08.15.10

The Dragon Tattoo Casting Mystery Deepens

The contenders to lead David Fincher's new thriller are an intriguing collection of unknowns—and speculation is flying as to who will get the job. Gina Piccalo separates fact from fiction.

While every major role in director David Fincher's hotly anticipated crime thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has been cast in the last two weeks, the title character remains a mystery.

Daniel Craig is set to play the series' protagonist, disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, Robin Wright as his magazine publisher and occasional lover Erika Berger, and Swede Stellan Skarsgard as businessman Martin Vanger. Production is expected to start in Stockholm by early October.

Meanwhile, four actresses are believed to be the top contenders for the role of brilliant Goth hacker Lisbeth Salander, a character who personifies the series. And all of them meet Fincher's criteria: boyish, young, petite, and unknown. There's some speculation that American Rooney Mara, who co-stars in Fincher's upcoming Facebook film The Social Network, may have taken the lead over Australians Sophie Lowe and Sarah Snook and French actress Lea Seydoux, who appeared in Inglourious Basterds and Robin Hood.

Agents with clients in the running for Lisbeth have gone radio silent in recent days, fearful that any publicity they bring to the process might jeopardize their chances.

But for now, the real status of casting Lisbeth is unknown outside the filmmaker's camp, even to some of the actress' reps, with the production start date just weeks away. Agents with clients in the running for Lisbeth have gone radio silent in recent days, fearful that any publicity they bring to the process might jeopardize their chances.

Naturally, that has only inspired more feverish guessing. For instance, Alice in Wonderland star Mia Wasikowska (wearing a Lisbeth-esque pixie haircut) still gets named as a leading contender. As the co-star of Disney's billion-dollar spring blockbuster opposite Johnny Depp and this summer's critical hit The Kids Are All Right, she would bring her own burgeoning celebrity to Dragon. But Wasikowska respectfully declined Fincher's offer to screen test for it and has returned home to Australia. (The 20-year-old star will appear in two indie dramas next year: director Gus Van Sant's Restless and as the title character in Jane Eyre.)

Harry Potter star Emma Watson got a short haircut and last week was, according to dozens of stories, going after the part. But her reps quickly squashed that rumor, saying she's headed back to Brown University in the fall. (And not interested.) Meanwhile, Oscar nominee Ellen Page still hasn't had a proper screen test for the role, but her name continues to appear as a leading contender.

Another name making the rounds is lauded Milk star Alison Pill, who co-starred as a surly rock drummer in this month's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. And lately, Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan, who wowed Hollywood in last year's indie drama An Education, has resurfaced on the rumor mill as someone who might still have a shot at the role. But their reps weren't made available for comment.

Then there's 19-year-old Brit newcomer Katie Jarvis, who was discovered arguing with her boyfriend on a train platform two years ago and has appeared in exactly one feature film as a volatile urban teen in last year's acclaimed indie drama Fish Tank. But despite the street cred she might lend to the role as a real-life dropout and teen mother who certainly looked the part of Lisbeth in Fish Tank, a source says she's not a frontrunner.

The din over casting Lisbeth has grown so loud among fans—and its significance so exaggerated—that one person close to the casting process felt moved to set the record straight, telling me that several well-known actresses have already turned the part down.

John Hamburg: Under the Spell of Dragon TattooApparently, the offer on the table for what is expected to be a trio of films, shot back-to-back and then heavily promoted around the world, just wasn't enough for some.

"Some of these girls are being heavily pursued and they passed," the person said. "It's fact that despite their admiration for Fincher, the books and the character, they're walking away because the deal being offered and time commitment required ultimately isn't worth it."

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Gina Piccalo spent a decade at the Los Angeles Times covering Hollywood. She's now a contributing writer for Los Angeles Magazine and her work has appeared in Elle, More and Emmy. She can be found at ginapiccalo.com.