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David Fincher Says Despite A Great Audition, Scarlett Johansson Was Too Hot To Play Lisbeth Salander

by Kevin Jagernauth
October 17, 2011 7:00 AM
15 Comments
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David Fincher Views The Series As A "Pervy Franchise"



While Rooney Mara eventually won the coveted lead role of Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," it was an arduous wait and the list of the contenders was fierce. Sarah Snook, Sophie Lowe and Léa Seydoux were said to be the final candidates, and a mix of established and lesser known names like Ellen Page, Natalie Portman, Carey Mulligan, Emma Watson, Mia Wasikowska, Emily Browning and Katie Jarvis were all in the running at various points. However, people might remember that just before Mara snagged the part, Scarlett Johansson was surprisingly being tipped as a "shoo-in." At the time it seemed somewhat unlikely, but talking to Vogue magazine as part of a profile on Rooney Mara, Fincher confirms that Johansson did indeed deliver strongly at the audition but that she was ultimately just too darned attractive to play the squirrely, oddball and rebellious Lisbeth Salander.

“We flew in people from New Zealand and Swaziland and all over the place,” Fincher said. “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 continues making a truly strange analogy, but one that basically posits that he wants Lisbeth Salander to be a bit unapproachable -- at least until we see who she is in the film. “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,” he explained.

But eventually, the depth Mara could bring to the role won the day. “There were all these different versions of Salander, but the one that had the most layers was Rooney’s,” he said. “I thought, This is the person to follow.”

And while this will easily be Mara's best known role to date by far -- in case you don't remember she played Mark Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend Erica Albright in "The Social Network" -- Fincher warned her from the outset that 'Dragon Tattoo' may possibly ruin her career, pigeonholing her into one type of character. "... He sat me down and gave me this long spiel about all the bad things that are going to come to whoever plays this part. He said something like, ‘Vivien Leigh was incredible in 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' but she will always be Scarlett O’Hara, and you need to be prepared for that,’” Mara explained.

But while we'll see what history has to stay about about the movie Fincher and Mara are preparing to unleash on mainstream audiences, the director has high aspirations for the film based on a book that he had mixed feelings about. “Look, there are parts of the book that I don’t love, and parts of it that make it a maddeningly difficult story to turn into a movie....," he said adding, “I saw this not as a blockbuster that appeals to everyone.I saw this as an interesting, specific, pervy franchise. The only chance for something like 'Dragon Tattoo' to be made in all of its perversions is to do it big. I think 'The Godfather' is a pretty good fucking movie. You can start with a supermarket potboiler, but it doesn’t mean you can’t aim high.”

We'll see the results on December 21st. Until then you can uncover some more images over at the new site named after the forthcoming poster slogan, What Is Hidden In Snow Comes Forth In The Thaw. And that doesn't sate your appetite, all of Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy books are getting the graphic novel treatment with the first coming in 2012.

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15 Comments

  • Gemini71 | November 28, 2011 4:58 PMReply

    The latter contender for that coveted role - Katie Jarvis - seems to have disappeared off the cinematic map. I cannot find any news regarding whether she is in the running for any further acting parts. Does anyone know whether she is planning to continue with her new career or whether she has returned to obscurity?

  • Lori | November 18, 2011 1:19 PMReply

    Well that's okay. Best to get someone who can act to do that role.

  • k | October 22, 2011 11:44 AMReply

    See? This is the place put herself in by playing up the sex appeal. She's an actress. That should have been her main focus. But she turned her career into that of a pinup girl. It'd be nice to see her, and other actresses use talent rather than looks.

    I wish Carey Mulligan got the role. It would have been great for her career. If it's a good movie I mean. Emily Browning as well.

  • JP | October 18, 2011 7:04 AMReply

    "Why didn’t he screen test the more talented and more suitable Ellen Page (great in Hard Candy), Carey Mulligan, and Mia Wasikowska."

    Mia W. turned down Fincher's offer to screen test because of the time commitment involved with the production (shooting three films in five years), which would've greatly crippled her chances of getting different roles. (Turned out to not be such a bad decision either.)

  • Matt | October 18, 2011 4:22 AMReply

    Scarlett was good in Ghost World. And she doesn't even look hot... or that hot... in the film.

  • rodie | October 18, 2011 2:01 AMReply

    Scarlett was really good in Match Point (2005) and Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008). She was ok in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), but that script sucked, and she was great in The Prestige (2006) but that was a really small role.

    The problem is there are very few actresses her age that can command ONLY lead roles in art house and good indie movies, and an even smaller number of actresses who look like her who can accomplish that. She also kind of has that Angelina Jolie thing going against her a little bit, which is what Fincher is referring to. She's a little too much of a sex symbol for certain roles, no matter how good her audition happens to be.

  • Steven Flores | October 17, 2011 12:21 PMReply

    Scarlett can act. It's just that she hasn't played great parts in almost a decade. In fact, "Lost in Translation" and "Girl with a Pearl Earring" were the best thing she did.

    She can do something like but the problem with being a sex symbol is that it can work against you. Part of what it takes to be an actor is to display some kind of physicality for a role like this. She doesn't have the right physical feature needed for that part.

  • ska-triumph | October 17, 2011 11:47 AMReply

    Mara will do fine and she WON'T be only remembered as LISBETH. Out of context, that quote sound ridiculous; like he's in a bubble. Not that a cinematic general like Fincher would pay attention - or why else do a remake? - but the whole blogosphere has been haggling with WHY THIS REMAKE, THIS SOON? Since the first LISBETH played by Ms. Rapace is embedded in the collective fanbase's mind.

    As long as Ms. Mara rides this film to more gritty/award-worthy work (unlike Ms. Johannsen these days, or her sister for that matter), she won't be pigeonholed.

  • rodie | October 17, 2011 9:06 AMReply

    Johansson is definitely talented. The problem is she doesn't always pick the best material or directors to work with. Tastes are subjective of course, but anyone who says she has ZERO talent doesn't understand the role a script plays in what is seen on screen.

  • d | October 17, 2011 9:00 AMReply

    @Fincher is hilarious
    She won a Tony award, by the way. She's got chops, even if sometimes she can come across onscreen a little wooden. Not too different from Mara actually, in that respect.

  • Alix | October 17, 2011 8:59 AMReply

    This is the creepiest interview I have ever read. I think that Fincher wanted the girl who idolizes him and who would thank him for making her the big star.
    ScarJo? I am glad that at least he realized the stupidity of having her as Lisbeth!
    I love his movies but as a person he seems like a complete control freak.

  • Fincher is hilarious | October 17, 2011 8:40 AMReply

    Fincher is losing it . I will never buy Scarlett Johansson giving a great audition. Fincher met with Scarlet only because he has a crush on her. Why didn't he screen test the more talented and more suitable Ellen Page ( great in Hard Candy ) , Carey Mulligan, and Mia Wasikowska. I guess everyone has a opinion , like everyone has an a****** .

  • Amir Syarif Siregar | October 17, 2011 7:52 AMReply

    "...and a mix of established and lesser known names like..."

    Read that 'established' sign there, starway?

  • Mr Anonymous | October 17, 2011 7:23 AMReply

    I think he's right.

    If Scarlett was cast you'd just be waiting for the moment she gets naked! No red hot-blooded straight male can deny this! ;-)

  • starway2001 | October 17, 2011 7:22 AMReply

    Natalie Portman was a "lesser known name"?

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