'Dragon Tattoo': Swedish director's harsh words for David Fincher remake

Niels-Arden-OplevImage Credit: Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage.comDavid Fincher hasn’t even finished making his adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but he’s already got a critic. Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original Swedish-language adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling book, spoke out against Fincher’s film in an interview with Word and Film conducted by EW alum Christine Spines. Oplev says that Noomi Rapace‘s turn as hacker Lisbeth Salander in his film can never be topped — a preemptive slap in the face to newcomer Rooney Mara, who scored the part in Fincher’s film. “The only thing that’s annoying to me is that the Sony PR machine is trying to make their Lisbeth Salander the lead Lisbeth Salander,” he said. “That’s highly unfair because Noomi has captured this part and it should always be all her.”

Oplev also insisted that real film fans will seek out his movie (and its two sequels, directed by Daniel Alfredson) instead of seeing Fincher’s. “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.”

Fincher and Dragon Tattoo producer Scott Rudin declined to comment about Oplev’s remarks.

What do you think, PopWatchers: Is this just a case of sour grapes, or do you agree with Oplev?

Read more:
The girl cast in ‘Dragon Tattoo': Can Rooney Mara be the punk pierced Vivien Leigh?
‘Dragon Tattoo’ casts its Lisbeth Salander: Have you seen Rooney Mara in previous roles?

Comments (175 total) Add your comment
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  • Steve

    The Swedish films are very good. But foreign language films turn off many Americans who don’t like to read (hah!) and don’t like bad dubbing. I’ve seen the first two and they are great, but opening the eyes of Americans to foreign films is an uphill battle that I don’t think can be won.

    • AT

      This.

      They’ve tried to bring foreign films to the US on several occasions, and it just never works that well. Those who will appreciate the original will seek it out. The lazy people who wouldn’t have seen the original in the first place will likely be happy with the new English version.

      • hc

        Yes, but claiming that your version is the better version while the new one is still being filmed? Ego-maniac.

      • Mike

        Someone else calling David Fincher an ego-maniac? Hahaha. Now THAT’S funny. 1.) It was a foreign film first. As others have pointed out that usually doesn’t transfer well. 2.) Oplev directed a version of this film first so you can understand him being protective. 3.) If anyone ever dared to even suggest making a film based on material Fincher had already used, Fincher would be the first one screaming bloody murder and his harsh words would have made these seem mild. Talk about ironic.

    • Amber

      You’re absolutely right. I have seen the Swedish version and I will see this film. I hate dubbing, not because I’m a snob, but because I can’t tell who is talking, which can seriously derail some plot points.

      • DrChocolate

        Really. The first Swedish movie is superb, but the other two are really lacking. I found the plots disjointed, the pacing lacking, and the characterization weak. Rapace was spectacular though, as was Nyqvist but really 2 and 3 were weak. Here’s hoping Fincher does those more justice.

      • sarah

        I agree with you. I can’t stand a dub. It’s hard to do right, even with animation, let alone something live action in which you can clearly see the words being said don’t match the actors’ mouths. It’s distracting and fake.

        I LOVED the Swedish version, and I think the US will have a very hard time topping it.

      • mike

        Don’t watch the dubbed version, watch it with English subtitles. Granted you have to read the dialogue, but it’s preferable to hearing voices that don’t match the actors mouths and usually don’t have the precise vocal expressions of the actors on screen.

    • Rae

      You forget that there are a great number of film goers that do not read well, not because they are stupid, but due to eye problems, dylexia, etc. I love foreign films and subtitled films, but due to my bad eyesight it does make it difficult (and sometime painful) to watch them. You also neglect to take into account that not everyone is so fortunate to live in larger city where they have access to these films. Most of us have to make-do with online movie services. Let’s try not to cast dispersions based on gross categorizations just because someone may not have seen the same movies you have.

      • sarah

        Excellent points you make, Rae.

      • J

        Great points. Also, when you’re looking at the subtitles, you’re not able to look at the actors’ faces. I like seeing their expressions.

    • Erin

      Exactly AT, they’re catering the ‘lazy’ people. But I wouldn’t put it solely on the language barrier aspect. Hollywood has remade find British, Asian, Australian and European movies and tv shows for a while now, regardless of if it is in English or not. I think it’s moreso wow this is a great and sucessful product, rather than coming up with something fresh and new lets just capitalise on the existing sucess and make it ourselves with bigger budgets and flashier effects, regardless if the orginal was perfect or not. And of course 9 time out of 10 the remake pales significantly against the original. If I was a director of the original I’d be rather miffed too. It takes way from the excellent job he’s already done and makes his masterpiece redundant in a way. There is no need for a remake.

      • Lari

        Odd, isn’t it, that these American companies keep remaking national treasures of other countries. It’s not odd that America’s Hollywood keeps making them, it’s odd that the people in these foreign countries keep selling the rights to them.

        Perhaps some Americans are lazy or uncreative. And perhaps some foreigners are just greedy. It’s easy to take the high road that the foreign original is nearly always better, especially AFTER the Hollywood cheque clears the bank, but it’s much wiser to declare the original better after seeing the remake. At least one looks as bitter and ego-centrical.

    • Tarc

      Some Swedish films are good. Most Swedish film (like most films from any country, are CRAP). I haven’t the the Dragon films for several reasons: 1) I generally find the Swedish approach to be irritating; 2) I’ve only recently heard of the books, let alone the films; and 3) the American approach to this type of material will probably be far superior in making a successful film at the box office.

      • Samantha

        Successful in terms of money maybe. You should watch the Swedish films, I’ve seen the first two and they’re very good. And Noomi Rapace is phenomenal.

      • Lesley

        1) Rather ignorant to assume that the Swedish Dragon films are crap: I’ve seen 2 already and they’re absolutely brilliant, as is Noomi Rapace. 2) Where have you been if you’ve only recently heard of the books???? 3)I have to say that most films from America are CRAP, and remakes are even worse. Haven’t seen an excellent American film for years.

    • Alicia

      Totally agree,the Swedish films were great. And Rapace does an amazing job as Lisbeth, Mara definitely has some shoes to fill.

    • Carrie

      Steve is exactly right- it doesn’t matter how good the non English films are (and I’ve seen them, they are very good and Noomi Rapace is excellent), it’s a losing battle to try and bring a foreign language film to the US. Every great foreign film gets remade in Hollywood, even when the original is readily available and excellent (The Departed is the example that immediately springs to mind).

    • Nebakeroneus

      The director’s anger is specific to the studio; the studio is refusing to support Noomi Rapace’s Oscar campaign because they worry the American remake won’t get any noms next year.

  • Mr. Holloway

    I like that Oplev has Rapace’s back, but this seems a little immature, especially since NO ONE has seen what Fincher has done.

    I actually stopped being outraged by remakes a while ago. The original movie is always there for film fans to check out, and an American remake can often even raise awareness that the original exists (esp. when the original is a foreign flick). It’s not like the newer flick erases the older one. I’m also not sure that Sony is saying their Lisbeth is the official Lisbeth – in fact, plenty of fans seem to be fiercely loyal to Rapace. Then again, this is all moot because Fincher’s movie(s) are American adaptations…not really remakes of Oplev’s movies.

    Also, there’s the fact that, every once in a while, remakes can be pretty good. I know only about 19 other people saw it, but I thought “Let Me In” was excellent.

    • Karate Pants

      Sounds like sour grapes to me.
      It will likely join the ranks of other successful American remakes like The Sound of Music, Reservoir Dogs, Scent of a Woman, and Weekend at Bernie’s.

      • Mr. Holloway

        I feel like the fact that “The Sound of Music” is an American “remake” of a foreign film is something I definitely should’ve known. (Just like the time I was watching “Dancing with the Stars” last night, and didn’t realize Joel Grey was Jennifer Grey’s dad until he stopped by her rehearsal.)

      • leto

        American studios will remake anything. Sometimes they are crap (the new willy wonka) and sometimes they are better (Ocean’s Eleven). But to judge a film before it’s even been shot- that’s an egomaniac if ever I saw one.

    • Joe

      I agree. No point getting upset when the original is still there. In this case I don’t even think he meant to offend anyone – he seemed more annoyed by the Hollywood spin than Fincher or Rooney remaking the film/character

    • Krystal

      Let me in WAS excellent!

  • ellen

    David Fincher is incredible and can remake anything better…duh

    But poor Rooney has it hard. Even if she IS good, it’s going to be trendy to say that Noomi is way better, because Noomi has left her mark on Lisbeth forever.

    • Templar

      Fincher erred badly by casting Daniel Craig as Blomkvist. I won’t bother to see it for that reason.

      • Morgan

        I think Craig will be brilliant as Blomkvist.

      • BP

        Me too. What a snob you are Templar. You have no idea what DC will be like in the movie.

      • BLT

        I like Craig for the role of Blomkvist…he has a determined quality about him that seems to fit. Noomi Rapace embodied Lizbeth, but the actor portraying Mikael (Michael Nyquist?) didn’t do it for me. He wasn’t “manly” enough for the role, IMO. Mikael is a playa, remember. Craig can pull that off, as well as the intellectual side.

      • Templar

        What does my comment have to do with snobbishness? Blomkvist is a soft spoken, tender man. Craig is nothing like Blomkvist.

    • BLT

      Lisbeth….oops.

  • Shannon S

    I actually agree with him…I love Fincher, and I’m sure his movie will be good, I just don’t think it’s necessary. It used to take years before Hollywood would remake a foreign film, but they’re so starved for hits now that it’s happening faster and faster. I’m not saying I won’t see the remake/adaptation…but I totally agree that it wasn’t necessary to make this movie.

  • Ange

    Steve’s right – the whole dubbing thing and foreign language film make the “originals” difficult for an American audience to grasp. YES, they were incredible. I haven’t read the books yet but the films were really good. Fincher wouldn’t even necessarily be my 1st choice but nonetheless, I believe it can still be really good and take on the the actual original (the book). Does seem as though the comments come from more of sour grapes than bonafides.

    • MB

      These films aren’t dubbed.

      • Darrin

        The writer was noting the two ways foreign movies are shown in the US – either with subtitles, or with dubbing, not implying that one movie uses both.

  • indieethos

    He’s right about Point of No Return versus La Femme Nikita, but Fincher is a master filmmaker. I expect some greatness.

  • Via

    I long ago realized that nothing is sacred in Hollywood and anything can and will be remade. I also can imagine how disheartening it must be if you’re work is being remade, especially so soon thereafter. The American remake will open it up to a wider audience who hopefully will seek out the original. I don’t fault Oplev for speaking his mind, I wish more people spoke so openly and honestly.

  • IAA

    Oplev sure has a inflated opinion of a movie that wasn’t that great, especially by Swedish film standards. It was very slick and “Hollywoodized.” Although to be fair, the book wasn’t that great either. People maybe upset with me for saying these things, but I know lots will agree.

    • JOe

      I haven’t seen the movies yet because I read the first book and didn’t like it. No desire to pick up the next two.

  • BlackIrish4094

    I hate Fincher as a director (I just don’t enjoy his films and feel they are way overrated) so this is awesome to me.

    • Henry

      You didn’t enjoy ‘Fight Club’? ‘Se7en’? Two of the biggest defining films of their decade? How about lesser works of his: Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ and ‘Express Yourself’ videos? It’s not Masterpiece Theatre, granted. And thank God.

    • @BlackIrish

      booooooo.

    • Mike

      He is horribly overrated. Zodiac is a perfect example of this. Unwatchably slow and horrible. Then critics, who praised it, got angry when no one saw it. When people got around to actually seeing it, yeah, it turned out it sucked. I agree. It’s hard to be more overrated than Fincher.

    • TJ

      “Zodiac” was also excellent, as is his latest movie “The Social Network”.

      • Lesley

        The Social Network was awful!

  • therealeverton

    He’s missed the point entirely. Foreign language films simply do not tend to do as well as English language ones, it’s that simple. He makes a good point about La Femme Nikita, because The American version was rubbish but did The Luc Beson version make $200m plus? No. Is the magnificent 7 rubbish? 12 Monkeys? Even more humble, fun films like True Lies and The Birdcage; British and North American, and other, audiences simply do not turn out en masse to see foreign language films, it’s a shame but those are the facts. What he will get is more money from those who may seek out his version after seeing the Fincher one.

    He’s also insulting one of the better directors in America these days. Fincher is top class. N

    I don’t know what the Sony PR material he is referring to is like but I agree his film, much better than the 2nd & 3rd films (which were still good), had a real gem with Rapace, she was outstanding. But so was Toshiro Mifune but Clint Eastwood did a pretty good job of making his Man With no Name character iconic in a fistful of Dollars, (A remake, yes they happen in other countries too).

    Finally they aren’t remaking the films, as far as I can see, they’re not taking the script from the Swedish films and translating / adapting it; they’re making a new version of the source books. That isn’t a remake. Robert Zemeckis’ awful Christmas Carol wasn’t a remake of the Muppet Christmas Carol, which wasn’t a remake of Scrooge, which wasn’t a remake of the countless other filmed versions of the Dickens’s Gem; They are all different versions of the source book.

    My wife has read all of the books, I plan to now that I have seen hornet’s nest, but whilst she thought the first film was amazing, she enjoyed the follow ups less, because she felt too much important character and plot development was left out. She still enjoyed them, but less than me, and others who hadn’t read the books. She’d looking forward to Fincher’s versions because they may be closer to the novels, NOT remakes of the films.

  • darthwilson

    I agree! I thought the original was great. One of the best book adaptation I have seen IMO.

  • Mr. Holloway

    It seems that the main problem for American audiences would be the unpronounceable name of the star. Does anyone know how to pronounce “Noomi Rapace”? And do we care? The bottom line: small boobs, no butt, unpronounceable name, and the movie is filmed in the same annoying language that the chef speaks on the Muppets. So yes, we do need a remake.

    • wendy

      hey idiot…yes, i said idiot. the author of the book is swedish, the setting is Sweden, ergo the oh-so-obvious language choice. and how about checking out to see just who the main character is before you start insulting people based on their characterization of such.

      • Lesley

        I agree entirely Wendy. Whta an idiot!

  • babysloth

    Why do the “powers that be” assume that Americans are so bloody stupid that they can’t watch an original movie in a different language other than English? I am still trying to fathom why they would change the title of The Philospher’s Stone to the Sorcerer’s Stone. At least the Philospher’s Stone is spoken of in many different texts. The Sorcerer’s Stone is a made up term only for dumb Americans?? One more example of why Americans are isolated from the rest of the world.

    • jmcg

      Because everyone wants a piece of the American market. Its pure capitalism. When was the last time can you remember a foreign language film that was a blockbuster in America? American films are always making it big overseas; but the reverse isn’t all that common in America. Just because foreign language films don’t appeal to the mass American audience doesn’t mean we Americans are stupid. That being said, I saw the Swedish versions and loved them. I wasn’t too excited about Fincher directing another version or Mara being cast as Salander cuz frankly, Rapace rocked it. But, I will probably see Fincher’s version just so I can make an honest comparison.

    • Jackie

      I actually read an article about why they changed the title from ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ to ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ for American readers. The publisher thought that Americans would have too strong an association with the word ‘philosopher’ meaning actual philosophers (i.e., Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, etc.). The word doesn’t have the same meaning everywhere else, so they used the word ‘sorcerer’ instead, a word Americans would more strongly associate with the world of magic.

      • A-K87

        @Jackie.

        ..In other words dumbing it down for Americans. Even Nanny McPhee and The Big Bang was changed to Nanny McPhee Returns. Let’s face the facts…. Many Americans are disgustingly xenophobic.

      • monkey39

        @A-K87

        No, not dumbing it down, changing it to take into account cultural differences.

      • Mincha

        Here’s another one for you: when the James Bond film Licence to Kill was being made, the original British title was Licence Revoked. There are a few theories about why it was changed, but apparently one was that Americans might not understand what “revoked” meant. Not sure that’s true, but I’ve heard the story from a couple of sources.

      • @Mincha

        So let me see if I’ve got that straight… Americans won’t understand “revoked” but they will “quantum” and “solace”? Is that the theory?

      • Raev

        @A-K87
        There is a movie called Coffee and Cigarettes. If it was made overseas it could potentially be called Coffee and F*gs. The point that words mean different things in different places is valid and no it doesn’t mean that the whole of the population is stupid. It’s simply called good marketing.

    • jane

      you typed “Philospher” instead of “Philosopher,” and given the whole point of your comment, it’s driving me crazy.

      • Tee Hee

        Don’t give the misspelled word all the credit.

  • Sal

    I think it is a case of sour grapes since Fincher’s version is not even complete yet. I agree a lot of people stay away from foreigh films due to the subtitles. If anyone can do justice to a remake I think it is David Fincher. I have seen two of the three movies and look forward to seening the American remake…

  • Fincher’s Friend

    I don’t get why it’s a big deal – remakes happen (of American and Foreign films) all the time. Some surpass the original and some were a grave mistake (Psycho 1998 anyone) but it should be up to the viewer to decide. The fact is that most people hate reading subtitles and prefer to see a film with their own country’s/region’s perspective.

    • Templar

      Agreed. Let’s hope this remake is as successful as The Magnificent Seven a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

      • Lesley

        Seven Samurai was way better that The Magnificent Seven.

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