What is hidden in snow, comes forth in the thaw.
Rooney as: Lisbeth Salander
Genre(s): Thriller | Drama
Written by: Steven Zaillian (screenplay), Stieg Larsson (novel)
Directed by: David Fincher
Other Cast: Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Robin Wright
Release Date: December 21, 2011
Production Budget: $90m
Total Worldwide Gross: $232.6m
Filming Locations: Stockholm, Sweden
In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Academy Award®-nominated director David Fincher (The Social Network) uncoils the world of Stieg Larsson’s global blockbuster thriller on the screen.
Within the story’s labyrinth lie murder, corruption, family secrets and the inner demons of the two unexpected partners chasing the truth of a 40-year-old mystery. Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a financial reporter determined to restore his honor after being convicted of libel. Engaged by one of Sweden’s wealthiest industrialists, Henrik Vanger (Academy Award® nominee Christopher Plummer), to get to the bottom of the long-ago disappearance of his beloved niece, Harriet – murdered, Vanger believes, by a member of his large family – the journalist heads to a remote island on the frozen Swedish coast, unaware of what awaits him.
At the same time, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an unusual but ingenious investigator with Milton Security, is hired to do a background check on Blomkvist, a job that ultimately leads to her joining Mikael in his investigation of who killed Harriet Vanger. Though Lisbeth shields herself from a world that has repeatedly betrayed her, her hacking skills and single-minded focus become invaluable. While Mikael goes face-to-face with the tight-lipped Vangers, Lisbeth plies the wired shadows. They begin to trace a chain of homicides from the past into the present, forging a fragile strand of trust even as they are pulled into the most savage currents of modern crime.
Frode: No, it was quite thorough. But I’m also interested in what’s not in it.
Lisbeth: There’s nothing not in it.
Frode: Your opinion of him isn’t.
Lisbeth: I’m not paid to give my opinion.
Lisbeth: Nothing that warranted inclusion.
Frode: Does that mean yes or no?
Armansky: I think what Miss Salander means, and I agree, is that everyone has a right to a certain amount of privacy, even if they’re being investigated.
Frode: Not in this case. I need to know if there’s anything about him I might find unsavory, even if she doesn’t.
Lisbeth: He’s had a longstanding sexual relationship with his co-editor of the magazine. It wrecked his marriage but not hers. Sometimes he performs cunnilingus. Not often enough, in my opinion.
Frode: No, you’re right not to include that.
Lisbeth: I know.
Lisbeth: If you touch me, I’ll more than alarm you.
Lisbeth: Everyone in town knows who and where you are.
Lisbeth: I’m mentally incompetent and can’t manage daily life.
Blomkvist: Since when have they said that?
Lisbeth: Since I was 12.
Blomkvist: What happened when you were 12? [Pauses] I’m sorry, that’s none of my business.
Lisbeth: I tried to kill my father. Burned him alive. Got about 80 percent of him.
Lisbeth: It’s embarrassing.
Blomkvist: Tell me.
Lisbeth: I need to borrow some money. [Blomkvist reaches into his pocket] Fifty thousand. I have a chance to make an investment. It’s a smart, safe investment.
Blomkvist: I really don’t think I’ve got 50,000.
Lisbeth: Yes, you do. You have 65,000 in your two accounts. I’m sorry that I know that.
Quoting: Rooney Mara
On her character: For me, I could really relate to her and who she is. Obviously we’re completely different, our lives couldn’t be more different. But I think, maybe at my core if I had grown up the way that she had, I could end up like that. Because she has her twin sister and they both have the same life, the same parents, the same experiences, but they ended up completely different. And I think, had I been in that family, I would have gone her way, not the sister’s way.
On her character: I don’t characterize Salander as being a violent person any more than I characterize her as being a sexual person. They’re both aspects to her character, but she lives by this moral code and she’s not willing to compromise ever.
On her character: People really love that character. There’s so many different facets to her. You’re so with her, but at the same time you also really question her and sometimes are frustrated by her.
On the appeal of her character: There’s never been a female character like Lisbeth, this sort of tiny, androgynous person who has so many different facets to her. You’re so with her – and yet, at the same time, you question her because she’s not someone who always does things you agree with. To me, that was really interesting. I think a lot of people relate to her, even if she is also strange to them, because most people at some point have felt like an outsider or like they are being held back by the powers that be.
On forming her character: David and I talked about the idea that there is no open wound with Lisbeth. She’s all scar tissue. She doesn’t cry, she rarely allows herself to really feel, but beneath the scars, the audience has to know the wounds are there.
On Lisbeth and Mikael’s relationship: Lisbeth spends a lot of the movie pushing people away. She’s constantly trying to suppress and push away. She doesn’t have relationships where she connects with people. But with Mikael, she begins to think maybe this is finally someone that I can believe in, but then she also is given good reasons to wonder if she is stupid to trust anyone.
On the appeal of the series: I think people are more intrigued by the under-workings of society than they’re willing to admit. They?re interested in the dark secrets people and societies hold. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has that component combined with these two outsider characters people really, really love.
On the physical transformation: We dyed the hair. We shaved the head. We bleached the eyebrows. And then we were gonna go get pierced right after that. So I went upstairs to change. And, I was totally fine the whole time. I was really together. I was ready for it. I was excited for it. And I got up and looked in the mirror and for like five minutes I was, like, really freaked out. And then I gave myself five minutes and then I was really fine with it. After phase one in Sweden, when they put my eyebrows back on, I was like, “Bleach them back. Bleach them back.” I personally think that bleaching the eyebrows was the best thing we did for the look of the character. It’s the decision that I stand behind more than anything else that we’ve done. It really put our own stamp on it.
On the rape scenes: The scenes with Bjurman tell you the most about Lisbeth. The abuse drives her, and the rest of the story to follow, in so many ways. Those were the scenes I was always thinking about. I always knew those scenes would be hard, but they were even harder than I thought they would be. Yorick [van Wageningen, who plays Bjurman] is like the sweetest guy ever, but I stayed away from him because I didn?t want to be thinking about how sweet he is. It was better for us not to talk too much, but to just go into the room and see how things unraveled.
On the subway fight sequence: I felt that that scene was one of her most important scenes. I think that’s one of the most telling about her and it’s one of the most important for her character. She is someone who is constantly underestimated, and abused and taken advantage of, but even though she has a vulnerable side and looks like someone you can fuck with, she is not that person. She has nothing to lose. And so when he takes the only thing in the world that means anything to her–her computer is the only way she communicates with the rest of the world. It’s everything to her. So when he takes that one thing, she is not gonna let that happen.
On having her nipple pierced: I really wanted it because I wanted to get some of the piercings so that I could really live with it. But that one was important to me because there’s so much nudity in the film. Because of that piercing and all of the tattoos, when I don’t have my clothes on, it’s like it’s not my body. Like, I am still in character. It felt, like, sort of a way to hide. This is the character.
On the casting process: David [Fincher] denies this, but he did not want me to read for it at first. I got an email from my agent saying, “David doesn’t think you’re right for it. He doesn’t wanna see you for it.” And I was like, “Okay, I can understand that. I don’t think I’m right for it either.” But then all of this stuff was coming out about this person’s going up for it or that person. I was like, “Wait, if those people are maybe ‘right for it’ then there’s no reason he should not see me to read for this part.”
On what she took from the role: When I was auditioning, David got on the phone with me and he’s like, “The studio’s problem with you is they think you’re just too capable. You would never be this girl. You would never find yourself in any of these situations because you’re so capable. You’re so well-spoken. You’re so…” You know, blah, blah, blah. I remember when he said that, thinking like: “God, that’s so weird that that’s what’s holding them back, that they think I’m too capable.” Because I’ve never felt like a capable person. My whole life. If anything, I’ve felt quite the opposite. I’ve, most of my life, felt very incapable. And I think the thing that I’m most excited to take from the whole experience is that I feel more capable. I’ve learned to do so much that I never would’ve thought that I could do.
On the audition process: We had three scenes that we were supposed to do. And then three days before the test, they sent the rape-revenge scene. They were like, “We’ve added this scene.” I was like, “You’ve just added this scene? It’s like seven pages long. It’s the hardest scene in the script.” So that was really scary, but I knew that they really meant business when they sent that scene, because that scene really weeds out the people who can or can’t play the part.
On the remake criticism: It’s interesting to me because a lot of people on the internet are like: “I don’t get it. If they’re making an American version of the movie, why are they filming it in Sweden with Swedish accents? Why don’t they just do it in America?” And to me that’s, like, blasphemy. You couldn’t make the movie or tell the story without Sweden in it. To me, it’s one of the biggest characters and components to the book. It doesn’t work any other way.
On working with David Fincher: David understands people so well. He doesn’t treat any two people the same. He won’t direct me the same way he’s gonna direct Steven Berkoff or Daniel [Craig]. He knows how people will respond to certain things. That’s what makes him so great, is he can navigate that. I think David understands about me, that’s really helpful in terms of what he’s asked me to do, is I will do anything for him, but I have to feel like I know everything about it and that I’m totally prepared.
On working with Daniel Craig: When they cast me, Daniel was already in place. I remember I wasn’t that nervous to read with him. It’s always so much better to read with an actor. I remember he was really fit, he just–he had come from Cowboys & Aliens. He was touching his toes, stretching. I was like, “Oh, my God, he’s like a ninja.”
Quoting: Cast and Crew
Director David Fincher: Every time the studio would say, “Come on. Stop showing us this girl. Show us somebody else.” And with a new cadre of potential victims I would bring Rooney back in. And in the end, I wanted the puppy that nobody wanted. I wanted the puppy that was left in the window who was still there wagging its tail. I wanted that person who was indomitable. She’s not a sprinter, she’s a hurdler. You just keep lining them up and she’ll jump them. That’s kind of what I wanted from Lisbeth. I wanted somebody who wouldn’t quit.
Director David Fincher: What endeared me to her during the audition process was exactly what I wanted from Lisbeth: she doesn?t quit. I wanted that person who was indomitable. By the end of our casting process, I knew this was someone worth falling on the grenade for. She started with so much of what we were looking for, what we needed. She?s a bit of a fringe-dweller in her real life. But more than that she was willing to do the work to understand this character. She chopped her hair off, she learned to ride a motorcycle, she went to Sweden on her own and disappeared off the grid. And if you have someone willing to do all that, that?s everything. Piercings are piercings, but anyone could pull that part off.
Director David Fincher: She finds these little, tiny moments of happiness that are enough to keep her going. That’s a perfect example of those little things that Rooney brings to it that I would never have thought of.
Co-star Daniel Craig: Rooney is incredibly bright, intelligent, a together woman. Her priorities are very straight. The fact that it’s worked out — and worked out brilliantly and that she’s just amazing in the movie and everybody’s going to be blown away by her — we kind of knew. We kind of knew while we were doing it: ‘It’s fine. She’s great.’
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: Mara, previously best known for playing the girl who dumped Mark Zuckerberg in the first scene of The Social Network, doesn’t court sympathy with her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander, the goth-freak who has become a fashionable poster child for feminism. With her multiple piercings, a cadaverous pallor and a hermetic demeanor, Lisbeth is the sort of weirdo you would cross the street to avoid. But Mara never leans on the clichés of the brooding outsider or even Lisbeth’s bizarre taste in haircuts to bring her to life. Instead, the actress uses subtle glances and body language and stillness to convey her character’s emotional turmoil. The performance is so thorough, Lisbeth’s otherness gradually melts away until you see the vulnerable, almost childlike person within. Mara lets you inside the heart of darkness Lisbeth inhabits, and you’re swept along as this troubled beauty hesitantly succumbs to an unexpected romance.
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: If you haven’t read the book or seen the original movie, you may be surprised that the film is as much about Blomkvist as it is Lisbeth, if not more. But Mara brings such a punked-out intensity to every scene she is in that she takes over the film. Lisbeth isn’t just looking for information about other people. She’s looking for herself, looking to feel something in a world that has wounded her time and again. Mara’s performance has a ferocity that will linger in your mind long after the two or three endings have faded.
Justin Chang, Variety: For all the fetishistic attention Fincher and his crew lavish on every gruesome forensic detail, they’re unable to transmute Larsson’s rudimentary mystery plotting into something more than pop-lit fare. What remains, then, is the hypnotic presence of Mara, who fearlessly steps into a role made iconic by Swedish thesp Noomi Rapace and proves more than equal to the challenge. Whereas Rapace emphasized the character’s pluck and rage, the more petite, vulnerable-looking Mara presents Salander as an emptied-out enigma: Pierced to the nines, her eyebrows dyed a pale skin tone so as to drain any readable emotion from her face, she frequently averts her gaze downward from whomever she may be addressing. It’s a gesture at once defensive and defiant, bespeaking years of endured abuse and alienation, yet despite her blank affect, the actress charges every moment with tension and feeling.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: It’s Mara’s movie for the taking, and she snatches it up in dramatic fashion. Unforgettable in the opening scene of The Social Network last year, she remained untested in a demanding role, but Fincher’s belief in her is borne out in a dominating performance of submerged rage, confidence and defiance. Baring all in the several sex scenes, both coerced and consensual, she goes all the way in a performance that compares favorably to that of Noomi Rapace in the Swedish version and its two sequels. She comes across here as the real deal.
Awards and Nominations
Below is a list of all accolades Rooney has received for her role in the film.
NOMINATED: Academy Awards – Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
NOMINATED: Awards Circuit Community Awards – Best Actress in a Leading Role (Runner-up)
NOMINATED: Denver Film Critics Society – Best Actress
NOMINATED: Empire Awards – Best Actress
NOMINATED: Georgia Film Critics Association – Best Actress
NOMINATED: Gold Derby Awards – Lead Actress
NOMINATED: Golden Globes – Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama)
NOMINATED: IGN Summer Movie Awards – Best Movie Actress
NOMINATED: MTV Movie Awards – Best Female Performance
NOMINATED: MTV Movie Awards – Best On-Screen Transformation
NOMINATED: MTV Movie Awards – Breakthrough Performance
NOMINATED: Online Film & Television Association – Best Actress
NOMINATED: Online Film & Television Association – Best Breakthrough Performance: Female
NOMINATED: Saturn Awards – Best Actress
NOMINATED: Utah Film Critics Association Awards – Best Actress
WON: IGN Summer Movie Awards – IGN People’s Choice Award
WON: Internet Film Critic Society – Best Actress
WON: National Board of Review – Best Breakthrough Performer
WON: Nevada Film Critics Society – Best Breakthrough Performance
WON: Santa Barbara International Film Festival – Virtuoso Award
WON: St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards – Best Actress