Monday, December 21, 2015

Cold Case of A Girl with Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher has tackled some twisted tales over the course of his career, notably Seven (AC Oct. ’95), Fight Club (AC Nov. ’97) and Zodiac (AC April ’06), but his latest picture, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, could be his most complicated narrative yet. Adapted from the first book in Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s wildly popular trilogy, the film follows Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a renowned investigative journalist who accepts an unusual job offer after his journalism career is derailed by accusations of libel.

Wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) asks Blomkvist to solve a 40-year-old cold case, the disappearance of Vanger’s niece, Harriet, and in return Vanger will not only pay handsomely, but also help disprove the libel accusations against Blomkvist. During his investigation, which reveals a number of sordid family secrets, Blomkvist teams with young, eccentric hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), whose eye-catching tattoo gives the story its title.
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Larsson’s trilogy — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was brought to the silver screen by Swedish filmmakers in 2009, and when Fincher began prepping his version of Dragon Tattoo, he was keen to retain its native elements by
shooting extensively in Sweden and using a Swedish crew. “It was an aesthetic choice,” says Fincher. “We wanted it to look and feel like a Swedish film, and I think it does. We were already getting flak for doing a Hollywood version of the story, so we made a commitment to doing as much of the movie as
possible in Sweden, with a Swedish crew.”
That crew initially included a Swedish cinematographer, but after a few weeks of shooting, Fincher decided to make a change. He called Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, one of his longtime collaborators, and asked him to take over. Cronenweth recalls, “I got a call at 6 in the morning, and it was Bob Wagner, David’s assistant director, asking how I was doing. I said, ‘I’m fine, Bob, but it’s 6 a.m., so this obviously isn’t a social call. What’s up?’ He said David and the cinematographer weren’t seeing eye-to-eye, and he asked if I was available to take over. “I gave it a lot of thought because it was a tough situation,” continues the
cinematographer. “One doesn’t want to replace someone else. It’s always unfortunate. I hadn’t been involved in the prep, and I was worried about communication with the crew, thinking they might resent me because I was replacing one of their own. But David and I go way back, we’ve worked together many times, and, luckily, we had discussed the movie before he embarked on it. Ultimately, the decision was not that hard, and it was really smooth sailing. The crew welcomed me with open arms.”

It’s a difficult thing to walk onto someone else’s film, and Jeff didn’t agree to it overnight,” says Fincher. “In retrospect, I would have done it a different way and not been so committed to the idea of an entirely Swedish production; I would have started with Jeff from the beginning. I was really lucky he was able to bail us out and that we got a chance to work together again.” The production was using the Pix system, an online project-management platform that facilitates instant access to reports, script changes and dailies, and with it Cronenweth was able to view all of the footage that had been shot before he arrived in Europe. He met with the key production team in Zurich on a Saturday morning, and by the following Tuesday he was shooting in Stockholm.

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