'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' star Rooney Mara talks about the rape scene, the NSFW poster, and more


Image Credit: Baldur Bragason

In this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly we preview 98 of fall’s most anticipated movies, including, of course, David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (out Dec. 21). Rooney Mara, who scored the coveted role of Lisbeth Salander after an epic and closely watched audition process, filled us in on her experience working on the film. Here are a few highlights from our story.

On her last meeting with Fincher after two-plus months of auditioning: “At that point I was just super frustrated. I was like, ‘You have to decide. Either you think I’m the girl or you don’t. There’s not much more I can do to prove it to you.’ I went in there sort of ready to fight. I was pissed. But David sat me down and gave me this long speech about the part. Then he handed me his iPad, and it had the press release on it. He said, ‘I’m prepared to send this out. You have half an hour to let me know if you want the part.’”

On the controversial poster, which features Mara topless: “I was supportive of it. I understand why there was a lot of controversy. People have a hard time with strong females and with nudity. But I think had I been doing something incredibly violent on the poster, people wouldn’t have had a problem with it. That sort of says a lot about the world that we live in. It’s just a teaser poster. I think it did just that. It teased people.”

On filming the book’s notoriously harrowing rape scene: “It was incredibly intense. We did it all in a week — the week of Valentine’s Day, oddly enough. We were working 16 hours a day, and it was really, really challenging, not just emotionally but physically. But it’s such an important scene. We wanted to do everything we could to get that right.”

For more on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and all of fall’s biggest films, pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands now.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobBrunnerEW

Comments (108 total) Add your comment
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  • Hugo Grant

    It would be good if they cast Hollywood’s most famous Swedish stars in the sequels such as Malin Åkerman, Dolph Lundgren, Lena Olin and Max von Sydow.

    • Karen B

      There are a couple – Stellan Skarsgard and Inga Landgré. But you’re right that could have more. But I have a hard time seeing Malin Ackerman in the film. Max could definitely be in it. But Dolph – he’s not exactly acting gold.

      • Tom

        The hot sexy chemotherapy patient look is making a comeback it seems.

      • KatherineM

        And Joel Kinnaman

      • KatherineM

        And Joel Kinnaman is to be in all three films. His character is just introduced in this film, however.

    • cybertique

      Noomi Rapace was in the original Swedish version and speaks English. Did they offer the part to her? She was Oscar material. She did an interesting interview with Charlie Rose about staring in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

      • siglow3

        They did offer her the part but she turned it down because she didn’t want to play the same part twice.

      • Ken

        Noomi is a tremendous actress and did a great job in the Swedish versions of the ‘Girl with the Dragon Tatoo’. The problem is that physically she’s nothing like Salander, which is one of the KEY aspects to the character herself. She’s such a badass in a tiny vessel. The tiny vessel is a requirement.

    • KL

      Dolph Lundgren? He’s the worst actor. The other actors of Swedish descent you mentioned are good actors, but I can’t really see Malin Ackerman as LS.

  • whatevs

    What did that poster have anything to do with strong females?

    • PennyBeGood

      I agree. Nudity doesn’t always translate into “strong.” Sometimes it just means naked.

      • Captain

        I’m pretty sure she was saying people have a problem with nudity AND strong females, not that being naked means she’s a strong female.

      • sean

        yes that is what she was saying. i guess when people read faster than their brains can interpret, things just get jumbled. it’s ok, whatevs. it’s ok, pennybegood. we understand.

      • whatevs

        sean, she was answering a question that referenced the poster she was in. That would imply that the poster somehow portrays a strong female, regardless of what she said about nudity.

        How embarrassing for you when you try to be condescending, but I’m sure you’re used to the feeling.

    • Brad H

      You missed the word “AND”. Kind of a big one in that sentence.

      • jp

        I don’t have a problem with nudity. But I do have a problem with GRATUITOUS nudity, just I have a problem with gratuitous violence. Lisbeth Salander is fighting back from being a victim. To have her posed in such a vulnerable state (and yes, when you’re nude, you’re vulnerable, whether you’re “strong” or not) really negates the power that the Lisbeth character has earned. She is supposed to be the protector, not Blomquist. I doubt that Stieg Larsson would have approved this campaign.

      • Jason C.

        Nudity doesn’t always have to mean vulnerable, it can also mean open. Take another look at the poster, there’s a certain defiance in Rooney Mara’s face as Lisbeth. She’s not vulnerable, she’s strong and defiant. .

      • Classy!

        @ JP. I totally agree with everyrthing you said.

        @Jason C. She looked totally vulnerable in that pic, facial expression notwithstanding. Plus, his arm was around her and it looks like HE was protecting HER, when we know it’s supposed to be the other way around. She kicked major ass to save HIM. They both helped each other a lot throught the series of course, but anyone who knows the story know Lisbeth isn’t some naked little baby that needs to be shielded.

      • BLT

        @ JC & Classy…i kinda thought he was seeking refuge behind her, b/c she is the kick a$$ one who totally saves him. But, she also showed rare vulnerability too Blomquist in the book, so the nudity didn’t seem off kilter to me. I guess it goes to show we all see things differently.

      • Classy!

        @BLT Maybe if he was the one naked and she was fully clothed in her leathers I’d be able to see it your way. But a clothed man seeking refuge behind a nude woman? Nah.

      • BLT

        She kicks A$$, with or without her clothes. But, I totally see where you are coming from….

      • soz

        You could always read it as her taking ownership of her own body, her own sexuality.

  • Lord Hoffmann

    Rooney Mara looks so ugly and hideous in this. There is absolutely nothing sexy about her in this film.

    • Robert

      I disagree. She looks so damn sexy in every image I’ve seen.

    • Emily

      Everything about this comment screams “I know nothing about this franchise!”

      • Jose

        Couldn’t agree with you more Emily. The people complaining most about the remake have never touched the novels.

      • Tom

        It’s stupid looking and the story sounds terrible. Maybe that’s why?

    • Kevin

      Sorry dude, she’s smokin’ hot. Get your eyes fixed.

      • Lil Jo

        Yes dude Rooney is smoking hot, just NOT in this film!

    • jared

      I agree with Lord Hoffman… but then again she’s not supposed to be sexy. That’s not who Lisbeth is!

    • noh

      I agree that she doesn’t look sexy at all. THANKS GOD! Lisbeth wasn’t supposed to look sexy. The millenium trilogy and The hunger games are very dear books to me and I’m so happy that Rooney Mara did a great job transforming herself in the character. I wish I could say the same about Jennifer Lawrence who looked too curvy and too old for an underfed, young looking role 5 months ago and looks still the same now. I feel happy that Rooney didn’t refuse to do what was required to play this role.

  • Chief Wannadoobie

    The Chief says even after smoking my best, this broad is dead ugly.

  • mm

    cannot wait!! hope it’s better than the Swedish adaptation

    • Lily

      I loved all three Swedish films, the first one especially. Noomi Rapace *is* Lisbeth Salander for me. It’s as if she sprang right out of the pages of Stieg Larsson’s books. And I loved Michale Nyqvist also. Actually, I loved everyone in the Swedish films and everything about the Swedish films, but especially the gorgeous and fierce Noomi Rapace. I’ll be skipping this American version.

      • Z

        Then go ahead and skip it. No one gives a f***. The Swedish films weren’t that good. David Fincher can direct a better film in his sleep.

      • Sue Sullivan

        I totally agree with you. The Swedish version was great, and very parallel to the book. I don’t have any need to watch the American version at alll!!

  • LM

    “People have a hard time with strong females and with nudity.”
    No, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the teaser poster portrays Lisbeth as some lost little sex kitten being protected by Blomkvist, which is not true to the story at all – especially since she’s the one who is always saving HIM. And considering the books’ scathing depiction of the sexual exploitation and objectification of women in Sweden, that poster was just… in really poor taste.

    • Craig


    • Adam

      LM is absolutely right.

    • jp


    • StewyFan


    • Jason C.

      I didn’t get lost little sex kitten at all. The look on her face isn’t a sexy pout. Take a look again, her look says, “I don’t give a f**k,” that’s not the look of a sex kitten.

      • Brian Rose

        Another poster elsewhere said it best when he/she commented that Lisbeth would never pose topless, and if a photographer asked her to, she’d kick him in the balls and tell him where to stick it. And there is nothing strong about having the man standing behind and looming over her, with his arm wrapped around her. It’s possessive. I appreciate Mara’s defense, and I imagine the film will be far more true to the book, and this poster is just a marketing thing, but still she fundamentally misunderstands the controversy.

      • Jason C.

        You mean the man hiding behind her, because he looks like he was cowering almost. And she wouldn’t pose nude if a photographer asked her to, but she would if she wanted to. That’s the thing about Lisbeth, she’s unpredictable.

    • Classy!

      Right freakin on LM!!

    • lalee

      I feel like this poster controversy is so weird because it’s completely a matter of perspective. I didn’t think it made the character of Lisbeth look weak at all (although I do think it was gratuitous) but obviously others saw it differently. I don’t think the two ends of the spectrum of opinion will ever meet.

      • marguerite


    • teng029

      get over yourself. it’s just a poster.

    • Z

      Number one: it’s just a poster. Get over it.
      Number two: in now way does she look like a sex kitten.

    • noh

      You read too much in that poster. I thought it was a weird poster but I don’t think Lisbeth looks like a sex kitten or weak. Actually she looks fierce, in spite of the weirdness of the pic she looks more powerful than Craig. I still don’t understand what was the point in such a weird poster other than stir controversy.

  • adam

    the character she plays isn’t supposed to be sexy. I don’t understand the poster in relation to the book.

  • angeljake

    Will be hard to top Noomi…

    • John

      Assuming people have seen the Swedish adaptations, and I’m going to bet a lot haven’t.

    • Terry

      Agreed! I don’t see any way Mara will come close to Noomi Rapace’s embodiment of Lisbeth.

      And Rooney Mara has the most annoying speech impediment. It’s not quite a lisp, but it is like fingernails on a chalkboard to my ears when she speaks.

  • Cameron J

    Okay, I’ve read the book. I loved the book. I wanna see the movie… but I completely repress- forgot about the rape scene… I don’t know how I’m gonna see the movie now. o.o

  • Les

    I still don’t comprehend why people would WANT to go see a movie with a rape scene. Yeah, you are supposed to be upset watching it, but why do we want to watch a scene that’s going to be upsetting to watch when movies are supposed to be entertainment? It’s ‘such an important scene’? So they worked to get it right on Valentine’s Day. How convenient to generate shock value then to mention filming it that week. This whole thing just really disturbs me. It’s too bad because I hear it’s a really good book. I mean it has the theme of all the violence inflicted towards women by men, but, does the story still have resonance as anything OTHER than that? What makes the story so popular? I don’t believe it’s because of that theme so I don’t know why it has to be so important. I know it effects her character throughout the novels, but still, why can’t it all just be implied? It’s disturbing enough without seeing it, isn’t it? But yes I am “aware of the darkness of the world” I just don’t agree with showing rape scenes to get a rise out of people.

    • jp

      Les, sadly it is important to the story, because it drives home the rage that Lisbeth has; her revenge against the rapist is crucial to the plot. Also, the brutality of the rape is an important detail to the story: it ultimately shows how incredibly strong Lisbeth is.

      As for the rest of the book, yes, there is more to it than the violence. Not going to spoil, though. You should read it and judge for yourself. :)

      • Samar

        Pentru cei ce nu stiu, acest film este suedez si sunt 3 parti.Barbati care urasc femliee. 1Fata care s-a jucat cu focul. 2Castelul din nori s-a sfaramat. 3De Stieg Larsson. De asemenea sunt si 3 carti. Eu am vazut si filmele si am citit si cartile. Fantastice! Nota 10!

    • marc

      Les I dont feel like taking the time to tell you why you are so wrong about this. Just know, you are so wrong about this ( i have never seen previous movies or read books) Movies are art of course there is a huge component of entertainment, being able to appeal to your emotions is a big part of what makes movies work or not. Its like saying you wish they just implied that old yeller tied or Tom Hanks in saving private ryan.. bad things happen in life .. movies are portrayals of life and human emotion.. look at that i did feel like explaining.. You are dumb.

    • Jason C.

      Les, you shouldn’t really speak about this since you know nothing of the book. Maybe if you read the book you’d understand a little better.

    • Kevin

      Go watch The Help, Les. Sounds more your speed.

      • Classy!


    • PrincessBride

      The story has a lot going for it other than violence. It has a mystery, it has strong, compelling characters, it has a plot that draws you in and hooks you right away. I might NOT see the movie just because I don’t want to see the rape scene – but I highly recommend the books. The treatment of Lizbeth, including at the hands of her supposed guardian, is critical to her character.

    • Classy!

      I don’t think most people WANT to see the rape scene, but it’s a necessary element. If it makes you feel disgusted and violated and embarassed just watching it, you’re supposed to imagine how those negative emotions would be amplified by a million times if you were actually the one being raped. Seeing the rape makes you feel more for the protagonist. You witness her agony up close and it helps you understand the decisions she makes later and it inspires you to cheer on her vigilantism.

      • obviously an idiot

        yeah! this person knows what they’re talkin about. no professional shoots a whole movie for the sake of a rape scene and no one watches a whole movie for the that scene. haha they’re are perverted exceptions but this person has got it down: it’s there to make us uncomfortable, uneasy and embarrassed. it’s a rape scene, it’s obviously gonna make u feel violated, something the character feels so in the end: ur on their side. (not the rapist but the rapee haha)

    • BlackBirdSinging

      Hi! I’m Les! I have completely judged a movie based on one review and my perception of the subject matter! Context isn’t important! Rape is just an inconvenient side effect of life! We should deny reality! I saw the words ‘Valentine’s Day’ and that kind of made me sick! Violence towards women is a LITTLE important, but can’t we throw in some sexist stuff too? Hi! I’m Les!

    • Val

      Rape should never be considered fodder for entertainment. Decent people don’t want to see it, victims of rape relive THEIR experience and the monsters that rape get their sick minds FED. It’s like graphic nudity and violence, totally unnecessary. Movie producers insult the intelligence of the movie goer when they feel the need to SHOW ALL instead of imply what is happening. IT’S ACTING for crying out loud, we don’t need to feel as though we are witnessing an actual rape to get the picture!!!!!!!!

  • StewyFan

    How does strong female get translated into Lisbeth standing half nude with Blomkvist’s arms around her as if protecting her, making her look like a meek little child in desperate need of saving? I certainly do not mind Lisbeth being represented as sexual and a strong female character, but that was NOT portrayed in the teaser.

    • Jason C.

      His arm isn’t around her protecting her, what I got from the teaser poster is a sense of partnership. Her face represents her attitude, her strength, and her defiance. If anything this poster goes against our general perceptions of this stance.


    Forget about all the try-hard controversy David(because i directed seven,everybody thinks im edgy)fincher is conjuring up.The real controversy should be the fact that Mara in the pic above looks like she could be Daniel craig’s daughter.same zoolander pout,cold eyes and all.Gross.

  • dabDC

    I can’t believe Hollywood is wasting millions of dollars remaking a movie that a) isn’t that old itself and b) is sooo incredibly good! Why bother?? I don’t care what big names are in it, if they’re attractive or not, or even if they’re right for the part. The Swedish adaptation of the book is beyond fabulous. I have no intention of seeing this movie, and suggest you save your money and rent the Swedish version instead. Then, should you decide to, you can fast forward through the rape scene (though I agree with those who have said it is an important part of the movie, I will admit I didn’t watch the whole thing).

    • lalee

      I’d have to disagree somewhat. I liked the Swedish versions but they were far from perfect and a slightly disappointing adaptation after reading the books (particularly the second and third movies). I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with this story. It probably is too soon to make a remake but look at the pretty decent remake of Let the Right One In.

    • Jason C.

      They’re not relying on the Swedish movie to show them their cues. It’s being based on the books. it’s not a remake, it’s an adaptation of a book. People need to learn something.

    • SC

      Hardly anyone in North America has seen the Swedish films. There’s gold to be made in them thar hills.

    • Nicole

      I can believe it. Hollywood doesn’t have one shred of originally left to muster up a good film.

    • Z

      The Swedish films were not “beyond fabulous.” Far from it, in fact.

    • KatherineM

      I thought the Swedish films were good, but far from being irreplaceable classics. I enjoyed them. But they left out lots, not all the actors impressed me, and the overall look was like they were on a made-for-TV budget. Read the books, saw the Swedish versions, and am liking the look of the American version.

  • Soup

    It is all in how you look at it… Maybe she was standing in front of him to protect him.

    I don’t know what the intention is, but it is just a picture. Lisbeth was a person that didn’t give a darn about what anybody thought of her and if she were real (which she isn’t people) I think that she would do something like this just to prove she didn’t give a darn. Yes I have read the books and I am a female, and all I see is a movie that will kick @ss and an ad campaign that has people talking.

    • Classy!

      an ad campaign that has people confused and slightly disappointed-as far as that poster is concerned.

      • Courtney

        I wasn’t confused and disappointed. To be fair, I didn’t dwell on it as apparently so many of you have – but please do not pass your opinion off as if everyone shares it. The people who post on these things are usually a small majority of the people who have opinions.

  • ferrari33

    This is going to be a great movie..

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