Director David Fincher Talks ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

More like David Fincher’s Fight Club than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the unpredictable and elusive director faced off against a testy press during this conversation for his latest movie in question, about that by now mythic brash babe inked for kinky intrigue. Unfazed by a volley of loaded questions, Fincher stylishly deflected topics like mulling NC-17 ratings even for smoking. Along with decidedly not being into nazis and serial killers; metaphorical tire irons, basketball teams and sushi menus when it comes to choosing his actors; and power tools as basement torture devices that may have ended up in his movie.

One of the most subversive things in your movie, was smoking. There were so many cigarettes. So why did you make your actors smoke all the time?

DAVID FINCHER: We actually cut stuff down! We were literally going to begin every scene with a cup of coffee, and a cigarette burning. But you think that’s the most subversive thing about this?

Hey, smoking has become really uncool on screen.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Photo Credit: Rotten Tomatoes

DF: And understandably. But…Maybe that’s part of our hard R rating!

The film does have an R rating, and it features non-consensual sodomy and torture murder. So do you think the fact that Dragon Tattoo doesn’t have an NC-17 rating reflects a broken system over at the MPAA, or the public’s tolerance for non-consensual sodomy and torture murder?

DF: Um, I think all of that!

What turned you on about that freaky female protagonist of yours, especially the opening scene?

DF: I liked the idea of this primordial, sort of tar ooze of the subconscious. And I liked the idea that it was her nightmare.

Well, how do you feel about having a bisexual character in such a mainstream film?

DF: That’s only one of two times when Rooney smiles in the movie.

It’s not often that we have a bisexual character in a mainstream movie…

DF: Thank you!

Did you have any trepidation about this remake so soon after the original Swedish version a few years ago, and that people might go, I already saw this movie?

DF: Sure!

How did you manage to get Led Zeppelin music for the film? I hear that’s pretty hard to do.

DF: Led Zeppelin, they’re very protective. As they should be. Their music is amazing, and I think they wanted to make sure that we respected it. And it was our intention all along to communicate the idea that we didn’t want to run it into the ground. And it was actually pretty easy. So it kinda went down like clockwork.

Dragon Tattoo seems to have a message that the bad are always rewarded. Any thoughts?

DF: No, I don’t think the bad are always rewarded. And we’re not trying to make something that’s…quotable on mugs!

How come there are some actors you like to work with a lot?

DF: I like people. And I like people I can work with. Sometimes people freak out! Sometimes they’re like, what did I do wrong. And I go no, you didn’t do anything wrong. Let’s just try something different.

So that could be one reason. And then, I don’t know. I like certain people’s energies. And hopefully you’re not going to the well for the same thing every time. But you build your universe, it’s kind of like building a basketball team.

And I kind of liken it to a quality that you beat out of them with a tire iron. And it’s this thing, you’re looking for an innate quality that they have. So it’s not a sushi menu. You know, okay get this, or this. It’s a feel thing.

You seem genuinely interested in police mysteries.

DF: Not really!

Oh, okay. But how about in telling this story?

DF: The mystery of this movie wasn’t that interesting to me. You know, nazis and serial killers. Or the evil that people do in their basements with power tools. So I liked the thriller, I liked the vessel of that. But I was more interested in the people.

How about the male point of view on this girl with the dragon tatto, and the subjective male gaze imprinted on her by both you and the original writer, Stieg Larsson?

DF: It was all stacked in this third party omniscient gaze. Yeah, I don’t know about the male gaze thing. But I’m probably guilty of it!

What was behind your decisions as to what to include or not from Stieg Larrson’s book, concerning the right wing elite historically in Sweden that drives the story, and that reportedly may have even pushed Larsson to an early death with their threats against him that drove him underground. And experiences he imbued his female protagonist with, in a similar way as a victim of the right wing elite?

DF: I think the actual political leanings of the material, are probably not the reason that, you know, everybody waiting for a plane at La Guardia is reading the book. It has less to do with everyone’s fear of the ultra-right in Scandinavia. So, no.

What about any sequels of the second and third books in the series?

DF: Um, classically movie studios don’t make deals with directors, even if there’s a hope that there are going to be sequels. Because they want to make sure that you behave!

How about those reports that you stuck Daniel Craig in a torture device for real?

DF: We rushed in and found that he had passed out. So…we wrapped then! And on the production report it was like, ‘Let Daniel go fifteen minutes early, due to unconsciousness!’

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.