Original 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' Director Sounds Off Against Remake

by Gabe Toro
November 9, 2010 3:48 AM
12 Comments
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We Can't Wait To Hear David Fincher's "I Don't Care" Response



Niels Arden Oplev is not too happy with Hollywood, for entirely predictable reasons. The director behind "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" doesn't think much of the bean counters in Hollywood doing their own version of the story, and he candidly revealed as much to Word & Film recently.

"The only thing that’s annoying to me is that the Sony PR machine is trying to make their Lisbeth Salander the lead Lisbeth Salander," he says, apparently unaware what the film is called. "That’s highly unfair because Noomi [Rapace] has captured this part and it should always be all her. That’s her legacy in a way I can’t see anyone competing with. I hope she gets nominated for an Oscar." While it's admirable to see Oplev stand by his leading lady, we don't see how another actor playing the role somehow degrades the original work. We'd be curious to see how he feels about characters like James Bond and Batman. But not Remo Williams. He'll always be Fred Ward to us.

Oplev's main complaint, and it's a good one, stems from Hollywood's typical xenophobia. "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. It’s like, what do you want to see, the French version of 'La Femme Nikita' or the American one?" Of course, Hollywood is thinking commercially, since so many audiences have problems with foreign films, but they certainly are enablers for a particularly upsetting trend. Like a number of international foreign blockbusters, the original "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" takes its visual and tonal cues from a sea of American serial picture films, and the success of the books suggest people have a hunger for the story. The only reason people would be genuinely thrilled to see the American version while completely ignoring Oplev's version are because they want nothing to do with a foreign film. If we were Oplev, we'd be upset too.

Most people hear these comments from a foreign filmmaker every couple of months but just throw up their hands and say "that's Hollywood." We're not going to be those people. Granted, we thought the "Dragon Tattoo" movies were fairly shite, but chances are you know someone completely averse to foreign cinema. This is the kind of damaging groupthink that erodes our chances of understanding other cultures, and it leads to hate, bigotry and exclusion. Introduce someone to foreign cinema. You can only make them a better person.

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12 Comments

  • Erik McClanahan | November 11, 2010 5:13 AMReply

    To be fair, Linda and Chris, you both took minor personal jabs at each other. And I do think there's some truth to the theory that critics and audiences seem to go easier on foreign films simply because it's in another language, like it adds some level of prestige. Which of course is absurd. There are shitty foreign films, mainstream, etc.

    Guess I land somewhere in the middle of this debate.

  • Christopher Bell | November 11, 2010 5:07 AMReply

    This might've been a decent debate if you'd refrained from taking an unnecessary personal jab at me. In that case, c-ya.

  • Linda | November 10, 2010 5:19 AMReply

    @Christopher, I said "for every person who shuns foreign films", so where did I say every person who likes foreign films only does so because they're film snobs? As for your assertion that NOBODY likes foreign films just because they're foreign, I present this anecdote: A friend of mine argued with me constantly over how this American "remake" was unnecessary and "Americans need to leave perfectly good European movies alone" and weeks later she revealed she had never even seen the Swedish original, much less read the books. Your notion that there are no film snobs who would praise low budget foreign films over an American one simply based on that fact is absurd. Perhaps I hit a nerve because that's how you judge films yourself?

  • christopher bell | November 10, 2010 4:32 AMReply

    @linda

    I really, really don't think there are people who like movies "just because they're subtitled." That notion is absurd. There are just as many shitty foreign films as there are hollywood, and people know that. I think that silly and insulting generalization is just bore out of frustration by someone who either doesn't give foreign films a chance or someone who likes hollywood a little too much and sees it as a family member when someone is less favorable to it.

  • Tyler Durden | November 10, 2010 2:22 AMReply

    He's probably justifiably worried that Fincher will make a better movie.

  • Linda | November 10, 2010 1:14 AMReply

    Gabe, for every person that shuns foreign cinema, I can give you one that praises and gushes over anything that's subtitled like it's a masterpiece, and automatically assumes no American movie (especially not a "remake" - THE HORROR!) could ever measure up. I venture to say that the heaps of praise for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" films are due in no small part to them being subtitled foreign films. It's film snobbery, and a complete turn-off.

    I also find it appalling that Oplev doesn't reference Stieg Larsson at all, and instead only speaks of his film and Noomi Rapace's "legacy", like he came up with the story and characters himself. He was allowed to adapt the book but no one else can? Please.

    I would also like to say I'm thankful that some fellow Playlist readers seem to see those films for what they are: so-so adaptations, shot poorly and with only one saving grace in Noomi Rapace. I'm beyond excited to see what Fincher can do, because Oplev did no justice to Larsson's legacy at all. Yes Oplev, Larsson's legacy. Not some actor's.

  • TheoC | November 9, 2010 11:32 AMReply

    Big fan of the books, hated those movies (can they be called movies when the look like a swedish soap opera?).

    Noomi was a hair cut in those movies, honestly girl did nothing but pout, I'll blame the scripts but to me it was not the iconic weirdo Salander should have been. I guess the physicality of her in the books will be tougher to pull off on screen.

    Another commenter described these movies as the Chris Columbus potter films I want to go one step harsher and describe them as the "Star Wars Christmas special" versions.

    Sorry Niels, you filmed a movie called girl with a dragon tattoo, but I don't think the book has really been adapted yet.

  • Rashad | November 9, 2010 8:59 AMReply

    His films were horrendous and akin to tv movies.

    Noomi wasn't good either; she can't emote.


    The story isn't even interesting. Waste of Fincher's talents.




    Also save the bs about opening up to other cultures - it doesn't.

  • Andy | November 9, 2010 5:31 AMReply

    I don't even understand his point of what he's upset about...that 'the sony pr machine is trying to make their Lisbeth the lead Lisbeth'...well...duh?
    Sony is spending a lot of money to make this film..why wouldn't they be promoting 'their' Lisbeth.

    Look..everyone knows Noomi was great..all the more pressure on Rooney Mara. And we don't even need to bother having any kind of discussion re: Fincher's skills at making a gritty thriller. He's one of the best people working today..and at the top of his game.

  • Joel | November 9, 2010 5:29 AMReply

    Normally I'm all for the original films, but 1) I agree that the Swedish versions were less than impressive (they remind me of the Chris Columbus Harry Potter movies: plop the book on film with as little inspiration as possible), and 2) this isn't a remake of an original property but a re-adaptation of a popular book. There can be more than one version.

    For example I love Let the Right One In and didn't care if Matt Reeves wanted to "go back to the book" for his adaptation. Not that I have seen it yet.

  • Joe Brancaleone | November 9, 2010 5:06 AMReply

    The sentiment of this post is spot on. I would also add that the original director should not just be worried about another lead actress competing with the original, but that a Hollywood remake by necessity is going to scrub from the story vestiges of the particular time and place from which the original came. And its a viscious cycle: IF it is the case that American movie-going audiences are by and large xenophobic (even unconsciously) in their taste for the arts and storytelling, then market forces will adjust things accordingly. Comfort zones and cultural prejudices are reinforced.

    Meanwhile, like you suggest about introducing people to foreign cinema, even beyond the actual quality of the film as film, they are often windows into other cultures. The sameness of humanity is on display but the cultural dressings, customs, and thought ways are going to be different and sometimes eye opening. Granted, some foreign films are deliberately shaped for American audiences (Amelie, Crouching Tiger to an extent) but those are few exceptions I think.

  • Shane | November 9, 2010 4:43 AMReply

    While I agree with him in that most people are too lazy to read subtitles, his dragon trilogy films weren't that great, and I honestly think Fincher will do a better job adapting the books - although Noomi nailed the character.

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