Behind the Design – A Closer Look at the New “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Movie Poster

A lot has been made about the design of the new movie poster for David Fincher’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. The web is abuzz with discussion and blog posts about the movie poster. They range from how cool it is to how could they do this? How could they portray Rooney Mara (Salander) as a “sex object”? Especially given the books clearly expound a completely contrary message. Whatever your point of view, one need look no further than David Fincher himself for initiating all the controversy. We say, “Good for him!”

Fincher is considered by many as anti-authoritarian and a rebel when viewed through the lens of the conventional, sometimes conservative business that Hollywood has become. His body of work speaks for itself. He is a take charge guy, infamous for his attention to the details of all aspects of the project he is immersed in. This includes the details of his new movie, “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.

To gauge how involved he is, we step back to a feature article that was written about Fincher by Stephen Galloway, in the “Hollywood Reporter” on February 2nd. In that article, Galloway reports what he saw on Fincher’s iPad.

Warming up — as much as he ever allows himself — he takes out an iPad and clicks on a photo he’s planning to use for the Dragon poster. It shows actor Daniel Craig half-hidden behind co-star Rooney Mara, who’s looking directly into the camera. Her hair is spiky, her face pierced with rings, her body covered in tattoos. It’s black and white and beautiful, but there’s no way in hell any studio will ever let Fincher use it, as he knows. Because, Mara is naked from the waist up.”

So…the first design had Rooney Mara naked from the waist up. What is different from the design described here to what ended up being released?

1.) Rooney Mara is naked but Daniel Craig’s arm is positioned over her breasts. At least over the parts that would raise the blood pressure of the MPAA execs. If you look closely you can see the nipple on her right breast is pierced by what looks like a safety pin.

2.) Rooney Mara’s hair is described as “spiky”. Certainly, that would not be how one would describe her hair in this image.

3.) “Her body is covered in tattoos”. Clearly that is not the case in this image.

4.) There is no mention of any graphics or text on the image.

So we know what the first design looked like in February. What happened from there was probably left up to designer, Neil Kellerhouse. Kellerhouse has collaborated with Fincher in the past. It was Kellerhouse’s firm that designed the one sheet movie poster for “The Social Network”.

In the Hollywood Reporter article, Fincher further reveals a bit of his anarchic side when he comments on how the one sheet he wanted to see for “The Social Network “did not happen.

The studio’s marketing executives were more resistant. “We had the one-sheet and we had to get that through,” Fincher notes. “[Key art designer] Neil Kellerhouse came to us with one that had the tagline, ‘Punk prophet genius billionaire thief.’ It was fantastic, but for about four months it was, ‘You can’t do that! We’re not going to get involved in a lawsuit!‘ “

Fincher smiles. “I wanted ‘Punk, Prophet, Genius, Billionaire, Judas.’

Insert Neil Kellerhouse and the latest one sheet has the following;

1.) No tattoos. The article mentioned “her body was covered in tattoos”. We believe Daniel Craig’s arm is not only hiding parts of Rooney Mara’s breasts, but, is hiding the tattoo on her chest which was shown in the cover shot for “W Magazine” a few months back. That tattoo spelled out “Salander” in an arching, gothic styled font. Craig’s arm is positioned perfectly to hide that tattoo. Where are the other tattoos?

2.) Kellerhouse incorporated the release date 12-21-11 as a means to hide some more of Rooney Mara’s chest. This choice undoubtedly was made deliberately; as a result the title of the movie didn’t make it on this design.

3.) The expression or tagline, “Evil Shall with Evil Be Expelled” with some funky looking fonts. This is a cool yet surprising addition. Why confuse your audience with two taglines? Especially, given there is no argument the tagline on the trailer, “The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas” has to be the best tagline in years. It is almost as if they had two great taglines and couldn’t decide which one they liked best so they released them both.

Well, the plot thickens. One cannot help but root for Fincher and the folks working with him as they push the envelope with “bleeding edge” marketing materials and tactics. There is hope for Hollywood yet when it allows for the inclusion of new creative and exciting ways for getting the message across.

Time will tell how much the establishment will tolerate in the months ahead. For now, Fincher and his team appear to be hitting on all eight cylinders. For that, those of us true Lisbeth Salander and movie fans will be eternally grateful.