Rooney Mara shows us her full Lisbeth Salander in “W” magazine

Look, guys, I know what you are going to say: Noomi Rapace IS Lisbeth Salander. You are not wrong to believe this. But I also believe in giving people a chance. So now that the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a full-bore a reality, I am going to give Rooney Mara a chance. And I am going to start by carefully studying the first official image of her in character as Lisbeth on the new W cover shoot.

OK, whoa. A lot is happening there. Like tattoos and piercings and haircuts and blood a lot. Also, boobs – but we’ll get to those later. My chief complaint with Mara as Lisbeth from the start has been that she seems so much slighter and less ferocious than Rapace’s Lisbeth. Sure her willowy frame and thin features look good decked out in black leather and a black eyeliner, but is it tough enough? Also, what’s with that chest tattoo? I hope that’s just for the photoshoot.

 Mohawk Off: Mara v. Rapace

Speaking of the photoshoot, let’s get back to that boobs thing. While many of us found Rapace’s Lisbeth unspeakably sexy, Mara’s version in this W shoot is definitely more mainstream sexy. It’s hard to say whether this is a function of it being a magazine shoot – fashion magazines aren’t exactly know for toning down the conventional sex appeal – or a deliberate change for the new film. We see a lot more skin than we saw in most Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo promos. Also what’s with that male tattoo artist strategically working on Mara’s ass? Yeah, no.

The accompanying W article is more of a profile of the film’s director David Fincher than of the film’s new heroine. Mara when through her Extreme Makeover Salander Edition in one “very intense” day which included having her eyebrows bleached, hair chopped, and lip, brow, nose, and nipple pierced. She also took motorcycle and kickboxing training to get ready for the role as the fiery bisexual computer hacker.

Fincher told W he first imagined Lisbeth as “the goth Pippi (Longstocking),” Yes, really. Wait, was Pippi an albino? I’m not really seeing the connection but the image of a tiny Mara all pale against the snow certainly is arresting. Also that “Salander” tattoo is gone so it looks like it was just for the cover. Whew. The magazine describes Mara’s Lisbeth as “an intriguing mix of menace and vulnerability….a brilliant but childlike avenging angel with an understanding and an appreciation of violence. In essence, she’s a lot like her creator, David Fincher.”

Fans of the books and Swedish films should also take note that this is not a strict adaptation. Academy Award winner Steven Zaillian of Schindler’s List fame departs from the books significantly. The article says:

“Blomkvist [who will be played by Bond himself Daniel Craig] is less promiscuous, Salander is more aggressive, and, most notably, the ending—the resolution of the drama—has been completely changed. This may be sacrilege to some, but Zaillian has improved on Larsson—the script’s ending is more interesting.”

Fincher considered several actresses for the role. Big names like Natalie Portman (too busy), Scarlett Johansson (too sexy) and Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone (too tall) all didn’t fit. He also auditioned South African punk band Die Antwoord frontwoman Yo-Landi Vi$$er, UK newcomer Katie Jarvis from Fish Tank and unknown Aussie Sophie Lowe. But it was Mara, who also starred briefly yet pivotally in Fincher’s The Social Network, who won out.

The photoshoot melds Mara’s feminine side (a tutu, really?) with Lisbeth’s badass side (leather pants forever). Despite Mara’s blue-blood upbringing (she hails from two football dynasties—the Rooneys who own the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Maras who own the New York Giants), Fincher said he saw Lisbeth in her:

 “I wanted her from the beginning. Rooney may be a trust-fund baby from football royalty, but she’s levelheaded and hardworking. It’s so odd how who people are comes out in auditions. We didn’t make it easy for Rooney, and there was no way to dissuade her.”

Fincher, it should be said, is also not exactly from the streets. He was raised in an affluent San Francisco suburb and grew up living two doors down from George Lucas while he was filming American Graffiti. Fincher worked for Industrial Light & Magic on Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom while in high school. Then he cut his teeth directing commercials and music videos, among them Madonna’s “Vogue.” Yes, the man behind Se7en and Fight Club also helped teach the world to vogue. In fact, this picture of Mara looks like it could have come from the “Vogue” shoot – or the very least a motorcycle gang bar fight after the “Vogue” shoot.

So now that we’ve finally seen Mara’s full Lisbeth, what do we think? Are you pleasantly surprised by her Salander? Or are you slamming down the caps lock key for an angry screed. Either way the photos certainly aren’t boring – and that at the very least is a good thing.

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