Could playing the anti-Bond be the best career move Craig's ever made?
The actor has decided to play a mild-mannered leftwing radical journalist in the US version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Genius or madness? Asks the Guardian
It is hard to imagine fictional characters further apart than Mikael Blomkvist, the central protagonist of Stieg Larsson's hugely successful novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and James Bond. And yet Daniel Craig, the current 007, last week reportedly signed on to star in a trilogy based on the Swedish book and its two sequels.
With Bond currently on hiatus due to studio MGM's financial travails, Craig has seized the opportunity to be part of another high-profile series with both muscular fists. And make no bones about it, Larsson's posthumously published stories are serious news, having sold more than 27m copies around the world. The second instalment in the Millennium series, The Girl Who Played With Fire, is the only translated novel to have ever topped the UK hardback chart, so this is no minor indie role which Craig has taken on. And yet despite their similarity in status, Blomkvist remains the anti-Bond.
007 apologists would argue that his creator, Ian Fleming, was writing in a very different era, and recent Bond films have tried their best to introduce stronger female characters. Yet one can't help suspecting that Lisbeth Sander, the "heroine" of Larsson's novels, would find 007 to be a despicable creature. The tattooed, "punk" hacker with the photographic memory maintains a fearsome and lethal hatred of men who exploit women, and even if the Bond girls seduced by James don't seem to particularly mind being exploited, that is exactly what is happening to them. At least one in two usually ends up dead, after all, even in the later films, starring Craig.
There are other differences. Bond is constantly at the centre of his own tales, while it's notable that in the recent Swedish film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth emerged as by far the more fascinating character. Though clearly a damaged individual, it is she who lies at the centre of the story's discoveries. When she and Blomkvist embark on an affair, the man is very much the passive partner â the seduced, rather than the seducer. It's an extremely un-Bond-like dynamic. (It should be mentioned, here, that the film version was criticised for obliterating the book's feminist polemic by showing Lisbeth naked, being raped, but despite this completely misguided decision, I think she still comes across as a strong persona).
While both Bond and Blomkvist are ostensibly middle-aged, Larsson's man has little of 007's macho charisma in Niels Arden Oplev's movie, though one might suggest that his moral fibre is rather more intact. Blomkvist is a leftwing journalist, a radical who has made it his life's work to expose the corruption of corporate Sweden (he also has a nice line in unmasking the festering dregs of the country's aging Nazi element). Bond, on the other hand, is very much for Queen and country, with a background in the armed forces and a healthy (as it turns out) distrust of foreigners. If the two were British newspapers, Blomkvist would be a souped-up Morning Star, while 007 would be the Daily Mail or the Telegraph.
Of course, it may just be that such a role is perfect for Craig at this point. While Bond has a rest, he takes on a series which could not be more different, but is likely to receive almost as much attention. Yet I can't help wondering if audiences prepped for the next Daniel Craig saga won't be a little surprised to find him dialling it down as a mild-mannered journo. Or could it be that director David Fincher will succumb to the temptation to dumb down the original source material to create something more generic in the interest of box office success? I suppose it all depends on whether he's in Zodiac mode â quite happy to let the story tell itself, no matter how unorthodox the narrative arc becomes â or moonlighting in his Curious Case of Benjamin Button guise as a skilled but unadventurous director for hire.
I hope it's the former, for unlike another forthcoming Hollywood adaptation of a Swedish original, Matt Reeves' Let Me In (following Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One in), there is space for a well-filmed US remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The original had a TV movie quality about it that Fincher should be well-placed to improve on. And it could well be the role which in years to come, is remembered as "that other series that starred Daniel Craig". The one in which he was so much better than he was as Bond.
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