Many people have asked me if I felt honored to be chosen to direct the feature film THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO based on the first book in the “Millennium” trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The truth is: When the producer Sören Staermose asked me the first time, I said no. I had heard of the books, but hadn’t read them. Furthermore, I didn’t have the time and intention to do a thriller for the cinema.
Sören came back half a year later and asked me again. The production time had been pushed and he was very enthusiastic about me doing the film. So I read the book, it was very intriguing but I didn’t see it as a thriller. I saw it more as a mystery drama with strong and special characters who develop throughout the story. I really connected with this material, Lisbeth being a dark rebel and Blomkvist, a leftist watchdog.
I told Sören that I would do the film, but only if I had artistic control over cast, script, length, final cut, etc. Having this control, I saw it as the only way for me to do a successful film based on such a popular book.
I wanted a film with strong emotions, strong characters and a controversial and intriguing story and this book had it all. The visual style and production design had to show a big and special film. I wanted all the small clues and details in Larsson’s book to be there – old still photos, which make Harriet come alive, old footage from the bridge accident, Lisbeth having a photographic memory, etc. And I wanted the film to keep the edge that the book has; that it dares to show the dark side of society.
I asked two of the best writers in Scandinavia, Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel, to write the script for me. Together we dissected the book and plotted out the storyline. Rasmus and Nikolaj then wrote like crazy. The time left before the start of shooting was already short.
It took the casting director Tusse Lande and I months to cast the film. There must be a special connection between the actor and the character. The actors must have the shine of the character. The Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist presents us with the humanity, empathy and intellectual strength, which we expect from his character Michael Blomkvist.
Lisbeth Salander is possibly the character in modern Scandinavian drama with the most expectations attached, and I can’t believe the luck we had in finding Noomi Rapace for this part. Noomi has transformed herself into her character to a chilling perfection.
I talked Danish cinematographer Eric Kress and production designer Niels Sejer into traveling to Sweden to do this film under hectic conditions, a decision, I do not regret at any moment. They have raised the bar for this film, giving the art department work amazing details and the images a dark exciting feel.
The prep time was short and early on it became clear to me that we needed a miracle to bring the film home on time and budget. At that time the Swedish crew came on board, a team that was determined to make a quality film even if it took long days and hard work under tough conditions. The feeling of the set was that every shooting day was a battle for quality. A battle we were determined to win. And now, that the film is finished, I know we did…
Niels Arden Oplev