Author Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist who became a highly successful author after his untimely death when his 2005 novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo became an international best seller. The novel’s sequels The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest and film adaptations made in the author’s homeland became enormously successful as well.
The stories’ main character is Lisbeth Salander, an eccentric computer hacker with a punk look. And now playing this role in the Hollywood adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is 26 year-old Rooney Mara, who has previously been best known for the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street.
Mara was asked if she felt daunted by playing such a well-known character, particularly one already played to such critically-lauded effect in the Swedish films by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace
“To be honest, I didn’t really think much about what other people imagined it to be,” Rooney replies, “I used what I imagined it to be. I had read all three books and I had a really clear picture of who this girl was. Luckily, [director] David [Fincher’s] idea was pretty similar. I didn’t really think much about what other people thought of her.”
Rooney talks about what she would have to do in order to get the part.
“The list was just…” Mara replies, “David had told the casting director to let me know before I went down the long road of auditioning that if I were to get the part that I would have to become a smoker and have to go off and be among myself for a year. I would have to be butt naked, do these horrible rape scenes, ride a motorcycle, it was just stuff like that.”
Mara was then asked if starving herself to replicate Lisbeth’s specifically waifish figure was one of the requirements. “No,” Rooney replies, with a laugh, “He didn’t say that. David was constantly trying to feed me on the set.”
One thing that stands out about the film, which involves is the sheer amount of smoking that the characters do. Rooney clarified why that was the case with this particular film.
“Did you read the books?” Mara says, “And there is a lot of smoking in the books. There is much more than in the movie.”
A particularly distinctive aspect about Lisbeth is she is one of the few lead characters in a mainstream Hollywood film to be bisexual. Mara says that the idea of playing a character being a different sexuality was not a big thing to her.
“Growing up in New York and L.A., it didn’t seem that crazy to have a bisexual character,” Rooney says, “She is incredibly comfortable with her sexuality and I went into it the same. It didn’t really faze me. I didn’t really think about it too much.
Rooney talks about how her highly stylish clothes as Salander landed on H&M magazine.
“In terms of the H&M, I think it is more of Salander,” Mara says, “I wouldn’t call her a fashion icon, but I guess the H&M look doesn’t have to do with me personally. I couldn’t pick one thing that was the hardest. It was all challenging. The motorcycle was definitely the thing that I was the least excited about doing. It just seemed very dangerous to me.”
Mara was asked if she was going fast on the motorcycle.
“Someone was,” Rooney replies, “Daniel wouldn’t get on the back.”
In The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth teams up with magazine owner Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig’s character to solve the mystery of a missing and potentially murdered girl. Over the course of the film, a relationship between the two develops. Rooney talks about her take on it.
“I think that he is one of the first people in her life to ever just appreciate her for the way she is,” Mara says, “He is one of the first people to ever treat her with any sort of decency or respect.”
Mara was asked if she felt the fairly larger-than-life Lisbeth reminded her of a hero out of a comic book.
“I hope not,” Rooney answers, “That was never our intention. We always wanted to make her very human. We never really thought of her as a comic book hero.”
Rooney talks about working with director David Fincher, whom she had worked with playing a small role as Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend in the Oscar-winning film The Social Network.
“We did do a lot of rehearsal,” Mara says, “David and I read through the script a few times with just us together. Then all of us sat around together and went through the scenes with Steve Zaillian and Stellan [Skarsgård]. We started off shooting in Stockholm with just doing exteriors. So it sort of felt like we had 3 months to really rehearse before we went back to L.A. and shot the sort of meat of the movie. So there was quite a lot of rehearsal.”
Mara was asked if she felt it was hard to leave an immersive character like Lisbeth.
“I think it was harder to leave the whole experience behind you,” Rooney says, “You work at a 100 mph for over a year on something and you wake up one day and you have nothing to do. It is harder to come off of an experience where you are incredibly focused and hard-working. It is harder to come off of that.”
David Fincher is famous for demanding a lot of takes out of his cast and it’s said that the most takes in one scene was as much as 47. It was asked of Rooney how she feels about his process.
“You don’t really think about it after awhile,” Mara answers, “It is very exaggerated and dramatized. I think our average take count was much less than that, unless if it is an insert shot, you don’t really think about it. Then, that can be quite frustrating.”
Mara asked if she felt her performances got progressively better with each take.
“Usually you get worse and worse in the middle,” Rooney answers.
Rooney was asked how she felt about having to wear the whole elaborate Lisbeth get-up offset.
“The hair was stuck to my head, so there wasn’t much I could about that,” she says, “The eyebrows remained bleach and the piercings that I got that were real obviously stayed in. Obviously, I wasn’t wearing my wardrobe at home at night. I expected people to treat me much differently, but it really didn’t happen.”
“The biggest change that I noticed was that when you look slightly off in that way people sort of pay less attention to you and their expectations of you are lowered,” Mara continues, “I didn’t mind that and actually enjoyed that.”
Mara was asked if she had seen the film.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Rooney replies.
Rooney was also asked if she would reprise the Lisbeth role if the novel’s sequels were green-lighted into Hollywood sequels.
“I would love to stay on board,” Mara answers.