It was just over a year ago that David Fincher was about three months into production on Sony's big-budget adaptation of Stieg Larsson's best-selling "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," and at that time, the director of the Swedish language version Niels Arden Oplev, let it be known that he wasn't a big fan of the idea. "Even in Hollywood there seems to be a kind of anger about the remake, like, ‘Why would they remake something when they can just go see the original?’ Everybody who loves film will go see the original one," Oplev said. "It’s like, what do you want to see, the French version of 'La Femme Nikita' or the American one?" Never one to hold his tongue, we expected a sizzling comeback from David Fincher but it appears he's taking a conciliatory tone when asked about the movie that's already out there and made Noomi Rapace a star.
In case you're wondering, he did see Oplev's movie and he told the USA Today simply, "It's a great movie." But he stressed it's all about the source material when it comes to his version. "But we had to start with the book. That's the wellspring of everything." But either way, he's impressed with what Oplev accomplished.
"I read it and thought, 'Holy God, how do you compress this into a movie?' I thought the original did a great job, given its [$15 million] budget. When you have that much, it's going to be limited in terms of the scope," he said.
However, Fincher is plenty aware of the built-in animosity he faces from the diehard fans of the Swedish series. "I know we are playing into the European, and certainly the Swedish, predisposition that this is just a gigantic, monetary landgrab. You're coopting a phenomenon," he tells Fincher Fanatic. "Now, there is plenty of reason to believe that we can make it equally entertaining of a movie. But the resentment is already engendered, in a weird way. It's bizarre. But then there are British television shows, like 'The Office,' that are being remade as American television shows. And we speak the same f—ing language."
But if there are some differences, one of them is that Fincher has definitely been working with a larger budget, and with some pretty incredible support from the studio in a production that spanned nearly a year. In an extensive profile in Wired, they relate that when they caught up with Fincher to do the interview it was during the late summer of this year. Ever the perfectionist, Fincher was in the process of reshooting a murder scene, but they had faced a considerable obstacle. They first shot the scene in Sweden and in the time that passed, one of the members ABBA had become an owner of the location that they used and didn't allow Fincher and his team return for a reshoot. So everything had to be recreated --docks, woods, mossy rocks, more -- on a Los Angeles soundstage. Few studios would give that kind of elasticity, freedom (and money) to a director. But then again, there are few folks like Fincher.
As much as he might cringe, his name has become a brand and the trailers for "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" put Fincher front and center. But as he tells Fincher Fanatic, it's not by his choice. "None of the trailers that I ever cut had my f—ing name on them. As I never tire of telling the marketing department, 'Remember, 'Se7en' was from the director of 'Se7en,' too, but it didn't say it on the poster.' So I work hard to fight against whatever my brand is. I would like my brand to stand for 'works really hard', 'tries to make it as good as he possibly can'. If the brand is, 'it's gonna be dark and grainy,' I have no interest in that. It's just too reductive. It's just too stupid," he says. But he can't hide behind the fact that with 'Dragon Tattoo' -- with rape, torture, violence, sex, religion all playing against each other -- he finds himself in some familiar territory. But he's wearing it -- and the rating that comes with it -- as a badge of honor.
"I couldn't be happier. We didn't want to whitewash it. We intend too earn our R. If you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about," he recently told EW (print edition; via Comic Book Movie). And while many hope the saga of Lisbeth Salander will be continued in follow-up films for "The Girl Who Played With The Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest," Fincher remains cagey.
"It is very expensive, so many have to see it. We'll see what happens," he recently said at a press conference in Sweden (via Moviezine). Vote with your dollars folks when the movie opens on December 21st. Three new TV spots and a handful of new images from the movie below.