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Will Rooney Mara make a good Lisbeth Salander?

August 17, 2010 |  7:30 am


By now many of the arguments have been waged over the casting of Rooney Mara as the damaged hacker Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." She's brooding, but is she tough? She's attractive, but is she too attractive? She can do moody, but can she get expressive? It's nearly impossible to satisfy fans of a popular literary character: Pick a huge star and she comes freighted with her previous roles; take an unknown and fans ask, nervously, what she's done to deserve the promotion.

It's not easy, in other words, being David Fincher.

Given this dilemma, the director split the difference: He took an actress some of us may have seen, but not one we have too many preconceptions about, the best-known among a group of unknowns (but of course not unknown to him, what with the director observing her up-close as the female co-lead in his "The Social Network.")

Those us who watched the actress in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" may have seen some of the same glints that Fincher spotted, appreciating the restraint that could serve her well in a role otherwise susceptible to scenery-chewing. If she's a little mopey, it's probably better than being a little over the top.

There's also a quiet confidence that comes out in Mara's Nancy Holbrook character, the kind that lies carefully between passivity and hyperactivity. In a horror genre in which an actor's main skill generally involves running and shrieking, Mara conveyed fear in more subtle ways.

That quiet can also come off less as angry than as wide-eyed, a suggestion that she doesn't regard the world with the same suspicion as Noomi Rapace, who originated the role. That's probably giving rise to some of the toughness questions. But there are worse things than compensating for swagger with soul.

Maybe most fitting are the ways in which Mara's "Nightmare" character parallels the Salander one. In the horror remake, she's also a strong but lonerish type, and one who happens to team with a male counterpart to solve brutal crimes using shoe-leather research. And she does all this, for the most part, convincingly.

Fans who hold the Millennium trilogy dear and worry about a Katie-Holmes-in-Batman weak-link problem may also want to keep this in mind: Repeat actor-director relationships tend to work out over time. Burton and Depp, Scorsese and DeNiro/DiCaprio, Hitchcock and Grant/Stewart. If an A-list director can work with anyone he likes and chooses the very same person he just worked with, that's good news.

Fincher is no stranger to mining new talent, particularly of the Goth sort -- with "The Panic Room," after all, he gave Kristen Stewart one of her first big film roles. But don't let that example depress you. In 1995, Fincher took another relatively fresh face and put it front and center in a movie that became a beloved blockbuster. The actor was Brad Pitt, and that role in "Se7en" in many ways set the stage for the actor's career. Mara probably won't become one of the world's most famous faces, marry one of the world's other most famous faces and adopt a group of children from Africa. But she'll probably do fine just the same.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Rooney Mara in "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Credit: Warner Bros.


Rooney Mara will be 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'

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The girl with the impossible task

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Comments () | Archives (16)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I'm just sad they didn't go with Evangeline Lilly. She's the only American actress I can think of who could pull it off.

Mara just made a dumb career move. Everyone will be comparing her to Noomi Rapace (assuming that anyone goes to see the film) and she can't win that one.

Are you kidding me? IMO, this is a disastrous casting choice. The only reason Mara got this is because her blue-blood family (she’s the great-granddaughter of the owners of BOTH the NY Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers) leaned on Sony Pictures and David Fincher to cast this trust fund baby in it. She’s the Hayden Christensen of this trilogy. It takes a certain level of suck to be out-acted by Katie Cassidy out-act you in that unnecessary reboot of Nightmare on Elm Street. She'll probably be nominated for a Razzie. WTF was Fincher thinking?

Eliza Dushku would have been a good Lisbeth Salander. She's demonstrated that she can play bad, screwed up women like Faith in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

why hollywood has to remake a perfectly good picture like the one made in sweden? are americans so lazy that cannot even go and watch a movie with subtitles? this chick compared to noomi rapace looks like a nun....

Swedish actress Noomi Rapace has star quality and a very off-center ingenue magic that that she brings to the role of the girl with the dragon tatoo. Noomi Rapace is so engaging and speaks perfect English- why even consider an American B actress from horror films in this role that Noomi has already aced in the Swedish version of the film? I suppose that the book is popular enough that they don't have to do it well, as long as they do it at all.

Why do we always have to remake foreign movies? The swedish version was just released in 2009 and the film was already good! I'm skeptical that an "english" version will be one better. Hollywood are you loosing your creativity? Don't be a copycat!

Her name is "Rooney"? Did her parents not like her?

the only hollywood actress that could have compared to noomi rapace was natalie portman...

I'd cast Hollie Hunter as Lisbeth, if they have to make an American of the already excellent Swedish version.

I am a huge fan of this book series. The Swedish version of the first film was fantastic. I was prepared to hate it because I loved the books so much, but it just wasn't the case. The casting was perfect. I will *not* be viewing the American versions once released. Hollywood is lame with its rip-offs.

rooney is a good choice. her acting skills are great. i saw the pictures when they were filmng the girl with the dragon tatoo.. and i'd say she looks horrible! her is like no style at all!! she really looks horrible!! wish they would change the hair!! it ruins the movie! she doesnt look like gothic at all!!

I completely agree with those who ask why we need an American remake of the trilogy. The Swedish movies are phenomenal!

I'm rarely a fan of movie adaptations of my favorite books, but this trilogy is an exception.

Noomi Rapace IS Lisbeth Salander. I can't imagine any other actor who could capture Lisbeth with the depth and intensity of Rapace's portrayal.

I think it's ridiculous that they are making a remake of this film. It was incredible - I'm an American and able to read the subtitles. Anyone who has read the books who wants to see the movies, has likely already seen them. It's recent, and Noomi Rapace is stunning.

I feel badly for Rooney Mara. She's likely a decent actress, but for anyone who knows the trilogy, Noomi IS Lisbeth. Why are we remaking something done in 2009?

Oh yeah, it's because us Americans won't read subtitles, can't handle the graphic scenes, and need it dumbed down. It's too bad...it is a marvelous film.

Even though I had to read the subtitles for the Swedish version, Noomi Rapace nailed the role of Lisbeth Salander. To me, Noomi was the embodiment of the character I had read in the book. I dread the release of the American version. Not only will it be dulled down to the point of a decaffeinated coffee, I can't imagine how I will feel without the authentic Swedish feel that only the Swedish language can give. Plus, Rooney Mara can't pull off the "look" of Lisbeth Salander. I'm sorry to say it, but she can't. She's not edgy enough. And just looking at the photos of her in "character" makes me feel that I would be paying a $10 ticket price to watch 2 hours of an SNL skit on the Millennium trilogy. Forget that!

There is only one Lisbeth Salander. She happens to be Swedish. The rest are imposters. Jacob


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