With "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" a colossal bomb last month, it’s an instructive lesson to Hollywood that what may have captured the zeitgeist years ago, may not resonate later. David Fincher‘s "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," based on the bestselling book that everyone read, came on the heels of the Swedish language trilogy that brought Noomi Rapace to the attention of Hollywood. And those are just a couple of the reasons the very expensive, R-rated, adult thriller—released at Christmas—only earned just over $230 million worldwide. That might seem like a lot, but when you factor in the budget and release date, clearly the studio expected a better result.
Still, they have a franchise on their hands, but one that has been moving along very, very slowly. Back in 2013, "Se7en" screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker was hired to rewrite the script for "The Girl Who Played With Fire," but not much happened after that. And for a moment, Fincher pivoted to Disney‘s "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea," which also seems to be on a slow boil. Fincher evidently holds out some hope ‘Fire’ will get made, if only because Sony has already invested in it according to a Google translation of a recent interview (tread carefully).
"I think because [Sony] already has spent millions of dollars on the rights and the script so it will result in something," he told Swedish site Afton Bladet (via Film Divider who provided the translation). "The script that we now have a huge potential, I can reveal as much as it is extremely different from the book."
So, keep hope alive? We’ll believe it when we see it. Even though Hollywood always throws good money after bad, Sony has little reason to rush on ‘Fire,’ especially if they’ve already waited this long. And right now, with their ‘Spidey‘-verse languishing, ‘Fire’ could seem like even more of a risk to spend big money and lose out; they don’t want to end up with another ‘Dame To Kill For’ on their hands, which delivers more of the same to an indifferent public.
Moreover, if Fincher is going to be involved, he’s busy as hell with TV projects, including two shows for HBO, "Utopia" and the recently revealed 1950s noir he’s working on with James Ellroy.
There’s also a lot of studio politics involved, and the production problems (Fincher battled with the higher ups) and modest reception of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ created a lot of hurt and agitated feelings on all sides. Why do you think Fincher wanted $10 million up front when Sony and ‘Dragon Tattoo’ producer Scott Rudin asked him if he was interested in directing a Steve Jobs biopic? The media, of course, tried to paint him as greedy, but ‘Dragon Tattoo’ was an arduous experience for the filmmaker and the fee was essentially way to say, "Sure, I’ll work with these guys again, but at a cost."
Hollywood figures have an uncanny ability to get over past bitterness—see Bryan Singer and the ‘X-Men‘ franchise or Peter Jackson and New Line—but still, we’ll believe it when we see it.