In Noomi Rapace’s screen test for the lead role in “Prometheus,” the actress had to portray a young scientist trying to persuade a giant corporation to invest billions of dollars to take her on a journey to another planet in hopes of unraveling the origins and meaning of human life. The company has little more than her passion and intensity as its guide in determining whether to fund the venture.
The situation was strikingly similar to what director Ridley Scott was asking 20th Century Fox to do with Rapace: take a flier on an unknown.
The 32-year-old Swedish actress had achieved fame beyond her national borders thanks to her portrayal of the punk, damaged cyber-sleuth Lisbeth Salander in the three original “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” films. Still, her English was shaky and her first studio film, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” was not set to hit theaters for another year, so she was still largely unfamiliar to mainstream American audiences. Casting her as the lead character Elizabeth Shaw alongside Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron in a big-budget potential summer blockbuster wasn’t a slam-dunk.
Except to Scott, who was smitten with the actress from the first time he met her and worked closely with her on mastering the test. “Ridley worked with me as if it was a real scene,” Rapace said. “He kept saying to me, ‘You don’t have to prove anything, this is not a test for me. You’re my girl. We’re just doing this together so they can see that you can act in English.’”
The duo’s collaboration quickly convinced the studio she was the right choice.
“The film itself is about a lot of big, compelling ideas, so you can be a little risky in terms of the casting and take some chances,” said Emma Watts, Fox’s president of production. “The character of Shaw is an interesting mix. She’s a powerful character and she has a real inner strength, but she also has a vulnerability. I think it’s a hard role to fill, but Ridley was confident in Noomi from the get-go and he has a pretty good track record with casting.”
Movies: Past, present and future
Trish Summerville won the Costume Designers Guild Award on Tuesday evening for excellence in contemporary film for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," while Arianne Phillips won in the period film category for "W.E.," and Jany Temime earned the award for fantasy film for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."
The 14th Annual Costume Designer Guild Awards were given out at the Beverly Hilton Hotel's International Ballroom with Jane Lynch serving as host.
Awards were also handed out in TV and commercial categories.
Lou Eyrich and Jennifer Eve won for outstanding contemporary TV series for "Glee," while John A. Dunn and Lisa Padovani earned their awards in the period/fantasy TV series category for "Boardwalk Empire." Susannah Buxton took home the award for made-for-television movie or miniseries for "Downton Abbey," and Roseanne Fiedler won for excellence in commercial costume design for "Swiffer-Country Dirt Cowgirl."
Four honorary awards were also presented Tuesday evening -- Kate Beckinsale won the Lacoste Spotlight Award and costume designer Marlene Stewart received the Disaronno Career Achievement in Film Award. Eyrich, who won for "Glee," also earned the Career Achievement in Television Award.
And the Distinguished Collaborator Award went to costume designer Deborah Hopper and Clint Eastwood, who have collaborated on more than 22 films in the last two decades.
Photo: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" won an award for excellence in contemporary film. Credit: Baldur Bragason / EPA
This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
The Directors Guild of America on Saturday evening named Michel Hazanavicius best film director of 2011 for “The Artist,” the nostalgic black-and-white, nearly silent movie that hearkens back to the time of transition in Hollywood from silents to talkies. It is the first guild win for the 44-year-old French filmmaker.
"It's maybe the highest recognition I could hope. I really love directors, I over-respect directors. This is very moving and touching to me," he said, receiving a standing ovation. "Best director -- I really don't know what that means. All movies are different, so it's a strange thing to try to compare them and say which is best, but I'm very happy to get this. Thank you."
The other nominees were Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), David Fincher ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Alexander Payne ("The Descendants").
The DGA feature film awards are considered one of the most dependable bellwethers for the Academy Awards for best director. Over the past 63 years, the DGA and academy have disagreed on their choices only six times. The last time was nine years ago when Rob Marshall won the DGA award for “Chicago” and Roman Polanski was named best director by the academy for “The Pianist.”
Hazanavicius had already been named best director by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Critics Choice Movie Awards. He was in contention for a Golden Globe and is nominated for a BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award for best director.
Last week, “The Artist” won the Producers Guild of America award, which is one of the indicators for the best film Oscar. On Tuesday, “The Artist” earned 10 Oscar nominations, one less than the top nominee “Hugo.” Hazanavicius is up for three of those Oscars for director, screenplay and editing.
The 64th annual DGA Awards were held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland. Recent Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammer was the host of the evening, succeeding Carl Reiner, who had become an institution at the event, hosting 24 times. Reiner agreed to host for a final time at the 2011 ceremony.
"Welcome to what will be a glorious night....for some of you. Last year we celebrated the DGA awards of biblical length -- it was so long, the Mayans could not predict an end," he said. "The director's cut was two hours shorter. Even James Cameron said, 'it was too long.'"
Before being named the night's big winner, Hazanavicius was presented with his nominee medallion by his two stars, Berenice Bejo and Jean Dujardin. Upon taking it, he said: "It's a thrill to be here and to be among these wonderful directors. I'm honored," he said in accepting the medallion. "Maybe you haven't noticed but I'm French. I have an accent and I have a name that is very difficult to pronounce. I'm not American and I'm not French, actually. I'm a filmmaker. And I made a film about my love for Hollywood. We create stories that tell people they are not alone. We separate life from shadows. Hollywood helped me grow up. I believed in values like courage, perseverance and integrity."
"I made this film as a love letter to Hollywood. I feel like I am being accepted by you -- not you as Americans but as filmmakers. So thank you." And he added: "For my wife Berenice, I'm so glad we shared this together and I love you."
The guild gave James Marsh the award for feature documentary for "Project Nim."
The DGA award for best directing in a TV comedy series went to Robert B. Weide, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ("Palestinian Chicken").
In accepting, Weide said: "I have very mixed feelings about this because this means that I just lost a $300 bet to my wife, Linda. Why do they call this a medallion? It's a plate. I understand when you go to Don Mischer's house for dinner, you actually eat off of these."
Other awards handed out Saturday night:
Movies for Television and Mini-series: Jon Cassar, "The Kennedys"
Dramatic TV series: Patty Jenkins, for the pilot of "The Killing"
Musical variety TV: Glenn Weiss, for the 65th annual Tony Awards
Reality TV programs: Neil P. Degroot, for "Biggest Loser"
Daytime TV serials: William Ludell, for "General Hospital" ("Intervention")
Children’s programs: Amy Schatz, for "A Child's Garden of Poetry"
Commercials: Noam Murro
Three special awards were also presented. Ed Sherin was named an Honorary Life Member; Katy Garretson received the Frank Capra Achievement Award; and Dennis Mazzocco recieved the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award.
[For the record, 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29: A previous version of this post misspelled the last name of "Project Nim" director James Marsh as March.]
-- Jasmine Elist and Susan King
Photo: Directors Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Michel Hazanavicius and David Fincher attend the 64th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards Meet the Nominees Breakfast held at the DGA on Saturday.Credit: Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA
Robert Richardson received his 10th nomination Wednesday morning for the American Society of Cinematographers feature film award for "Hugo." Among his previous nominations were 1989's "Born on the Fourth of July" and 1994's "The Aviator."
Jeff Cronenweth, who was nominated last year for the ASC Award for "The Social Network," earned another nod for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." And Emmanuel Lubezki, who has already won numerous critical honors for "The Tree of Life," picked up his third ASC nomination for the Terrence Malick epic. He won the award five years ago for "Children of Men."
Rounding out the nominees are two newcomers: Guillaume Schiffman for "The Artist" and Hoyte van Hoytema for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."
The 26th annual American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards will be given out Feb. 12 at a ceremony at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland.
-- Susan King
Photo: Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain in "The Tree of Life." Credit: Merie Wallace / 20th Century Fox
On paper, the idea of an English-language "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" made a lot of sense. Take a book that has sold 30 million copies around the world, draw on a concept that's already proved cinematically successful (via a Swedish trilogy) and add big stars and a big filmmaker. A blockbuster is sure to follow.
This past weekend, though, David Fincher's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" showed that the premise was just a little bit flawed. Despite the presence of Daniel Craig and exploits presented in English, the movie picked up $19.4 million over the four-day holiday weekend, good enough for only fourth place in the weekend box-office race.
The idea behind producing a new version was to make the saga of Mikael Blomqvist and Lisbeth Salander accessible to a far broader audience. But the totals were hardly overwhelming when you consider how many copies the books have sold in the U.S. If the film attracted, say, even 40% of the people who bought Stieg Larsson's first Millennium novel and not a single person more, it still would have made more money.
The numbers will climb, of course; as of Monday, "Dragon Tattoo" had taken in $27 million in the U.S. over six Christmas-week days. But for a release with this much hype and this much brand recognition, that figure doesn't bode screamingly well for future weeks, or a sequel.
Studio Sony understandably points to stiff competition, a long running time and an R rating as inhibitors to the film's success. Those may be factors, but the truth is that "Dragon Tattoo" doesn't need to look at such specific culprits.
Many of Hollywood's star-driven follow-ups to foreign-language hits have been flops. In the last few years, you can count films as diverse as the war drama "Brothers" (a remake of a Danish film) and the buddy comedy "Dinner for Schmucks" (a Steve Carell spin on a French movie) as critical and commercial failures.
Even films that attracted praise -- and "Dragon Tattoo" did, despite some skeptical reviews, like this one from The Times' Kenneth Turan -- didn't bring out many people to see them. "Let Me In," which like "Tattoo" remade a Swedish cult hit, and "The Debt," which took on an Israeli title, were both lightly seen. (Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," a remake of the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," is a notable exception.)
No single theory explains why so many foreign remakes fail, though pundits will note that a foreign sensibility can get lost in translation. And many moviegoers will nonetheless have a sense that the new movie isn't very new (even if a relative few actually went out to see the original).
And all of this points to one truth: The idea of taking a compelling foreign story and giving it a Hollywood gloss doesn't work nearly as well as its backers might think. It's a worthy lesson as other remakes -- such as new versions of Argentine Oscar winner "The Secret in Their Eyes" and a Ben Affleck take on French thriller "Tell No One" -- move through the pipeline.
As "Dragon Tattoo" was opening this weekend, Sony took the unusual step of emailing reporters favorable reviews from the Swedish media. For anyone who thought Hollywood was tin-earedly messing with an original, the message seemed to be, here's what the birthplace of said original had to say.
Like the newspaper Dagens Nyether, which, as the email informed, judged Fincher's picture "a luxurious and venous film that by far surpasses the Swedish version." As those who've been making new versions of foreign-language hits have been discovering, though, praise like that doesn't much matter in this country.
Photo: Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Sony Pictures
Fans of Daniel Craig can get two scoops of the actor this week in theaters -- in both kid-friendly and decidedly adult form. Craig is the man behind Sakharine in "The Adventures of Tintin" and a crusading Swedish magazine reporter in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." After that, though, you'll have to wait until fall 2012 for "Skyfall," his next iteration as James Bond.
We caught up with Craig on a break from filming "Skyfall" in early December in London, where he had gathered with "Dragon Tattoo" cast and director David Fincher to talk about the film.
In “Dragon Tattoo,” Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist fallen from grace due to a libel court case. His life is profoundly affected when he meets Goth über-hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), who attempts to disguise her inner pain via blunt manners, facial piercings and elaborate body tattoos.
Phantasmagoric, “Matrix" meets H.R. Giger style of opening credits (by Tim Miller’s Blur, of Venice) kick off “Dragon Tattoo” as Karen O belts out a new arrangement of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” “Fincher does that kind of sinister stuff incredibly well, huh?" says Craig, 43, suave in a dark blue navy style sweater and trousers. "Those opening credits definitely give us food for thought in terms of the next Bond.”
The intense British actor has read the Stieg Larsson books thoroughly. Larsson was a politically active, left-wing Swedish journalist, who died just before his Millennium Trilogy was published, starting with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”
Q: What captivated you the most about Stieg Larsson’s novels?
DC: I think the essential themes of the books have to do with the politics of sexuality. The main protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, has been beaten down all her life. Still she manages somehow to survive, succeed and even flourish. Lisbeth has a true sense of injustice in the world. Not just for herself, but for other people, too. The man I play in the movie, Mikael Blomkvist, is a true kindred spirit, as he understands injustice and wants to get to the truth of it, just like Lisbeth. Blomkvist and Salander come together at a certain point, and have this turbulent relationship, which is complex, interesting, sexy and funny. The elements of that relationship are featured prominently in the book, and also in our movie.
Q: Why do you think David Fincher and Sony Pictures decided to go forward and re-adapt Stieg Larsson’s trilogy so soon after the original Scandinavian adaptations, which were released only a few years ago?
DC: Because the books are just plain good old storytelling, that’s why. The books are extremely popular globally, and hopefully with this movie they’ll be even more widely read. This was a chance for us to gather a massive talent pool together, and create something very much for the adult market, and yet something that works for the mass appeal market as well. I, for one, was very excited about the idea.
Q: David Fincher is one of those quintessential cinematic masters, with his own unique style, and yet he evokes the feel of perfectionists like Stanley Kubrick. Was the sheer level of craft the main reason you wanted to be in this movie, and work with Fincher?
DC: I think David has many similarities with Stanley Kubrick. He’s also clearly been inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, particularly in how he handles dialogue. Fincher’s defining himself as a director, he’s matured a lot in the past 20 years, if you look at the movies he’s done. His movies were always good in my opinion, but his craft has just gotten better over the years, especially the recent ones. I’m a big fan of his, so when they asked me to be involved, it was an easy question to answer. Yes! I’ve wanted to work with David Fincher for a long time.
Q: I understand that the arctic climate wasn’t always kind to you, the rest of the cast or the crew while making “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in Sweden. Clearly, David Fincher and the studio thought that you really couldn’t stage this kind of Nordic ambience anywhere else, am I right?
DC: Sure, we all froze our [butts] off. There’s an incredibly rich culture of storytelling in northern Europe, because it’s very dark there a lot of the year. You’ve got to have something to do, while the lights are out. Telling ghost stories and stories about murder and danger are good ways of keeping yourself entertained. That’s been done in northern Europe and the Nordic countries for thousands of years. Being there and filming “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in Sweden was incredibly important for us all – for the reasons of light, the cold and the general atmosphere. There was absolutely no point of uprooting this story and shooting it somewhere else. It just had to be Sweden, it had to be Stockholm.
Q: Since you’re in London, shooting “Skyfall” -– and even looking like 007 right now -– do you still feel as good about the upcoming Bond movie as you did before the shoot?
DC: Oh yes. It’s a great, fantastic script, and we’re making a very good Bond movie. It’s going to be very special and different, but it’s still very much tied to Bonds of old. I’ve said it over and over again, but I’m very excited about “Skyfall,” and Sam’s [Mendes, the director] doing a wonderful job.
-- Juhani Nurmi in London
Photo: Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Merrick Morton/Columbia TriStar
The story of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has captivated audiences twice already in recent years — via Stieg Larsson's Millennium novels and their Swedish film adaptations — and introduced an iconic heroine in hacker Lisbeth Salander. Now David Fincher's new English-language version has the challenge of bringing Salander to life while bringing something new to the table. For movie critics, how well Fincher and his team fared depends on who you ask.
The Times' Kenneth Turan finds the film too frigid, writing that the combination of Fincher's steely precision and Larsson's bleak source material "feels, in a coals-to-Newcastle way, like shipping truckloads of ice to the far reaches of the polar regions." Turan also takes issue with the film's handling of Salander, whom he says is the heart of the franchise. Actress Rooney Mara "clearly did everything her director asked of her," Turan writes, "but this film's cold, almost robotic conception of Salander as a twitchy, anorexic waif feels more like a stunt than a complete character, and so the best part of the reason we care enough to endure all that mayhem has gone away."
Intense and familiar are two words that come to mind upon viewing the extended trailer for David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which of course tells of magazine-man Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) teaming up to solve a decades-old murder on a remote Swedish island.
There's tension galore, and plenty of distinct Fincherian touches, in the material unveiled Thursday for the English-language slated for a Christmas release. But from the story beats to the locations, there's also a feeling we've seen it all before. Which, of course, we have, in Niels Arden Oplev's earlier Swedish-language release.
The spot unspools the story pretty much sequentially. It takes its time setting up Blomkvist's and Salander's personal troubles, pauses as Henrik Vanger tells Blomqvist his assignment, then brings together the James Bond actor and the newly pierced one, both of whom cop convincing Swedish accents. (Interestingly, there are several glimpses of/allusions to Salander's lesbianism, though one of the more explicit shots of the heroine torturing her guardian, a shocking sequence in the original, isn't here.)
As Blomkvist and Salander get further into the mystery, clues and events come at us faster and faster until the trailer finishes in a barrage of quick cuts.
For those worried that Fincher would take too many liberties with Stieg Larsson's original novel or depart from Oplev's well-received first film, they're given little reason for concern here.
But does the faithfulness also work against the movie? Anxiety about deviation mutates into the opposite problem, the one gnawing at this film from the beginning: If Fincher hews too closely to what we've already seen, why do we need a new movie in the first place?
The deja vu problem is especially evident in Mara's performance. The actress holds her own in shoes previously filled by Noomi Rapace, channeling the Swedish upstart at her brooding best. That's a compliment, but it also means she doesn't really give us a good reason to watch the character again.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: A moment from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trailer. Credit: Columbia Pictures
Few Hollywood films come with the expectations that saddle David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Each book in Stieg Larsson's original trio of mysteries is a beloved international bestseller, and the Swedish-language films based on those books were art-house hits that introduced the world to the highly regarded Noomi Rapace.
But at least one star in Fincher's December thriller says the director's Hollywood adaptation of "Dragon Tattoo" may not be as fraught as it would appear. "I thought the Swedish movies were nothing great, just sort of average," Joel Kinnaman, who plays the character of Christer Malm in Fincher's movie, told 24 Frames.
Malm is the flamboyant art director and co-owner of Millennium magazine; he takes over for Mikael Blomkvist when the protagonist exits the magazine as a result of the story's chief scandal.
Played by Jacob Ericksson in the original Swedish films, Malm was initially intended to appear only in Fincher's second and third movies, adaptations of "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," Kinnaman said. But Fincher decided he wanted to include the character in "Dragon Tattoo." So he had Kinnaman shoot a few days for this film too.
As contrarian as his opinion might seem, Kinnaman -- who was speaking on the New York set of "Lola Vs.," a romantic dramedy he's shooting with Greta Gerwig -- has a number of allies: The three films averaged a decent but hardly overwhelming 69% score on Rotten Tomatoes. (The first film, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, was the best regarded of the bunch, notching an 86% score on the site.)
While the broad popularity of Larsson's novels is what prompted Sony to make a "Dragon Tattoo" film in the first place, Kinnaman had a surprising admission. "The truth is I haven't read the books," he said. "I tried with the first, but I just couldn't get into it."
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Noomi Rapace in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Music Box Films
Even with its tough-as-nails protagonist, David Fincher's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is a broad audience play: It's based on a book read by millions, contains an accessible mystery and sports an A-list star in Daniel Craig. So whatever gritty elements the "Se7en" director was putting into the film, you'd expect to get played down in a marketing campaign.
But studio Sony is choosing a different path. After a red-band trailer that went for the gore, a new poster goes one step further: It shows Rooney Mara, of course taking on the Lisbeth Salander character that Noomi Rapace made famous in the original, looking tough and baring a pierced nipple as Craig looms behind her. The image is risqué enough that we can't show it here, though here's a link (more sensitive readers, note the partial nudity).
It's hard not to see the poster as a reply to early questions about whether the actress, most recently on screen as a well-scrubbed Boston University coed in "The Social Network," was tough enough for the part. Who knows if the film is as hard-edged as the early marketing material suggests? But it's telling that Sony is doing this much to emphasize that angle.
It's an interesting strategy for a studio with a wide-release picture coming out over the holidays; a campaign like this may turn off more delicate filmgoers. But there's a logic too: This image gets the buzz going and appeases fans worried about losing the grit. There's time to soften things up later. Or, given how well "Black Swan" did last winter, not.
-- Steven Zeitchik