The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
By now we all know Rooney Mara won the role of Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Mara beat a long line of competitors including relative unknowns Lea Seydoux and Sarah Snook, plus some Hollywood big names like Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Stewart, and Ellen Page.
Fincher's remake has divided fans of Stieg Larrson's Millenium Trilogy, with diehard supporters of the Swedish movies in one corner and Hollywood lovers and subtitle-haters in the other.
The first group says Noomi Rapace's performance as Lisbeth Salander cannot be bettered. It's the original, the benchmark. An American remake, they argue, will dilute Lisbeth and sacrifice the book's complexity for Hollywood's need to entertain an impatient multi-million audience.
Critics of the three Swedish Salander movies say that only Hollywood knows how to tell and pace an adventure story. Europeans, they argue, take themselves far too seriously. Their movies are slow, difficult and, worst of all, subtitled, making them unwatchable to more than 90 percent of Americans.
Can Rooney Mara replace Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?
Rooney Mara, the new Lisbeth Salander. [See U.S. stars]
Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. [See Swedish stars]
Noomi Rapace. [See occult arts]
Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. [See movie scandals]
Noomi Rapace in Sherlock Holmes 2. [See British totty]
Noomi Rapace and ex-husband Ola Rapace. [See Catch a Cheat]
Noomi Rapace. [See stars of Holland]
The first camp finds support from the Swedish movie's director, the Dane Niels Arden Oplev. He says,
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. That's highly unfair because Noomi 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.
Remake not needed
Oplev thinks the remake is unnecessary:
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.
Fans of Rapace's Salander argue that Rooney Mara does not have what it takes to make the transition from sweet-faced American young woman to a troubled, bisexual Swedish punk.
But they seem to forget that Rapace and Salander are not the same person. Rapace is playing a role. When you see her in civilian garb, she ia feminine and charming, light years from Salander.
In fact, Oplev took some convincing that Rapace could become Salander. He thought she was too feminine. She lackes Salander's hard, dysfunctional edge.
Noomi understands Lisbeth
Rapace says she understood Lisbeth immediately, and set about convincing Oplev she was right for the role:
When I first read the book, I felt an immediate connection with Lisbeth, and liked her very much. And I think I showed Niels Arden Oplev that I had a clue of what would give Lisbeth life at that first audition. But it wasn't so hard for me to find her, because I always like to dig up things from my past and translate them into the character.
I've always been a bit distant from Swedish society, and how people are supposed to fit into it. Everybody's trying to behave in a normal, middle-of-the-road way, and they end up being repressed and stoic. That's really boring for me. I felt like a troublemaker because I was not that way. I've always been outspoken.
Rapace began a long process of physical transformation to become Lisbeth.
For seven months before shooting started, I exercised four or five days a week, doing cardio and Thai kickboxing ... I was on a strict diet, because I wanted to be a tomboy like Lisbeth.
There's a danger of portraying Salander over the top. Rapace explains:
Lisbeth's a bit cartoonish sometimes in the book. It's hard to believe that she can do all of these things, especially since she's small, anorexic, only eats junk food, and smokes all the time. Yet Lisbeth can fight ten guys and win. She can run like a sprinter. So sometimes it was hard for me to get a clear picture of who she really was. And that made me want to humanize her, and be credible and realistic.
For starters, says Rapace,
I wanted to be thinner and more masculine. I wanted to get rid of my female softness ... I cut my hair, colored it black, pierced myself ... I took motor bike lessons and passed my motorbike test ... And in my past as a teenager, I was a punk. I hated everything, the police mostly, so I understand Lisbeth's anti-authoritarian streak.
Salander the survivor
She explains Salander's motivations:
She's a survivor, a fighter. She decided as a child, 'I am not going to be a victim. I have to take control over my life. She is fighting her own war against authority and people who have hurt her ... She has her own internal sense of justice. She is very loyal to people she likes and respects. She's a sensitive woman covered by a hard shell.
In portraying this on screen,
It was a balance between how much I should let her emotions out, and how much I should keep in. I had many arguments about that with Niels, who would sometimes tell me that he wanted to see more of what was going on inside of Lisbeth. And I said, 'No, I can’t do that.' Lisbeth’s learned how to control her face and body so she can hide her feelings.
Rapace wanted Lisbeth's rape scene to be as realistic as possible. She says,
In real life those situations are brutal. I didn't want to soften those scenes or escape from them. I wanted to be fully there ... I wanted to explore my aggressive side. I wanted to be explosive. I didn't want a stunt woman to do my violent scenes for me.
Oplev says the rape scene was difficult for everyone on the set:
It was awful. It was very tough. The actors got hurt and bruised. Noomi had nightmares. The crew was filled with discomfort. I felt like a sadistic warlord making them do this stuff. But I knew I had to drive it home. We decided to shoot it as close to the real thing as possible.
We rehearsed the scenes in the lawyer's office and his apartment for a week. It ended up feeling like we'd gone down to hell in a way. Those were dark and heavy scenes. But you see the light by the end of them ... this was a good message to send out -- that it's better to punish your victimizer than to punish yourself.
Salander's bisexuality is another compelling and fascinating facet of her character:
Lisbeth doesn’t consider herself a bisexual, says Rapace.
She has sex with who she wants to, and won't let anyone decide what she is, or what she's not. She's just sexual. And I think she's a modern young person. In Sweden, Lisbeth may have paved the way for people to be who they want to, without the sexual labels.
For months and months, Rapace immersed herself so completely in the role that friends and family, including her husband Ola, called for reality checks, thinking she had disappeared for good into Lisbeth.
Lisbeth kept me in some kind of cage when I was her, explains Rapace.
I was really angry. I sat in a corner drinking coffee and not talking to anyone. I was very asocial, and isolated. People who know me realize that I look different for each project I'm working on. But here in Hollywood, they probably think Lisbeth is me.
It's now a while since the films were released in Europe, and Rapace has moved on to other projects. She is able to live outside Lisbeth and view her from a distance. She has entered other characters.
She plays a French gypsy in Sherlock Homes 2, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law and Stephen Fry.
Scheduled for release in 2012 is horror movie The Last Voyage of Demeter about a ship carryring Dracula's coffin from Transylvania to England which arrives at port with no survivors. It's directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, and Ben Kinglsey is the main star.
Rapace stars with her husband Ola, soon to be her ex-husband, in the Swedish movie Beyond (original title, Svinalangorna) directed by Pernilla August. Set in 1970s Sweden, it deals with life in a family torn apart by abuse and alcoholism.
Life is complicated
Beyond is the type of movie Rapace likes to dig her teeth into. She says,
I don't have a crazy dream about going to Hollywood. I watch movies that are complicated and strange. Life is hard. It's not easy to be everything you want to
be. European cinema expresses that, which I love.
Without doubt, Rooney Mara has her work cut out if she is to be as convincing as Noomi Rapace.
Will Mara pull it off? Probably. She's working under the guidance of one of Hollywood's most gifted directors in David Fincher.
His version of Dragon Tattoo is bound to be great. Whether it satisfies the diehard fans of Noomi Rapace is another matter altogether.
By Athina Simonidou