There’s been intense interest in Sony Pictures’ The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise, or lack thereof. One of the reasons the studio was able to woo David Fincher to direct the bestseller adaptation was because it was sold as a big-budget franchise made exclusively for adults—a $100+ million budget for a hard R-rated film tackling adult subject matter. But while the film was gorgeously crafting and quite compelling, it failed to catch on with audiences at large, grossing $232.6 million worldwide. Now that’s not a bad figure for a $50 million-$60 million adult drama, but for a film intended to kick off a big-budget franchise, that number made the prospect of a sequel rather murky. Add in the fact that Fincher and Sony butted heads strongly during the film’s production, marketing, and post-production period, and movement on The Girl Who Played with Fire—the next book in Steig Larsson’s series—has been slow-going.
All hope for a Dragon Tattoo sequel pretty much fell away after years of nothing happening beyond Steven Zaillian penning a draft of a script, but last year Sony started exploring the possibility of moving forward with the franchise in a curious manner. The studio opted to develop The Girl in the Spider’s Web as a new Dragon Tattoo film, which was interesting given that Spider’s Web is the fourth book in the series and would not pick up directly after the events of Dragon Tattoo. Moreover, rumors swirled that this was being crafted as something of a reboot, with Rooney Mara potentially being replaced in the title role.
Collider’s own Christina Radish recently spoke with screenwriter Steven Knight in anticipation of the upcoming World War II thriller Allied, and Knight talked briefly about his involvement in scripting The Girl in the Spider’s Web. First and foremost, Knight explained that he was commissioned to pen the script, meaning it’s been a bit of a collaboration with the studio:
“A commission and an original are two different things, and both have their virtues and vices. A commission is a bit more collaborative, in that you outline the story that you think should be told, and then you write it. And then, there are notes and you change it, in the conventional studio system. But, it was great fun to do because of the central character. With The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the girl is really the central character. She’s the whole thing. It’s not really Blomkvist.”
Indeed, Spider’s Web the book was penned by David Lagercrantz following Larsson’s death, and very much feels like a bit of a standalone story with Lisbeth Salander attempting to track down someone from her past, which leads to the discovery of the Spider Society. Given that Spider’s Web doesn’t much involve the events of Dragon Tattoo, Knight was asked if the film is more of a reboot or a sequel. He explained that while this film is certainly different, it’s definitely being conceived as a sequel:
“It can’t be anything other than a sequel, but a couple of books have been skipped, so it is different, in that sense. It’s really taking a very strong central character and thinking, how do you execute this? It’s quite different.”
Knight declined to discuss the prospect of casting, but if this is a sequel, it wouldn’t make much sense to recast Mara’s role. And while the project doesn’t yet have a greenlight, Sony is reportedly eyeing Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead filmmaker Fede Alvarez to direct, so it’s possible this is being reconceived as a mid-budget adult thriller. If that’s the case, this is likely a very different film scope-wise than Dragon Tattoo and Fincher’s original idea of crafting an “event movie” for adults.
Look for more from Christina’s interview with Knight closer to the release of Allied.
[Note: An earlier version of this article misquoted Knight as saying the film can’t be a sequel. The post has since been corrected and updated throughout.]