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Avengers And Avenged

Much like author Stieg Larsson was before his death, the character of Mikael Blomkvist is an investigative journalist dedicated to rooting out corruption in finance and government. As co-owner of the upscale magazine, Millennium, he is hardly an activist, but he has been known to go too far -- getting into legal, and even mortal, peril due to his merciless investigations of the powerful and wealthy. To play Blomkvist, Fincher chose Daniel Craig, the British actor whose balance of depth and charm won him the role of James Bond in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

"It's really Blomkvist's movie, because he's the way in,” says Fincher. "He's the more conventional character and Lisbeth is the satellite who orbits him. We needed someone like Daniel, someone who not only has tremendous movie appeal but God-given acting chops. He is so good, you can mine his nuances.”

Like many people, Craig had read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo shortly after its publication, in the midst of the initial craze. "Someone gave me a copy of it on holiday and I read it in two days,” he recalls. "It's one of those books you just don't put down. There's just this immediate feeling that bad things are going to happen and I think that's part of why they've been so readable for people.”

Even then, he found himself inexorably drawn to Lisbeth Salander. "I think what is interesting about her is that even though she is a victim of sexual violence, she never psychologically becomes a victim,” Craig observes. "Her strength and the way she can take a knock, get up and carry on is something I think people really hook into.”

The book simmered in his consciousness, but it was the creative team who came together to bring it to the screen that made the role of Blomkvist a done deal for Craig. "It was already a good story, but the combination of David as director and Steven Zaillian's script made it incredibly exciting for me,” he says. "I had confidence in the material, and confidence in their visual ideas.”

From the start, he also had an affinity for Blomkvist. "I like his attitude, I like his politics, I like the way he's all mixed up but in interesting ways,” Craig comments. "He's fighting the good fight, trying to uncover corruption and to be an influential journalist, if that's still possible.”

Steven Zaillian was impressed with the way Craig slipped into the role. "Blomkvist is a guy who's not quite as tough as he'd like to be, but who is a really good, decent guy. Daniel was great playing that,” he observes. "His role is every bit as complicated as Salander's.”

Craig made the decision early on not to adopt any extreme accent for the role, but to keep Blomkvist's manner of speaking more natural, as befits the cosmopolitan culture of Stockholm. "I went for something very plain,” he explains. "David and I talked about it and we both didn't want an accent to get in the way of the character. Really, many Swedes speak incredibly good English, both with and without accents. I just felt that was the way to go. Blomkvist is well traveled, he's been all over the world, he's been listening to the BBC since he was six and I think this is the person he is.”

After having wanted to do so for a long time, working with Fincher was exhilarating for Craig – despite the challenges. "David is known for doing a lot of takes and we did our fair share, but that never bothered me,” Craig says. "We can do takes all day long as far as I'm concerned if something good is coming out if it, as long as we are still creating every time we do. David is also very specific and – what's the nicest way to say it? – particular. But once you see the way he builds a scene brick by brick, it's an easy process to relax into. You give yourself over to it, knowing he's got his eye on all the important details.”

Craig notes he was in the best shape of his life when he was cast, which was not quite right for a journalist who spends much of his time hovering over a desk or interviewing sources. "David told me to get fatter, and it was a struggle, but I managed,” he laughs.

Physical challenges did come, especially in the climactic scenes of the film, but Craig notes that even in those scenes, his focus was more inward. "Those final scenes are at a high level of emotion for Blomkvist,” he summarizes.


As soon as production was in motion for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the search was on for Lisbeth Salander. The danger was that everyone who had read the book had already formed a personal picture of her in their minds. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times described Lisbeth thus in her review:

"Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson's fierce pixie of a heroine, is one of the most original characters to come along in a while: a gamin, Audrey Hepburn look-alike with tattoos and piercings, the take-no-prisoners attitude of Lara Croft and the cool, unsentimental intellect of Mr. Spock. She is the vulnerable victim turned vigilante; a willfully antisocial girl, once labeled mentally incompetent by the state's social services, who has proved herself as incandescently proficient as any video game warrior.”

In adapting the character, Steven Zaillian aimed to capture all those contrasting shades of Salander's persona, one that is heavily armored, yet vulnerable if any one dares to get that close. "She's the kind of character who is the most fun to write,” Zaillian says. "There's a kind of wish fulfillment to her in the way that she takes care of things, the way she will only put up with so much, but there are other sides to her as well. A big part of the power of the movie is Lisbeth Salander.”

Fincher now wanted to find all that in an actress, but more than anything he wanted someone who would be willing to walk to the edge of an already risky character and take a leap. That's what he found in Rooney Mara, but it wasn't straightforward.

The filmmakers conducted an exhaustive search for the role of Lisbeth. That lengthy roster included Mara, who had a small but memorable role in Fincher's The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg's girlfriend, Erica Albright. Fincher put her through a seemingly unending series of intensive auditions – in which he asked her to do everything from recite Swedish poetry to pose with motorcycles – to prove what she could do in the role.

"What endeared me to her during the audition process was exactly what I wanted from Lisbeth: she doesn't quit. I wanted that person who was indomitable,” he says. "By the end of our casting process, I knew this was someone worth falling on the grenade for.”

He continues: "She started with so much of what we were looking for, what we needed. She's a bit of a fringe-dweller in her real life. But more than that she was willing to do the work to understand this character. I said, ‘I don't know if she can do it, but I know she will try like hell if we can just inspire her and support her and then cut her loose.' And that's what happened. She chopped her hair off, she learned to ride a motorcycle, she went to Sweden on her own and disappeared off the grid. And if you have someone willing to do all that, that's everything. Piercings are piercings, but anyone could pull that part off.”

For Mara, the chain of auditions kept her on edge, helping to fuel the character even more. "I was ready and willing to do and show them anything to get the part,” she states. "But as it got closer, I was like, ‘What else do I have to show you guys? I've shown you everything. I need to either move on with my life, or let's do this. I'm ready to just throw down, but make up you

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