20 May, 2010

From Scandinavia To Hollywood

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

It has been quite a year for Danish director Niels Arden Oplev. His adaptation of the novel THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGOON TATTOO beame the most successful European film in 2009. "We sold over eight million tickets in Europe,", the excited director recently exclaimed, "and now I couldn't be content with staying in Scandinavia and just making a good film that reaches only 100,000 people."

As many European directors before him, the dream is now leading him to the shores of the United States were he wants to complete his dream of doing an English-language film. Oplev moved with his wife and their four children from Copenhagen to suburban New Jersey (where his wife had grown up and still has family). Oplev's dream does not include a remake of his hit, which rights were picked up by the mega producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures, with Oscar nominated David Fincher set to direct.

This is not Oplev's first brush with Hollywood. In 2005, he was developing an original project called THE LAST BORN with James Cameron's production company. But the futuristic film about doomed biology was too similar to CHILDREN OF MEN, which scuttled the Danish director's project.

But back to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The novel by Stieg Larsson (who died in 2005) has become one of the biggest sensations in a rapidly declining publishing industry. The trilogy of books has become a global phenomenon, selling more than 40 million copies in the past four years and topping best-seller lists around the world.

The Swedish-language film adaptation has grossed almost $100 Million dollars worlwide, including a handsome $15 Million in the United States, where it is still in release by specialty arthouse distributor Music Box Films. The film centers on Mikael Blomkvist, a publicly disgraced investigative journalist (played in the original by Michael Nyqvist) whose is hired to investigate the disappearnace of a Swedish mogul. He recruits a bissexual , tatttooed motorcyclist ad computer genius, a role that has catapulted its young actress Noomi Rapace to mega-stardom.

As the Swedish-language version continues its strong theatrical run in North America, buzz is beginning to generate about the American remake version, which is planned to be the first in a big-budget triology. Most of the attention is centering on which actress will be cast in the star-making role as the film's unconventional lead. Established stars like Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman and Kristen Stewart are being strongly considered, as well as such newcomers as Mia Waikowska (ALICE IN WONDERLAND), Ellen Page (JUNO) and Carey Mulligan (AN EDUCATION).

Sony Studios is keeping mum on the casting and rumors are swirling that the studio heads would prefer to cast an unknown in the role, to keep the costs down and to use the vehicle as a way of launching a new film franchise star. The film is set to be directed by David Fincher (FIGHT CLUB, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON) with a script from Oscar winner Steven Zaillian (SCHINDLER'S LIST).

The plum role of the male lead, which would anchor the film's commerical potential if an unknown is cast in the female lead, is none other than Brad Pitt, who starred in the David Fincher films named above. Pitt's presence would certainly make the film series an instant event but speculation is still highest on who will eventually get the film's star-making role of the female rebel hacker.

For director Niels Arden Oplev, there seems to be no bad blood about not being able to direct the big budget Hollywood adaptation of his arthouse hit. "It almost never works that way in Hollywood", Oplev waxed philosophically. "But I've got my own projects up in my sleeve and the big success of the film can only help me fulfill my own American dreams."

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