The late Stieg Larsson‘s ridiculously popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novel received the movie treatment in his native Sweden last year with its American release this past March. The film only further popularized the novel with its excellent performances by Noomi Rapace (as title character Lisbeth Salander) and Michael Nyqvist as investigative reporter Mikael Blomqvist. Having recently finished the book, I finally got out to see the adaptation at the Academy Theater in Portland this past week. While some have critiqued the film for its lengthy duration and graphic depictions of violence, I appreciated the ways in which the film condensed the novel. I also found the depictions of sexual assault appropriately disturbing without being exploitative. It may not be the twenty-first century equivalent to The Silence of the Lambs, but it’s not far off.
I hope and expect that David Fincher (director of Seven, Fightclub, and Zodiac) took copious notes while watching the Swedish version, which rides heavily upon Rapace’s brilliant performance. Currently, well-known names like Natalie Portman, Carey Mulligan, Kristen Stewart, and Ellen Page have been thrown around for the role, along with some more obscure actresses such as Rooney Mara, Emily Browning, and Sarah Snook. Not surprisingly, everyone wants this guaranteed star-making role.
One of the few names mentioned that struck me immediately as a fascinating possibility: Mia Wasikowska. Most filmgoers will immediately associate her with her big-screen role as title character in the Tim Burton directed CGI overdo Alice in Wonderland, but I urge you to please set aside that association and hear me out on this.
Wasikowska has several qualities that make me want to see her in this role. First, she fits the Salander body-type: lithe and petite, she has that boyish quality so essential to the character. What’s more, her smiles seem labored when I see her press-photos–she’s the kind of actress that looks more comfortable wearing a scowl than a grin.
One reason for this impression might be her excellent performance in the first season of HBO’s In Treatment, a series following a psychiatrist (Gabriel Byrne) and four of his patients’ sessions as well as his own experience in therapy. Wasikowska played Sophie (a talented gymnast suspected of suicidal impulse) beautifully, showing her to be highly independent but deeply conflicted. A scene below demonstrates Wasikowska’s nuanced performance:
While this particular scene shows Sophie as vulnerable and expressive, others portray her as cold and reserved. Even in those moments of seeming indifference, Wasikowska hints at a deep reservoir of pain lying beneath her steely surface. These are the moments that suggest Wasikowska has the potential to play a kick ass Lisbeth Salander (I’ve yet to see her in The Kids Are All Right but imagine she brings something extra to her role in that indie comedy).
Wasikowska also filmed Restless with one of my favorite filmmakers, Gus Van Sant, slated for release in early 2011. According to Movie Line, the film depicts the story of a funeral crasher and a terminally ill 16-year old who fall in love–yes, a bit Harold and Maude, but Van Sant’s direction and Wasikowska’s involvement give me hope. Wasikowska cropped her locks for the role, giving us a preview of what her Lisbeth Salandar might look like:
While Wasikowska may prove to be a bit high-profile for Fincher (he’s expressed a desire for an unknown actress), I hope he gives her another look. If Noomi Rapace has taught us nothing else, the role of Salander must be cast with great care to an actress with the skills and the looks to make this incredible role believable.