Scarlett Johansson Was Almost 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'

Director David Fincher says he went with Rooney Mara instead because "the thing with Scarlett is, you can't wait for her to take her clothes off"

As actresses go, Scarlett Johansson has a lot more box-office clout than Rooney Mara. So why did director David Fincher choose the mostly-unknown Mara for his film adaptation of bestselling crime thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Easy -- Johansson was too sexy! In a Vogue profile of Mara, best known for playing Jesse Eisenberg's ex-girlfriend in The Social Network, Fincher describes why the 26-year-old actress makes the perfect Lisbeth Salander.

"Look, we saw some amazing people," says the director. "Scarlett Johansson was great. It was a great audition, I'm telling you. But the thing with Scarlett is, you can't wait for her to take her clothes off."

And why is that a problem, exactly? Fincher attempts to explain.

"Salander should be like E.T.," he says. "If you put E.T. dolls out before anyone had seen the movie, they would say, 'What is this little squishy thing?' Well, you know what? When he hides under the table and he grabs the Reese's Pieces, you love him! It has to be like that."

Translating that into non-E.T. terms: Fincher wanted Salander's sexiness and vulnerability to be surprising, rather than laid out on the table. It makes sense; in the Swedish novels, computer genius Salander is repeatedly described as boyish and anorexically skinny. She dresses oddly and rarely smiles. Without these quirks, Salander wouldn't be the character the world has already fallen in love with. In Fincher's words, "There were all these different versions of Salander, but the one that had the most layers was Rooney's."

Even so, Mara had to undergo a complete physical transformation in order to play Lisbeth. In addition to losing weight, Rooney had her hair shaved on the sides, her eyebrows bleached, and her nipple, nose, eyebrow and lip pierced -- all in one day.

"I went in looking like (The Social Network character) Erica Albright and I came out like this," says Mara. "The eyebrows were the biggest shock because that really changed my face, and I didn't recognize myself. But I was fine because I knew it was going to be really helpful for getting into character."

Mara knows that this role is one that could make or break her career. She's prepared to go with it, even if it means spending the next few years being Lisbeth as they film the book's two sequels. Four years with a half-shaved head? Maybe ScarJo dodged a bullet!

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