By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 15, 2009 at 8:05AM
On a recent trip to London, I picked up a copy of the U.K. hardcover edition of the third installment of the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and have been lending it to my friends ever since. (It won't be published stateside until May.) The three books are addictive, globally popular (they have sold more than 20 million copies), and have spawned a Swedish film trilogy that is also scoring at the worldwide box office. The subtitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo arrives stateside via Music Box on March 19. (A trailer is on the jump.)
Naturally, Hollywood is keenly interested in an English-language remake. Complex negotiations have been under way since last summer. The rights are no longer bogged down by issues surrounding the contested estate of the late author, who died of a sudden heart attack in 2004 just before the publication of the first novel. Under frequent death threats for his investigative journalism, he tried to protect his common law wife by not marrying her. But he never left a will. Eva Gabrielsson, who has no rights under Swedish law, has been hanging on to his laptop and its contents, which could hold the seeds for more sequels. But she doesn't own those rights.
The existence of the Swedish film trilogy complicates matters, but closing the complicated deal is mainly about getting rights sorted. A Millenium Trilogy movie deal at Sony Pictures is expected to be announced shortly with producer Scott Rudin and writer Steve Zaillian. Rumors swirl of interest from the likes of Quentin Tarantino (denied by his agent) and George Clooney, who seems like perfect casting for muckraking journalist womanizer Mikael Blomkvist.
Who should play Blomkvist and his sidekick, bisexual tattooed hacker detective Lisbeth Salander, one of the great ass-kicking heroines of modern fiction?
This could be a huge global franchise. But for Rudin & Co. it will be a challenge to make commercial movies out of these sprawling, intelligent, well-plotted and reported books that dig into the intersection of journalism, business and politics. Ideally, they will set them in Sweden, with European actors speaking English. (Liam Neeson or Stellan Skarsgard come to mind for Blomkvist.) The danger is that even Hollywood's best and brightest could water this rich material down, turning it into another disappointing trans-Atlantic cultural misfire like Brothers or State of Play.
Salander is also a tough one to cast. Ellen Page, Kristen Stewart and Natalie Portman come to mind. But they could also cast a young European unknown capable of surprising audiences.
Swedish film production company Yellow Bird, which produced three Swedish films based on the Millennium Trilogy with funding from Nordisk Film, is in control of the film rights and is repped by UTA's Kassie Evashevski; attorney Linda Lichter is nailing down legal details.