‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’: The role Rooney Mara completely gave herself to

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It’s a shame that one of the most hotly-contested casting calls for any recent movie didn’t go according to plan, especially when Rooney Mara underwent a remarkable and astonishing transformation after securing the part in the first place.

The very same year, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest were released within nine months of each other in 2009 to propel Noomi Rapace to international stardom as Lisbeth Salander in the adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s literary trilogy, Sony began actively pursuing an American remake.

By March 2010, David Fincher was on board, getting the ball rolling on an arduous casting process. Names like Eva Green, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Carey Mulligan, Natalie Portman, Kristen Stewart, Mia Wasikowska, Scarlett Johansson, and Olive Thirlby were all linked in conjunction with the lead, with the final four coming down to Sophie Lowe, Sarah Snook, Léa Seydoux, and Mara before the latter was officially hired in August.

Despite having worked with her before on The Social Network, Fincher needed convincing that Mara had what it took to convince as the enigmatic, traumatised hacker. Accepting the challenge, the actor would then spend months preparing for the start of principal photography, dedicating every fibre of her being to doing the character justice.

“I had cast Rooney in Network because I needed somebody who was feminine, incredibly verbally facile, somebody who was warm who could offset how cold and reptilian Zuckerberg was at the beginning of the movie,” Fincher explained to The Hollywood Reporter. “None of those things applied to Salander. So I knew Rooney under other auspices. It was hard to imagine her in this new role and to get everybody else to imagine it. The question was, can she get to be withdrawn, antisocial?”

Thanks to an arduous regime that saw her learn martial arts, skateboarding, and motorcycle riding, work with a dialogue coach to hone her Swedish affectations, and undergo a drastic overhaul in appearance that necessitated hours sitting in the makeup chair to be covered in fake tattoos, a jagged and jet-black hair cut, and a very real nipple piercing, Rooney nailed the assignment.

In fact, such was the level of commitment on display that the star was even heavily involved in curating the perfect pubic wig. “There was a lot of discussion that went into my merkin for the movie, because I was naked quite a lot,” she said. “And I don’t think a lot of people will notice all of the attention that went into that. But there was a lot of discussions around that.”

Rooney would ultimately end up being shortlisted for ‘Best Actress’ at the Academy Awards for her staggering turn, but despite winning the Oscar for ‘Best Film Editing’ among five nominations in total, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was shut out of all the other major categories and didn’t perform in line with expectations at the box office.

Even though Fincher was confident his planned back-to-back sequels would materialise, they never did. Instead, the standalone sequel The Girl in the Spider’s Web with Claire Foy as Salander arrived in 2018, where it was dismissed by critics and ignored by paying customers.

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