Swedish ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ Director Criticizes English-Language Version

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 9th, 2013 at 1:09 am,

A Hollywood remake is very much a tricky proposition when the original product was both critically-acclaimed and did solid business at the worldwide box office – such is the case with David Fincher’s English-language adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Niels Arden Oplev directed the Swedish cinematic adaptation of the late Stieg Larsson’s hit novel and has now spoken out a bit about Fincher’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is technically not a remake of Oplev’s film but a separate take on Larsson’s source material.

Fincher’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is being penned by Oscar-winner Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List), who has insisted that his screenplay is based solely on Larsson’s original novel and that he has no plans to even watch Oplev’s adaptation. That has not prevented most media outlets from referring to the project as an American remake and – judging from his interview with Word & Film - Oplev is also under the same (mistaken) impression. The Danish filmmaker has not flat-out denounced Fincher’s movie, but he seems less than enthused about the whole endeavor.

Here’s the quote from Oplev about the new Girl With the Dragon Tattoo film:

“Even in Hollywood there seems to be a kind of anger about the remake, like, ‘Why would they remake something when they can just go see the original?’ Everybody who loves film will go see the original one. It’s like, what do you want to see, the French version of “La Femme Nikita” or the American one? You can hope that Fincher does a better job.”

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo original Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Director Criticizes English Language Version

Still frame from Oplev’s ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’.

Oplev’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was an engagingly dark and gritty neo-Noir that revolved primarily around the titular gal, punk-goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). While Fincher is universally acknowledged as a technically precise and meticulous filmmaker, his take on Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will inevitably be compared its Swedish counterpart, for better or for worse.

Rapace’s intense performance as the brilliant but haunted Salander has earned the actress numerous accolades and very much assisted her in snagging the female lead role in Sherlock Holmes 2. Oplev feels that Rapace very much deserves an Oscar nomination for the role (a sentiment we share), and despite the potential of actress Rooney Mara playing Salander in Fincher’s version, a lot of moviegoers that saw Oplev’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will (and do) consider it blasphemy that another actress has been cast in the part.

hollywood wants Noomi Rapace1 Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Director Criticizes English Language Version

Noomi Rapace in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’.

While Oplev’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo grossed nearly $200 million in theaters worldwide, it only did about $10 million in ticket sales at the U.S. box office. Fincher’s version could very well make that same amount (and more) on its first day of release in theaters. Larsson’s Millennium trilogy has been a best-seller here in the States for awhile now and Fincher has a loyal cult following of his own, so his Girl With the Dragon Tattoo should be far more financially successful than another recent English-language take on a popular Swedish book-turned-movie, Let Me In.

We hope that Fincher’s movie turns out well and that it encourages those who missed Oplev’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to give the Swedish film a try. But do we really need or want a Hollywood interpretation of this story, regardless of the talent behind it? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Source: Word & Film (via THR)

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  1. Ah, yes. Going directly from the source material of the book. We heard that with Let Me In too. I’m not holding my breath that that’s what we will end up with although the book certainly has enough content to give us something that feels different.

    I’m in the camp of not understand the appeal on doing an English version as the original is so great on it’s one. However the 2rd and 3rd film… there is room for improvement. Will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

  2. The man has a point. Even about La Femme Nikita…Point of No Return sucked. Hope this s nt the case with this one.

    • You’ve got that right. La Femme Nikita was fantastic and Point of No Return was laughably bad.


  3. The only problem I see with remakes or reboots is when someone tries to do it so soon after the original. Say what you will about the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake, but at least they waited decades before remaking it.

    Same goes for Spider-man. Not even 4 whole years have passed since the final Raimi film, and we’re getting a reboot.

    In my opinion, remakes serve a purpose because they get new viewers who have never seen the original into the series, and those new viewers eventually will see the original. Remakes cause new exposure for the originals, so that is why remakes are a good thing.

    Take Dawn of the Dead. I had never seen the original, then I watched the remake. My friend told me it was a remake and let me borrow the original. I never would have seen the original if not for the remake. Remakes generate new interest in old characters.

    But in the case of the “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” it’s too soon for a remake.

    • my words! you sir are absolutly right!

    • No-one complained when Hulk was rebooted, which was only five years after Ang Lee’s attempt.

      • No offense Little, but it’s hard to compare The Hulk with Dragon. I get where your coming from, and Ang Lee up until that version was one of my favorites….maybe it was Eric Bana who runied the film for me. But Mr. Norton delivered and all was good.

      • That’s because the first one sucked so bad

        • If that’s the case, then why are people complaining about Webb’s Spider-man when SM3 was crap?

  4. Given the fact that the original skips an entire plot point about the real motivation to for Blomkvist to take the job and completely fabricates a new one, I couldn’t care less if Oplev is upset. With how deep the book is, it would be very easy for the US version to take a very different path on it’s way to the same end.

  5. We’ve been through this before. This is just scummy Hollywood beancounters out for an easy buck.
    It stinks…and i’m a huge fan of Fincher.

    • So much agreement!

      Makes me angry.

  6. I trust Fincher to deliver a quality product…which I wouldn’t even be remotely interested in if Fincher’s name weren’t on it.

    I can kind of understand where the guy’s coming from, but this seems like a non-issue to me.

  7. anyone remember [Rec]? I think we all saw how well that went ;)

  8. yea dude its david freaking fincher. he made a movie about facebook entertaining to watch. and not matter how lame that story was his style bled through it i trust this adaptation will be better than the swedish version i think im one of the few who was completely bored with it. and this is coming from a dude who would rather watch the foreign version of films then the originals. and rooney mara is way hotter than noomi rapace.

  9. Agree that with David Fincher at the helm the possibility of it being a quality film goes up.

    I find calling it a reboot interesting, although I never would have seen it that way. It’s too early to tell if it truly will be a re-visioning, which I think it key in the reboot vs. remake differentiation.

    If it turns out awesome, great. But I’m not holding my breath or going to get expectations up.

  10. They Americanize movies which we all know why they do so, the almighty dollar. There have been several remakes or reimaginings over the years, la femme nikita, the experiment, funny games. The recent reboots of franchises I do not agree with. We have seen it happen with Batman and Superman ever since we were children. Spidey has had his own live action show, the Hulk(which all so featured Daredevil at one time?), the Dolph Lundgren Punisher, the 1990 Captain America. I do not know why they feel reboots are necessary. Look at what they have pulled off with James Bond movies? They don’t always have to go back and retell the beginning. Different actors, writers, directors, producers equal different story. Why go back and try to do it the right way? We got the point, just do it the write way but stop redoing everything. Now that I rambled and strayed from the point I was going to make…I am looking forward to this movie. I am a fan of Finchers work and most film enthusiasts in America would agree that he is good at what he does. I do not feel like this movie is necessary. I believe that the swedish versions do the source material justice and do so amazingly. I am not sure if you can make a better version. You can make a different version that can be as good? I am looking forward to it nonetheless. American film studios just see this as an opportunity to rake in cash like always. Anyone interested in this movie has already seen the trilogy, long ago even. The American version will bank on those who have already paid to see the swedish version and the stupid americans that have never read the book or even knew that a movie was already made about it.

    • How fortunate for the planet that we “stupid americans” fill a niche…Got help us all if the stupid gene were to spread, right?
      Bag on hollywood all you want and I won’t argue, but forgive me if I get riled when you lump the rest of us in mister…

      • I am American, I am sorry if you were offended and felt the need to lump yourself in with the stupid ones my friend.

    • @ thekabsin: I’m with nowhereman on this one. Hate on Hollywood till the cows come home but don’t lump all Americans as stupid when it comes to film.

      I have a point of order when it comes to your argument using James Bond. How many books did Ian Fleming write with Bond as his hero? Somewhere around 12 books and quite a few short stories. Stieg Larsson only has three published works starring Lisbeth Salander. Bond producers always had some source material they could fall back on; a sub-plot that wasn’t utilized the first time around. The Millennium Trilogy producers do not have that luxury.

      • When referring to James Bond I was addressing the reboot issue with franchises such as Spiderman, Batman, Superman etc… Not The Millenium Trilogy.

    • i’m agree with you, in my opinion this movie will have success in us, but not internationally because in europe, it don’t mind people to see foreign movies with subtitles. Why people will pay to see the same story on screen the next year? i admire Fincher but i don’t understand his choice to do this remake. I have seen a recent picture of rooney and she didn’t even cut her long hair for the part. Lisbeth is a strong character and Noomi transformed herself, she got several piercings done for the part. I think Hollywood suffer from a huge lack of originality!

      • You should read more, Rooney Mara also got all the piercings done as well, cut her hair and died her eyebrows

  11. Although I’m sure money is definitely on the mind when remakes happens, I don’t think that was the intent of Funny Games as it had the same director and same message – I think he was trying to get that message to a larger audience, not make a buck. I consider Michael Haneke more of a message maker/artist rather than ‘making a buck’ kind of guy.

    • I agree with you here on this one, was just simply using it as an example of a remake regardless of intention/quality/creators/earnings. I do believe that he did it to get his message to a wider audience but we all know that he still did it for money. If you want to make a living off of art you are doing it to make a buck. Imagine getting paid to share your opinion and show your talents off? Can not knock the guy for getting paid. I do like the french version better though, I do not know why because they really are the same movie?

  12. First off this isn’t a remake its a different adaptation of the book. Yes, there is a difference. Second, I saw the swedish versions and I read reviews and guess what? The best review I read for “hornets nest” was a C+ so whay does that say? Rapace was the absolute best thing of those versions. In this fan of the books opionion I’m not wildly in love with oplev’s version. It was dark, yes. But to be a little honest I was bored. Again, rapace was the only thing I absolutely loved. This guy and everyone who’s against this movie needs to just get over it. People were mad when internal affairs got remade but how did that turn out? Oh yeah scorsese gave us a masterpiece. In a perfect world I’d rather everyone read the books cause at the end of the day they’ll be better than anything anyone films.

    • Hey Jess! Did you get a Surround rig yet?

    • Eh, I thought the Departed sucked and was Scorsese’s worst film by far. That movie is all style and no substance, and it completely misses the point of the original film (and heck, I saw the original 2 years after I saw Departed. I didn’t like Departed from the getgo. It felt soulless).

    • Well sorry, but not everyone believes the departed is such a great movie, it was ok… but internal affairs was way better… it is a reality that hong kong cinema has fans worldwide, but they cannot beat hollywood in spreading internationnaly (and certainly not on US soil) because (not only) of the language (but also the culture)…
      Now, about millenium, the first movie of the swedish trilogy is great, 50% because of the story – 30% thanks to noomi rapace (she did the best possible job) but also 20% thanks to Michael Nykvist… if you don’t know who he is you can’t be seriously commenting cinema!

  13. As much as I love the Swedish version….I am very excited, in all aspects for the “re-make”….the directing, casting and writer are all top notch and I have to believe this film will deliver, and a hope for those who have never seen the orginal to rent it.

    “Fincher’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is being penned by Oscar-winner Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List), who has insisted that his screenplay is based solely on Larsson’s original novel and that he has no plans to even watch Oplev’s adaptation.”

    I love that part of the post and IMHO, will make this version of the screenplay even better if possible?!!!

  14. I was moderately interested in seeing this ‘Ameremake’ , mainly because of Fincher and Craig, the casting of the lead actress to play Lisbeth was terrible considering the huge list of talented actresses they were seeing for the part.

  15. I read the book and saw the Movie and I liked both, but all in all,the book and the Movie,in my opinion is average, The flaw with the book was that it was super boring until you got through the first 100 pages and then it shifts gears and cops-out at the end. At least the Movie was better. Then again nothing to get excited about. I don’t understand the hype. And to make matters worst some critic had the guts to compare it to a bergman film which is way off mark.

    • Why waste the time on remaking the film when the whole story is pretentious–All the talk about the violence done to woman, but never truly indulges the complexity. Salander is a complex character, but the film and the book never gives us preception into the character. She just is. They a wastes alot of time on Blomkvist sleeping with every female Character. Pretentious…sorry Ingmar

  16. So far I’ve seen the first two Swedish interpretations of Larsson’s work and am eagerly awaiting the final installment to come to a theatre near me. I feel that the first movie was stronger than the second movie, but that the second book was stronger than the first one. Yet I don’t have as many trepidations about Fincher’s interpretation as I’ve had about other remakes.

    I like David Fincher. I like Daniel Craig and Christopher Plummer. I’m not wild about Rooney Mara. She was a bit of a disappointment when I read about casting. But I’m willing to give this one a shot if only because there were sub-plots left out of the original movie and I want to see if they can be incorporated or what else would need to hit the cutting room floor. I am a little curious as to why Stellan Skarsgard is in the American version and did not try out for the Swedish role.

    I do buy this as a re-telling and will go to see it. However I would’ve been just fine with original Swedish films. Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist were just phenomenal.

    PS: Does anyone know who will be playing Nils Bjurman in Fincher’s version? I can’t find that bit of casting anywhere. I fear Fincher might cop-out of that story-line as it is rather intense. I really, really hope not though…

  17. sorry folks,but i for one am looking foreward to Finchers version of dragon tattoo! i read the books and saw Oplevs version (all 3 movies),and i didnt get the feeling that they do the books justice!i missed to many things,and sometimes the storyline was completely ruined.important events in the books were left out,and their conclusions were stuffed in in a way i didnt really like.
    so yes lets wait for the Fincherversion,and see if he does it better!

  18. Okay, let me give you a Swedish take on the whole thing. I am amazed about how this Swedish movie can create such a fuzz in the US. Just about everyone here thinks it’s nothing more than an average thriller, although based on an extremely strong source material. Myself, and many, many others thinks that the book could have been done in a way much, much better than this. I guess the Swedish language and the Swedish locations seems very exotic for you, but is that the reason to why the americans close their eyes and doesn’t realize that this movie actually is a very mediocre one?
    You can start with the acting. I don’t remember when i last saw a film that made me cringe the way this made me do. EVERY actor was spitting out their lines as if they were reading them straight out from a teleprompter beside the camera. I think that the fact that a danish director directed Swedish actors contributed to this fact. He just couldn’t make them talk in a way that sounds natural. Even Michael Nyqvist, whom is a very respected actor here in Sweden, delivered such a horrible performance i couldn’t believe what i saw. And then Noomi.. The possibility that Noomi Rapace could nominated for an oscar?? Oh my god. The role of Salander is one of the most sought after roles ever. Why? Beacuse it’s so good and really hard to fail with for a good professional actress. Noomi was okay, nothing more, she is just not that good of an actress… It will be painful when Hollywood realizes this, now that she has already gotten to become such a star. I read that she in an interview with LA times said that, “I can’t go anywhere outside in Stockholm, I have to have car waiting whenever i need to go somewhere” Hahahaha, she’s no Julia Roberts, whatever she may think. Our prime minister, the members of ABBA and even Bruce Springsteen when he’s in town can walk around the streets in Stockholm without anyone really caring. Most people would even recognize her if they meet her on the streets. Illusions of grandeur if there ever was one.

    David Fincher is truly one of the best director of our time. EVERYONE, including Oplev should be grateful that he puts his hand on this wonderful book. Also, take a look at the Swedish version again and watch it with a little more critical eye than last time and you will realize what i’ve been talking about.

    Sorry for my bad english. Johan

  19. did that guy just call us stupid americans?

    • No. But i stand by the belief that if something comes from an “exotic” country, it’s generally considered as being good in America. I think Sweden has produced a lot of great films, especially during the last couple of years, but this clumsy adaptation isn’t one of them. I just don’t get what this movie did so well. Sure, the story is good from scratch, but the script just failed to capture the essence of the themes in the book. The acting is pretty much crap all the way through. The direction isn’t especially thrilling or remarkable in any way. Let’s face it, Oplev and Fincher isn’t exactly playing in the same league.

      • Sorry if you did not get my sarcasm, just having a bit of fun because of my previous comment and people thinking that I was calling Americans stupid in general. I completely get what you are saying. I think viewing the movie in a language that you do not speak makes it hard to be a tough critic when it comes to delivery or acting abilities. I do not know how the language sounds in everyday conversations ya know? I am not speaking for everyone but I saw all three of the movies and I enjoyed them. I can not say that they were the best movies but they worked for me. I believe that Fincher will do an amazing job with this movie and I am hoping that if it does well he will all so be along for the sequels. I did not fall asleep during Oplevs version and the endings wrapped things up nicely. There are so many movies out now and so much stuff to sift through to find things suitable to your likings. I like a good solid story and believe that it is all about the ending. You can have a great movie with a s*** ending and it makes it a s*** movie. These movies had a sharpened indie feel to them. No fancy camera angles or tricks. No special effects. I do not think that the actors did a bad job I just think that the characters really lack depth. They did not have much to work with and I believe it makes it difficult considering the sequels have much to reveal about Lisbeth. What I walked away with from these movies was simply a good story that I enjoyed.

        • Yeah i noticed it after i posted :p I completely understand what your saying. As you say the stories are solid and good from start which, of course, also makes good movies. Although i don’t think the Swedish ones really did it justice, partly because of budget restrictions. I can also understand if you like the indie kind of feel to it, and it’s nice to have seen it, but i can’t wait to see what fincher can do with his hollywood budget. What i don’t think many people, especially in the US, understands is that the movies were made on a VERY tight budget. Sure the first movie were made with a quite a normal budget (by swedish standards). But the sequels were made on a swedish tv budget, which i guess is as much money as avatar spent on toilet paper during their production. Part of me wants fincher to direct the sequels to, but part of me doesn’t want him to get stuck on this for the next 5 years. And, as you say, the fact that you can’t really get the nuances in a language you don’t understand, makes it almost impossible for an foreign actor to be nominated for an oscar. The academy just can’t decide if it’s really good acting or not. Of course many people here in sweden praises her performance as crazies but i think it has a lot to do with the kind of “we’ve got to help our new big star here” attitude.

  20. Aside from my sarcasm and rants the are irrelevant to the topic regarding remakes and reboots. Has anyone really thought about what is going to happen if this movie is a success? Will Fincher make the sequels? I wonder if he is contractually obligated to do so? Has there been any talk of this and I have overlooked it or…….?

  21. If the film is being directed by a pro like David Fincher, we can expect nothing short of a creative, inventive novel to celluloid transformation. And that is guaranteed given Fincher’s unblemished track record of a string of exceptional films (his latest, THE SOCIAL NETWORK goes on to prove the same)

    There’s a very good chance that the American version is going to excel its Swedish counterpart.

  22. It’s not so much that the story is being re-told, its the fact that Rapace owned that role. I just don’t know if I want to give another actor a chance at it.

    Too soon, perhaps. Too soon.

  23. After having seen all three installments of the Millennium Trilogy, I decided the only reason an American remake is in production is because the studios see the project’s cinematic potential (a result of the excellent work on the three Swedish installments) and don’t want to share the benefits (profits and increased audience awareness of foreign film production prowess) with a foreign cast and production crew.

    That cinematic potential, coupled with greed, producing and directing arrogance (“We can do anything better than you”) will probably lead to an overblown, overexploded version for a U.S. audience.

    I am surprised that some bright producer did not just obtain U.S. right to the three Swedish films and create an English dubbed version. Costs less and the cinematic impact of the present version remains intact.

    I, for one, will not bother seeing the American version, having learned the hard way with what was done with the remake of “La Femme Nikita.”


    • I read all three books and loved them. I brought all three movies and I’m very disappointed in how it just pulled out certain points of the books. I can’t wait to see how Hollywood creates this story. I doubt that Hollywood’s verison will be worse. I bet it will be better since he is sticking to the book.

  24. I read all three books and saw all three Swedish films……no contest here…Fincher’s version is superior and so is the cast. Lisbeth was described in the book as looking extremely young, as in 14 years old, and very tiny. Rooney Mara fits the description in the book. She got piercings on her face, dyed her eyebrows and wore the Goth look like a natural. The story and plot were straight from the book. The Swedish fils felt like TV-budget movies. Finches is one of the greatest directors, especially with this story line. It is NOT a remake…it’s the story the Swedish films left out! Go see it and make your own review. I have seen it twice since it came out and plan to see it again…it’s that GOOD!

    • I agree the swedish movies felt like I was watching a weekly TV show ,there was no action , were the american version had it all.

  25. “That cinematic potential, coupled with greed, producing and directing arrogance (“We can do anything better than you”) will probably lead to an overblown, overexploded version for a U.S. audience.”

    Yup…that’s what I thought was going to happen too. I did have to cough “product placement” when they kept throwing the macbook up in everyone’s face in the American version…but they were surprisingly amazingly, similar. Where one departed from the other, well, it just actually made me want to read the book.

    “The Swedish fils felt like TV-budget movies.” Really Becky? Come on, everyone loved it…and quite honestly the American version didn’t do anything all that different, budget wise. It’s not like this movie had any amazing special effects that cost lots of money.

    The American version felt more Americanized, a whole, whole lot more focus on money….so much more emphasis was placed on MONEY who had it, who stole it…it’s a national obsession, and a sick one. What was up with all the damn snow in the American version? I was like really? Oh it’s Sweden so there has to be tons of snow, right? How cliche. Lisbeth was made out to be some sort of lovesick teenager and the old white guy, of course so much more the hero. I much more preferred the Swedish interpretation of the characters. They were far more complex, far less Hollywood formula. In fact, Hollywood made all of the characters far less interesting, as only Hollywood can do. Everybody had to become a cliche, a stereotype…whatever. At the end when Lisbeth is pining over Blomquist, I was like WHATEVER Hollywood, WHATEVER….

    • did you even READ the books? Every comment you made contradicts everything that happens in the books….

  26. Saw all three swedish versions more than once with riveted attention. Just saw the american version and thought it SUCKED!! The changes actually resulted in changing the characters of the players and it did not jive at all. This version was so dark and unattractive that I will not spend a dime on the dvd’s or future part two and three. A total disappointment.

    • I agree with Kim and Amber!!! It’s quite an exaggeration to say that the Swedish version was like a TV budget film. The American version was too flashy. Rooney Mara was amazing, however, I think the writing was less than stellar. I am going to echo some similar sentiments…the pining teenager? This is a brutalized angry woman! Noomi Rapace KILLS this role with the right combination of distance and likability, this was also aided with the way it was shot.

  27. Im watching the Swedish version with subtitles and so far it explains a lot more than the Hollywood version. There are gaping holes in the remake that you wouldn’t understand unless you have read the book. The actors in the Swedish version are great. The original Lisbeth is growing on me. I really like the Lisbeth character in the Hollywood remake. That’s jumbled, but there you go.

  28. The Swedish version was much better especially in terms of how Lisbeth was characterized. The American version of Lisbeth was not as strong, not as edgy, not as dangerous. But then, I saw all three films and this is probably coloring my opinion. I liked certain things about the American version but over all much much preferred the original.

  29. I found Noomi’s portrayal haunting and seductive. Despite the subtitles and language barrier, here sensual and sophisticated character was compelling. I feel the same way about Hollywood doing a cover on a John Wayne movie like True Grit, or doing a cover of a Beatles tune. It’s already a classic, so why stir up the controversy? Find a new story and try for those heights with it. I don’t envy Rooney Mara having to be compared to Noomi.