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The Lisbeth Salander actress: The girl with the impossible task

July 29, 2010 |  5:38 pm

Most eye-catching about the names being mentioned for the Lisbeth Salander role in David Fincher's English-language version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is just how little-known they all are.

The role would seem to require some deep and diverse acting experience; it is, after all, one of the more challenging parts to come along in a big commercial film for some time. At least as envisioned in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy and in the Swedish-language originals, Salander is a raven-haired beauty who's at once fierce and vulnerable, someone who betrays some serious emotional damage but who also can be the tough girl when it counts.

Even some of the top 20-something names out there don't seem to do the trick. Rumored candidate Natalie Portman, for all of her acting chops, just might be too fey. And it's hard for us to feel the Ellen Page of it, no matter how much running around dream worlds she's been doing lately.

You can probably get away with a little less vulnerability if you bring the requisite toughness, and so if you're going with a known name, the best actress, of all people, might be Jessica Alba or her ilk.

Alas, Fincher seems intent on going with an unknown. He's considering four actresses who are barely recognizable to American audiences. Would they work? Rooney Mara is the most familiar, and perhaps the most viable. She was impressive enough in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" reboot -- although, at least as articulated in that film, an ethereal presence as much as an angry one. (Of course she worked with Fincher on "Social Network," so if she has the chops for this, he'd be the first to know.)

Also in the mix is Léa Seydoux, a French national known for French-national roles in "Robin Hood" and "Inglourious Basterds." It was hard to get much of a sense of her in either, although as a member of the interrogated LaPadite family in "Basterd's" breathtaking opening scene, she at least showed that she can act convincingly in a tough spot.

The other two contenders, Sarah Snook and Sophie Lowe, are Australian actresses whose movies we haven't seen, although given the actresses who've emerged from that country in recent years (Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, etc.) there are worse wells from which to draw.

Lisbeth Salander is a meaty role for any actress, so Fincher should have his pick. Then again, the A-listers have reason to give it a second thought: You're signing on for a potential trilogy, which can sap your schedule (and in Sweden, no less). And playing iconic book characters can be a losing game -- fans have their own vivid notions of how the character should appear (just ask Tom Hanks or Audrey Tautou about their experience with "The Da Vinci Code").

When a part is so tough, someone completely unfamiliar to American audiences could be the best choice -- a blank canvas is better than one partially filled. And it would, at least in the immediate aftermath of release, generate a new star. Let’s just hope it also generates a persuasive role.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Noomi Rapace in the Swedish-language "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Music Box Films


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Comments () | Archives (15)

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Very few US famous actress would agree to star in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", because most of US famous actresses refuse to do nude scene in any movie. (the original movie has many nude scenes.)

EW reported that Natalie Portman had been offered the Lisbeth Salander role, but she turned it down. (it is understandable; she just announced that she won't do any more nude scenes in eariler this year)

It should be the reason why David Fincher has to cast a virtually unknown actress to play the role; no well-known US actress would agree to do nude scene.

I agree it's a tough role to cast, but disagree with some of your choices. Salandar is never described as being conventionally beautiful. She is described as being tiny and her appeal seems to come from her "doll-like" (her rapist's words) appearance, which no amount of tattoos or piercings can disguise. Natalie Portman and Ellen Page are both small enough at least to suggest that, but Portman, who is gorgeous also has a womanly shape, while Salandar is described as being slim hipped and completely flat-chested. Her size is important, vital because the combination of her tininess and physical ferocity is always a shock. A punked out Page, might be the best choice.

The real question is, why the need for any remake?

C'mon Steve, she doesn't act in Inglourious. Her face is shown like twice for about a second each time, looking down or scared (if you freeze frame it). She is good in other films, try the Honore one, but don't try and write more about Seydoux if you clearly haven't seen enough of her work.

For anyone who has seen the Swedish films with Noomi Rapace, ANY actress who plays in the American version will pale in comparison to Rapace. I agree the actress for the American version should be an unknown. But if a more established actress was considered, I think Ellen Page would make a great Lisbeth. In the books Lisbeth is 25 years old, is tiny and is painfully thin. She's described as anorexic-looking but is not anorexic. Ellen Page is the right age and stature for the part, AND I think she most definitely has the chops to play the part. She's still relatively new to the movie scene and - really - shouldn't be labelled yet with a movie genre type.

And, please, please - don't mention Jessica Alba anywhere near this project. She's a great actress but is most definitely not suited to this part.

The American version is going to bomb. This story is too far from American culture. That's why they can't find an actress to play Salander. The casting difficulty is just a symptom of the overall difficulty of this project. It is a completely Nordic story, in plot and theme and setting and characters. They can go to Sweden to get the setting right, but everything else is going to be a big headache.

The film has been made. Recently. Played in U.S. theaters. Recently. The film that was made was excellent. The unmitigated gall of a U.S. director wanting to re-make the film with (interestingly enough) a UK male lead and possible non-U.S. female lead is, well, unmitigated gall. We hear the real reason it is being remade is that "U.S. audiences don't like to read subtitles." Gosh, how sad. Save your $$$ and see the original. (by the by, I was born in the U.S. and have lived here all my life.)

"...the best actress might be Jessica Alba"? ...Now there is a combination of words that I never would have thought I'd see, anywhere. You must be an executive during the day.

I've seen the first two films in the trilogy. Noomi Repace IS Salander and I cannot imagine a sweet-faced Ellen Page in the role.

I was so impressed with the films, I probably wouldn't even go to an American version. I think it will be a stinker.


Why the need for a remake? While I truly love the books, the Swedish films weren't all that good. I just saw Girl Who Played With Fire this weekend and there were many scenes that were devoid of any elements of real film-making - just there to move the story along. These books have the potential for much more intense, affecting stuff - and much more humor - than was in the Swedish films. I don't fault the actors so much as I do the film-makers.

Fincher's good - he could be providing us with some real worthwhile films here. I'm excited about that possibility.

I can't believe Natalie Portman isn't up for this role, she would be perfect!

Jessica Alba?!?

Great idea!

Or, how about Katherine Heigl? Ashton Kutcher? Brittany Murphy??


I just cant understand why the need for a remake!.... Daniel Craig? Jessica Alba??? American version!!!?? everything here is just wrong!
Can Lisbeth even smoke in the american version?

Lady Gaga, if she can act.

Christina Ricci could make an excellent Lisbeth.

Well, at least I would trust David Fincher directing, his "Zodiac" was a stunningly dark and creepy film, one of my favorites, so if he has worked with this actress before he must have a clue as to her capabilities. But Noomi was such a startling presence in the Swedish films it's hard to imagine anyone else. But I will try.

But the Swedish milieu will be difficult to duplicate. Kind of like Kenneth Branagh making the Wallander series for PBS. You have a flock of Brits running around Sweden, pretending they are Swedish. It was pretty effing dismal. Hope Fincher doesn't run into that problem but he probably will.

Go read Henning Mankell! He is a FAR superior crime writer than Stieg Larsson. Larsson created a great character, but his writing sucks. Too convoluted.


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