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Sony Officially Plans To Make 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequels, But David Fincher Is Looking To Direct '20,000 Leagues' Instead

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by Edward Davis
January 9, 2012 10:49 AM
25 Comments
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PHOTO Sony Officially Planning To Make 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequels, But David Fincher Is Looking To Direct '20,000 Leagues' Instead

While the quiet opening last month of Sony's big budget "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" had many speculating that the studio would quietly kibosh the planned the sequels in the face of underwhelming box office, David Fincher's film has shown some remarkable legs. The film is still in the top five at the domestic box office, and looks like when all is said and done, it will crack $100 million domestically -- not bad for a very adult, R-rated thriller that runs more than two-and-a-half hours long. Morever, with recent PGA and WGA nominations, 'Dragon Tattoo' is looking poised to be a bigger Oscar player than expected as well. And while Sony has already said they're continuing to pursue the planned sequels "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest," it became even more real over the weekend.

Even though the film is still rolling out internationally, Deadline has re-confirmed with Sony that the studio is pressing ahead with the followups, with the plan to get them in front of cameras by the end of this year or in early 2013 (we presume that will dependent on Daniel Craig's "Skyfall" promo schedule). Steve Zaillian is penning the scripts for both movies, and it's expected they will shoot back-to-back. But the million dollar question remains: will David Fincher return to direct the sequels?

As of this moment, it seems doubtful. While the Sony/Scott Rudin/David Fincher collaboration was relatively smooth during “The Social Network,” such was not the case on “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” but this is a potential multi-million dollar franchise -- the books have sold 18 million copies worldwide -- and expectations were much different from the $40 million dollar ‘Social Network.’

Well placed sources -- the same ones who helped us report first that Fincher would be directing ‘Dragon Tattoo’ in the first place (not a erroneously reported chess film) and the ones that first let us know that a relatively unknown actress named Rooney Mara was the “secret lead choice” for Lisbeth Salander (and see how that turned out) -- have told us Fincher’s current plans probably don’t align with Sony’s.

His current plan is to shoot “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” sometime in the fall or by the end of 2012, depending on schedules. It’s got a great script by Scott Z. Burns (“Contagion”) that Fincher loves and as a 3D film with lots of CGI, it’ll require a ton of pre-production and post-production work (and “Se7en” writer Andrew Kevin Walker is currently hard at work on a re-write).

Sony’s current plan is to have “The Girl Who Played With Fire” in theaters for Christmas 2013, but if Fincher is in post for ‘20,000 Leagues’ which could take up to a year, it seems highly doubtful, almost impossible, that he would be able to squeeze in a ‘Dragon Tattoo’ sequel.

While Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig are committed to a trilogy, Fincher is not under contract. “Classically, movie studios don’t make deals with directors, even if there’s a hope that there’s going to be three [films], because they want to make sure you behave,” he said tellingly at the ‘Dragon Tattoo’ press conference in December. What he didn’t say and what no one’s reported yet is that the filmmaker has an option for “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” apparently Fincher’s favorite book of the three and will get paid $5 million regardless of whether or not he directs it which is a win/win for him.

And while the behind-the-scenes production of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ were relatively quiet in the media sense -- we did report Fincher was battling with Sony/Rudin over a three hour cut -- it was hellish and more akin to Fincher’s troubled production on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with Paramount that got so heated, the studio let the rights to his mooted “Torso” project lapse and held “Heavy Metal” ransom until Fincher submitted to their ‘Benjamin Button’ demands (it too was running three hours at one point and Paramount wasn’t having it). Without getting into further specifics, we’re told the making of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ got pretty ugly at times -- it didn’t help that no one wanted to hire Rooney Mara outside of David Fincher and the filmmaker hinted at this himself in our recent interview. “You know, there were a lot of naysayers and a lot of people saying, ‘you’re a fucking idiot, and [Rooney Mara’s] a trust fund baby and there’s no reason for the…’ and you kind of sit there and go, ‘Really?’ Can everybody here who’s not a moviemaker just take one step back?’ There’s an aspect to it that you wanna say, ‘Let me do what I think is right and then judge it.’ ”

Making things in his schedule even more difficult, before shooting “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” Fincher plans to shoot the pilot for the Kevin Spacey produced “House of Cards” this spring in Baltimore, which Netflix will distribute.

Something else Fincher isn’t likely going to direct Rudin’s “Cleopatra” tale, less because of beef and more because everyone, including star Angelina Jolie, wants to get that project on track and with Fincher busy with '20,000 Leagues,' his pilot and more, it’s doubtful he’ll have time to do any ‘Dragon Tattoo’ sequels let alone a “Cleopatra” film unless they’re willing to wait until 2016 to even begin which is no one’s desire. Plus if Fincher were coerced back into a ‘Dragon Tattoo’ sequel it wouldn’t be cheap and likely cost the studio over $10 million to get him to direct. Plans change, but a betting man wouldn’t put his money for Fincher on more ‘Dragon Tattoo’ films unless Sony is willing to accommodate a release date change and more, and at this point, no one sees it happening.

Much more to come we're sure. For now, here's the memorable opening credit sequence for "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." 

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25 Comments

  • Sean H | April 4, 2012 1:00 PMReply

    I think that christopher nolan would be a good choice if david fincher backs nolan proved himself pretty well with the batman series and of course, Following, which also has a darker side to it is well along with a girl dragon tattoo series. I cannot wait for the sequels to come out and I think Rooney Mara was a wonderful choice in all of this, kudos to Mr. Fincher.

  • John | February 16, 2012 12:57 AMReply

    What a shame. Screw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

  • Laura K. | January 24, 2012 10:33 AMReply

    Why would a director want to do a remake (especially since moviegoers are tired of remakes and want new and fresh) instead of completing an awesome series that has proven itself?

  • Vince | May 19, 2012 7:00 PM

    To be fair, these movies are adaptions of a book too...

  • dave | March 1, 2012 8:48 PM

    to be fair, these movies are remakes too...

  • Migukin | January 24, 2012 9:05 AMReply

    The series would be a great fit for David Cronenburg, Paul Thomas Anderson or Sam Mendes.

  • Dhritiman | January 19, 2012 4:13 AMReply

    Doubtful that Fincher will return. He has repeatedly expressed a dislike for directing sequels, especially since his (in)famous issues on Alien3. Either way, my choice of potential directors to replace him (in no particular order of preference):

    Michael Mann, David Cronenberg, Christopher Nolan, Sam Mendes, Tomas Alfredson.

    Outside/ unlikely choices:
    Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron, Nicolas Winding Refn

    Let me know what everyone thinks!

  • david | January 11, 2012 6:23 PMReply

    I honestly D.G.A.S. who directs the next one, Zaillian is still adapting the script and apparently Sony realized that Mara as Salander is what the people want, so supposedly Z is re-writing everything to give Lisbeth a lot more screentime than the Swedish sequels had.

    I mean, would it be awesome if Fincher and Reznor returned? Sure. But if it helps cut the budget in half, who can blame them... I just want sequels. And more Rooney!

  • Myra | January 11, 2012 4:36 PMReply

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I really want Fincher to be back. Very few directors have his vision, his guts to not be afraid of doing what is right in terms of story telling and even fewer are respectful of the source material. He was proven right in his choice of Mara. Almost everyone praised her performance and I can't imagine any other American actress in this iconic role. I don't know if 20000 leagues is already an ongoing project. I'm wishing that would be postponed so that Fincher would come and film the two remaining sequels together.

  • Daniel | January 31, 2012 5:23 PM

    You're right Myra it would be better if David returns for the next two instalments of the trilogy,he is my favorite director and with those kind of books i don't see any director besides Fincher doing the movies so well as he did. I hope Fincher make the right decision and return for the next Millennium movies.

  • Mike | January 11, 2012 10:46 AMReply

    They honestly should have hired someone they knew wanted to see the whole thing through, part of the failing of the Swedish adaptations was the switch in directors (the rest of the blame falls on the second book being signifcantly weaker & pulpier than the original and the fact that the budgets & look of the last two films were drastically worse because they were intended only for TV distribution until the 1st film blew up). Oh well, way to botch a real opportunity for improvement Sony.

  • Ken | January 10, 2012 4:09 PMReply

    Yeah I don't think Fincher will make the sequels either and the studio probably thinks that it wouldn't be worth the money to hire him back. Even though Fincher may be the best man for the job, you know that doesn't matter to the studios. They just want to get someone good enough and make the sequels decent enough to make them back their money. That's all they care about. Unless Dragon Tattoo was a true box office juggernaut, which it's not (even though it's certainly no flop either), I think the studio will ultimately decide to go for a cheaper option to direct the Tattoo sequels.

  • sean h | April 4, 2012 1:09 PM

    truly it would be expensive to get david fincher back on the project but I believe sony would be making the correct decision because he did such a well job with the first installment of an internationally acclaimed series I believe that if Mister Fincher could continue to direct it would keep the aesthetic and cinematography at its best leveling that's what people really enjoy when going to the movies. Beauty.

  • mary | January 10, 2012 6:58 AMReply

    I find it hilarious how much Sony didn't want Rooney when she's the best part of this movie.

  • Los | January 9, 2012 9:14 PMReply

    What about Jonathan Glazer &/or Anton Corbijn for said sequels?

  • Traie | January 9, 2012 1:41 PMReply

    I think Soderbergh would be an interesting fit and could get them both done fast and on the cheap.

  • Julia | January 10, 2012 12:52 AM

    Soderbergh is an excellent fit. I also think maybe Paul Greengrass or even Aronofsky would be great fits.

  • [A] | January 9, 2012 3:42 PM

    it would also be very unmemorable

  • bobmorton | January 9, 2012 11:20 AMReply

    "Without going into specifics..." We want specifics!

    Also, wasn't that "naysayers" quote directed at you guys and the rest of the blogosphere?

  • Remy | January 9, 2012 11:19 AMReply

    I second kitcon's comment.

  • KitCon | January 9, 2012 11:07 AMReply

    Burns has a "great" script but it's being rewritten by Walker? So I guess it's not great enough.
    The behind the scenes of Dragon "were relatively quiet" but it was also "hellish"? So it was a quiet hell.

  • Roger Thornhill | January 19, 2012 8:35 AM

    Excellent comment; contradictions abound in the sloppily written article. Inaccurate boasts as well: Davis was not the first to disclose that Rooney Mara was the "secret lead choice" to play Lisbeth Salander - Deadline Hollywood can claim that distinction.

  • Huffy | January 10, 2012 12:10 AM

    Studios demand rewrites of all scripts that they're going to spend serious money on, no matter how great the original script may be. Sometimes its to spruce up the dialogue, sometimes its to flesh out a particular character of subplot. A lot of the time writers don't get credited for rewrites. It's just how the industry works and shouldn't be held against Burns' original.

  • Edward Davis | January 9, 2012 11:42 AM

    The media reports were quiet, word never really got out about how ugly it got. Burns is busy prepping and helping oversee his "Side Effects" project which is going into pre-production now.

  • Simon | January 9, 2012 11:05 AMReply

    Actually, as of June 2011, the books had sold in more than 60 million copies worldwide. They've probably not sold -42 million copies since then.

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