking for an 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 when.…the problems she was solving for me at the beginning of ‘The Social Network’ were that she was intensely feminine, very mature, warm, verbal, and she was trying to build a bridge desperately to Jesse Eisenberg in those five and a half minutes that she is on screen – none of those qualities applied to Lisbeth. In fact, they were the antithesis. So every time she would come in and we would work together I would say, “Okay, now here is a new hurdle and you have to jump this.” So finally after two and a half months the quality that was undeniable, and the thing that seemed to be the most Lisbithian, was that she was just not giving up. She was indomitable. There were times where I was personally embarrassed to say, “I need you to come back one more time.” There was never a moment where she was like, “Ugh!” I know that I would have (laughs). She said, “Okay, what time do I have to be there and what do you need from me this time? What is the new wrinkle?” I would give it to her and she would come in and do that. It’s all of those things. You just don’t say, “Okay, we get this and we get this.” It is a feel thing, at the end of it, when we put her on the plane to go to Stockholm by herself for five weeks to learn how to ride a motorcycle and find an apartment, we knew we had the right people.
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