During the summer of 2008, movie producer Scott Rudin was hanging out at his house in the Hamptons with his partner, who had recently picked up a Swedish crime novel. “I knew nothing about it,” says Rudin, whose long list of credits includes No Country for Old Men and The Hours. “I said, ‘Do you want to get lunch?’ He said, ‘Yes…in a week. Don’t talk to me. Don’t bother me. I’m reading!'”

The book, it turned out, was Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Soon, Rudin himself was hooked on the novel and its two sequels, a condition he shares with millions of obsessed Americans. “I read it, and I read the second and a while later the third,” he says. “I absolutely loved them. They’re just fantastic stories. I spent about a year and a half trying to get the rights.”

Now Rudin and director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) are in preproduction on the first of three major films for Sony Pictures, which means one of the biggest literary phenomenons in recent history is only going to get bigger. Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (collectively known as the Millennium Trilogy), have sold 40 million copies worldwide. More than 7.2 million copies are in print in the U.S. alone, and the books have spent a combined 10 weeks atop New York Times best-seller lists.

While Larsson’s survivors are wrapped up in an estate dispute, his fans are buzzing about a more pressing question: Who should play computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and the crusading investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist in the Fincher movies? “I think it’s hugely important that these parts be immaculately cast,” says Rudin. “Because to me, yeah, the stories are great, the plots are fantastic, the twists and turns are completely delicious, but the relationship of the two characters is it. That’s what it’s about.”

There’s already tremendous speculation. Brad Pitt and Daniel Craig have been mentioned as candidates for Blomkvist, and actresses as diverse as Kristen Stewart, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Carey Mulligan are being talked about for Lisbeth. Rudin says casting should wrap in a month or two, but nothing has been decided yet. “I’m happy that people are speculating, but it’s all fantasy,” he insists. “I would be careful about believing what you’re reading. Let me remind you that Katharine Hepburn was at one point announced to be Scarlett O’Hara. [Laughs] That’s not to say that it won’t end up being one of them, but you can certainly say it isn’t any of them yet.”

For more about The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo films and a possible fourth book, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands 6/18.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Book)
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