By Edward Davis | The Playlist January 9, 2012 at 10:49AM
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."