Director David Fincher's “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” kicks off the screen adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster Millennium Trilogy, the epic series of thrillers that have sold 65,000,000 copies in 46 countries. First published in 2005, shortly after Larsson’s own death, the first novel in the series, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo introduced readers to financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and avenging hacker Lisbeth Salander (played in the film by Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, respectively).
With Salander, Larsson forged a heroine unlike any who had come before in the wide-ranging world of crime thrillers – a punk prodigy whose appearance warns people to stay away, who doesn’t interact “normally” with others, yet whose personal link to those who have been violated lures her into helping Mikael solve the disappearance of young heiress Harriet Vanger. Her pursuit of retribution and her tenuous partnership with Mikael would become the core ofThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the two books that followed – The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Fincher and screenwriter Steven Zaillian aimed at staying true to Larsson’s unflinching focus on the corporate, societal and personal corrosion Mikael and Lisbeth confront as they descend deeper into the question of Harriet Vanger’s vanishing. Zaillian took his inspiration directly from Larsson’s words. “The script was cut whole cloth from the novel,” says Fincher. Faced with the necessity of compacting the first book’s intricate plot, they also honed in on what has made the Millennium novels so alluring to people around the world. “The thing we were interested in most were these two characters, Blomkvist and Salander, who powered the books to be the cultural phenomenon they are,” Fincher says. “There was a lot of juice there, a lot of friction and a lot of dramatic possibility.”
Adds Zaillian: “Lisbeth is a great, unusual character, but I think it if the books were only about her, they wouldn’t work as well as they do. It’s the way her story and Blomkvist’s come together, and what they each are going through, that makes the books so resonant.”
Fincher and Zaillian had no interest in withholding any grit from the book’s scenes of brutality and revenge. “We were committed to the tack that this is a movie about violence against women, about specific kinds of degradation, and you can’t shy away from that,” Fincher says. “But at the same time you have to walk a razor thin line so that the audience can viscerally feel the need for revenge but also see the power of the ideas being expressed.”
This is precisely what Larsson had achieved with the novels, drawing readers into themes of corrupted power, misogyny, intolerance, fanaticism, globalization, social welfare, justice and judgment through the twists and turns of Mikael and Lisbeth’s renegade investigation. Says Rooney Mara, who won the role of Lisbeth Salander: “I think people are more intrigued by the under-workings of society than they’re willing to admit. They’re interested in the dark secrets people and societies hold. `The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' has that component combined with these two outsider characters people really, really love.”