Daniel Craig Wants David Fincher Back For 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel,’ But Is That Realistic?

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by Edward Davis
October 23, 2012 9:58 AM
23 Comments
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On a normal movie franchise timetable, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” series is running behind schedule. If this were Marvel for example, the sequel would have been announced as the film was entering theaters or a few months afterwards. But brooding, dark, decidedly for-adults-only material and not four-quadrant broad like most ideal tentpoles, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is not your average would-be franchise. To boot, according to MGM’s math, the film posted a financial loss after all was said and done (even though the film made $232 million worldwide, its shooting, post-production and promotional budget apparently exceeded those figures).

But according to the L.A Times who interviewed Daniel Craig late last week, the ‘Dragon Tattoo’ star says he’s not given up on the series. In fact, he hopes to persuade David Fincher to return for another installment. “Of course I’ll embrace [the movie], especially if Fincher does it,” Craig told the LAT, adding, “I’m definitely going to work on him.”

Fine, sure, of course he wants to work with Fincher again. But is Fincher game? And more importantly, is Sony (they co-produced the picture with MGM)?. There are a lot of jenga pieces in play here and a lot of big ifs. If Sony does want to get “The Girl Who Played With Fire” in front of cameras soon, and with Fincher at the helm, they may have to act relatively quickly. Fincher has his own struggles over at Disney where the studio has placed a three month hold on the director as they decide the fate of his long-developing, ambitious and likely very-expensive 3D/CGI adaptation of "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea."

So if ‘Leagues’ does get green-lit, Fincher simply won’t be around for the ‘Dragon Tattoo’ sequel. But that would be the tidy version of this story, and ‘Leagues’ is an entire tale on its own (we’ve heard that it’s Disney who want Brad Pitt, with Fincher pursuing other actors), and that has been the case for months. The fact is, neither project has been moving quickly for various reasons, many of which we’ll outline here.

And maybe that’s what all parties want? Fincher had an extremely tough time on ‘Dragon Tattoo,’ battling producers Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal (he told us it was “incredibly draining” in more diplomatic fashion) and Rooney Mara was reportedly paid a sum so small it would be almost insulting to print it. Moreover, as he suggested in our interview last year, Fincher had to fight tooth and nail for Mara to get the part, and when the studio and producers finally agreed, they only did so because she agreed to be paid a pittance, something that never sat well with the protective Fincher, who’s taken a paternal role with the actress.

Then there’s cost. Sony’s now deeply aware that “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” was too exorbitantly priced for what it was -- an adult drama released at Christmas. While it did make up its numbers eventually (or close: Sony reported a “modest loss”), “The feel bad film of the season” marketing campaign backfired, and a film featuring an extended rape sequence was not what audiences wanted at Christmas. Suffice to say the film got off to a very slow start during the holidays. So Sony want to produce a film that doesn’t cost $100 million to make (why spend blockbuster dollars when something like "The Social Network" came in at $40 million?). And given the scope and locations required, that pegs 'Dragon Tattoo' at $60-70 million at least. However, the talent involved is pricey, and with Fincher, Rudin and screenwriter Scott Zaillian, that’s around $25-$35 million paid out before a frame of film is shot. Fincher also has a decent pay-to-play deal (close to $5 million even if he doesn’t shoot the sequel) and so Sony are a bit damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to keeping their costs low.

Additionally, Variety recently said Fincher was waiting for Steve Zaillian's script for "The Girl Who Played With Fire," but Google any interviews with Fincher and Zaillian from last year and they'll tell you the script was already completed (Fincher told us he had read it and it was “very good”). So there’s a disconnect there and it jibes with what we’ve heard: that not everyone at Sony is completely happy with what Zaillian has turned in, and it needs work.

So several variables are in play, and meanwhile, Sony is focused on the rest of their slate, Fincher’s been shooting his “House Of Cards” series, and Rudin always has his hands in several producing pies. It’s a conundrum, one that no one know how to easily fix, hence 'Played With Fire' won’t be in theaters until 2014 at the earliest (and that’s if they start shooting by at least mid 2013, and right now that doesn’t look like anyone’s plan).

As for ‘Leagues,’ it has its own share of issues. After Disney took a bath on the box-office bomb of “John Carter,” are they really ready to drop another $200 million on this property? That’s not a scenario they want to face anytime soon, and in fact, they’re probably looking at “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” as a case study for their problem. Fincher doesn’t make broad and four-quadrant tentpoles, nor does he make his films for a thrifty penny either. So without someone like Brad Pitt, ‘Leagues’ is probably not being green-lit. And hell, even with Johnny Depp, Disney's “The Lone Ranger” is looking like a mammothly expensive tentpole (reports have the budget soaring well over $200 million), and they are likely doubly nervous and cautious when it comes to giving the go ahead on these risky propositions. In short, they’re not in the mood for a gamble. Or at least, they shouldn’t be (though new Disney chief Alan Horn does apparently love Fincher).

The best case scenario for Sony: ‘Leagues’ is magically green-lit, leaving the studio “forced” to hire another (read: much less expensive) director to helm the sequel. “Sorry,” they’ll say to fans. "David is busy," and their problems will be mostly solved, and surely they’d hire a filmmaker that they can directly control to keep costs down. However, with ‘Leagues’ looking uncertain, the worst case scenario for Sony and fans of the books and films is Disney passes on ‘Leagues,’ and then both projects just acquire cobwebs.

That said, the number crunching is still in play. Whatever happens, don’t be surprised in three months when everyone passes on “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” and yet there’s still no eye on the horizon for 'Played With Fire.' Let’s not forget when we asked him last year if he needed to see a sequel, Fincher said, “Do I need to see a sequel? No, there’s a little bit of an emotional cliffhanger at the end, but the story is complete.”

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23 Comments

  • glaeken | January 18, 2013 8:00 AMReply

    90 M budget 232 M earn ? Loss? Rental and Bluray market? Fincher made a great movie..so at least Michael Mann could replace him

  • szoszo | November 18, 2012 4:45 PMReply

    I will be really disappointed if Fincher does not return for part 2. It will probably kill the following parts for me but I will go to the cinema because I followed Mara's career since the beginning and I adore her. This movie also made me learn to appreciate Daniel Craig who I absolutely despised before (couldn't bear to watch his Bond movies until Skyfall). One of the other huge damages that we can count on if Fincher doesn't come back is that he's probably going to pull Trent Reznor along, who also notoriously hates authority and corporate stuff that "ruins" creativity. Also a huge factor in making Dragon Tattoo one of my favourites... I will be really sad if I do not get two other installments of my Fincher-Reznor-Mara-Craig combo, which is pretty likely now, even though I couldn't believe my luck when I went to see the movie on the first week it opened and was already thinking about the other two that would follow.

  • Ben | October 29, 2012 6:43 PMReply

    A dark atmospheric character based thriller like this could have been made for far less money. That's not the way Fincher works. The daily line spend on this shoot must have been mind- numbing with the level of minutia he looks at. I also thought of Zallian to direct these sequels however things I have read about his script experience on this one (That its not his job to be on set everyday to make sure everything is right as the writer)... would he want to? I do give Fincher all the credit he deserves for having the balls to know it would take an unknown, and making that happen against the suits. I could never see Scarlett Johansson in this role.
    Mara is something special.

  • Frank | October 26, 2012 9:30 PMReply

    Not gonna happen i bet.

  • Dave | October 24, 2012 7:44 AMReply

    Re: the total production and promotional budget for TGWTDT exceeding the $232 mil it took in worldwide-- doubtful. Remember, the studios don't see all of that money anyway. But where they are expected to make their biggest chunk back is from the opening weekend box office take, per the deals they work out with the cinemas (that's why those opening numbers are so important). And THAT's where Sony messed up the most, they admitted the Christmas release was too bold or cocky on their part, it cost them millions. The film performed even better it's second week(end) of release than it did the first. Understandably. So MGM, who co-financed it, can blame the release date for their alleged "modest loss" of 5-10%, or whatever it was that they leaked for whatever reasons... if it even went down like that to begin with, I see from previous articles' comments sections I'm not the only one to question them or not simply take their word for it.

    As for everyone here saying Dragon Tattoo is better than Played With Fire & Hornet's Nest, fair enough in a sense, especially regarding the latter... but 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' was really good too, and has Hollywood written all over it. It's by far the most action packed of the Millennium trilogy, introduces even more interesting characters, and I too would love to see what the whole team returning could do with it: Cast & Crew, Fincher, Zaillian, Reznor, Summerville, the whole lot of em. BUT that being said, Fincher isn't infallible. He obsessively wastes money on things no one else would ever notice or care about, and even the "May I..." line that irked so many in the first film, he claimed that was his call as well. So while I'm a big fan of Fincher's work, I'll see the sequel(s) regardless of who directs as long as Mara & Craig return.

    I have little to no desire, however, to see this 3D Leagues... it sounds like another *legitimate* box office bomb waiting to happen.

  • MJ | October 23, 2012 11:50 PMReply

    Maybe the comments about waiting for Zallian's script refer to him writing Hornet's Nest as well, chances are the only way they reduce the costs are to do them back to back, it would make sense.

  • DHE | October 23, 2012 1:26 PMReply

    The "Girl" sequels seem more interesting to me but finches doing the giant squid from "Leagues" is too great an image to pass. I still wonder what happend to "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud" seemed perfect for Pitt and Fincher

  • jenga | October 23, 2012 1:22 PMReply

    "Moreover, as he suggested in our interview last year, Fincher had to fight tooth and nail for Mara to get the part, and when the studio and producers finally agreed, they only did so because she agreed to be paid a pittance, something that never sat well with the protective Fincher, who’s taken a paternal role with the actress." -- Yeah "paternal" role if by paternal you mean super creepy both ways... the Vogue interview with Mara solidified their relationship as borderline creepy.

  • Ferre | October 24, 2012 11:21 AM

    Agree with yod...

  • Yod | October 23, 2012 10:14 PM

    No, they're friends. However, your obsession with them is creepy.

  • DG | October 23, 2012 1:10 PMReply

    I would way rather see this than 20000 Leagues

  • Leni | October 23, 2012 12:55 PMReply

    I hope everyone comes back and this somehow works out. I don't know how it possibly cost so much, so hopefully they can cut down somewhere. Mara certainly needs a raise though. She was so good, and it would certainly cost more than 200k for me to lose a bunch of weight, and get my body and face pierced all over. The sequel could be even better, because the book is a little more straightforward and perhaps easier for a broad audience to get on board.

  • nechoplex | October 23, 2012 12:37 PMReply

    Even though the Dragon Tattoo books decreased in quality, I think it would be best for the film franchise if Fincher made The Girl Who Played With Fire. What he did with the material on the first film was extraordinary and elevated it in such a way that not many expected. He did the material more than justice and if there's anyone that can keep that going is Fincher. Not that I wouldn't mind Sony getting a different director, but the whole tone and look of the first one was so Fincher specific that I can't imagine another director either changing it or attempting to emulate what Fincher did. It would be bad for the trilogy, which Fincher's film made me really care about.
    Hopefully, with a smaller budget and a spring/halloween release the sequel could turn out to be profitable.

  • Dan | October 23, 2012 12:13 PMReply

    The film had a hard R rating with two graphic rape scenes. How much money did Sony think they were going to walk away with? Additionally, when one considers the material $232 million really is impressive. Note, if Skyfall makes over 60o million (highly likely), Sony will be knocking for the sequel. If not Fincher, how about Zaillian? He's one of the best screenwriters ever, and after All the King's Men, this could kick start his directing career again.

  • Rohan | October 23, 2012 11:29 AMReply

    With all due to respect to Sony and Scott Rudin, I think there marketing for "Dragon Tattoo' was very poor. It's mind-boggling. It wasn't exactly 'The Polar Express.' - Fincher here is not to blame; we all know how passionate Fincher is when it comes to making films. 'Dragon Tattoo' is one of the best films from the Fincher camp. In fact, it will remain one of my favorites forever. I blame Sony for their marketing. They released a rated 'R' film, with a disturbing rape scene, on Christmas. Do you think people during the holiday season are going to watch a film with a rape scene? - Absolutely not! Now they are not sure if they should call a go-ahead to its sequel. If I were part of SONY, I would bring back Fincher on the roundtable discussion to helm the sequel, because Fincher's take on the first installment was quite artistic. And release the film during spring or fall.

  • asdgasdf | October 23, 2012 11:25 AMReply

    Fincher shouldn't do it. The sequels aren't nearly as good as the first one. Those stories are way too unrealistic and cartoonish compared to the first one.

  • userfriendly | October 22, 2013 10:50 PM

    I agree with ROHAN as far as thinking Sony's to blame for when this movie was released... It definitely should've been released at any "other" time of year then it was! That definitely hurt they're profit margin! If anything, early to mid fall, when everyone that "would" like this film, would enjoy it most... It still remains one of my favorite all time films, regardless of what anyone else thinks about it anyways! It just sucks Sony jacked up the release date and more people didn't give it a chance! I bet now that it's been on Encore 5,000 times, there's a lot more fans.....as long as they didn't watch it all 5,000 times!
    This type or caliber of movie always leaves you feeling empty because you just know there has to be a kick ass sequel....there just HAS TO BE! I just hope Sony keeps Fincher, Reznor Craig, Rooney and basically the whole fam-damly! I personally think this movie & it's sequels could really spark Rooney's career to a whole new level and fan base!

  • kitcon | October 23, 2012 11:16 AMReply

    Fincher should tackle original material that is more in his wheelhouse. He's wasted in both a Dragon sequel and Capt. Nemo. Given that it's Disney, their idea of a Jules Verne adaptation will probably be closer to the cheesy -- but hugely profitable - Journey films.

  • jimmiescoffee | October 23, 2012 10:49 AMReply

    the other 2 overseas 'dragon' sequels were so awful that i wonder if the story is good enough to warrant fincher's time. personally, i'd like to see it, but if i had to choose i'd much rather see '20,000' or any of the other projects i wish he stuck to (torso,rama).

  • Duddi | October 23, 2012 10:29 AMReply

    Too bad that Dragon Tattoo didn't make more profit, it was an excellent movie, i don't know if Fincher will be back for the sequel but i hope that Fincher will get a green light for that Captain Nemo movie, he's been working in it for ages and a reunion with Pitt is more then welcome. So no matter which project of his will be next - i'm in.

  • Jeremy | October 23, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    I really, really want to see Fincher's take on 'Played with Fire.' Could care less about 20,000 leagues

  • coke | October 23, 2012 11:49 AM

    Agree! Maybe he could do both...

  • AS | October 23, 2012 10:49 AM

    I'm with ya 100%.

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