She’s pierced, tattooed, socially awkward, and seethingly angry — and yet somehow we can’t seem to get her out of our minds.

In this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, writer Mark Harris explores what makes the character of Lisbeth Salander one of the most interesting of our time. Of course, the edgy heroine from Stieg Larsson’s novels is already known around the world — tens of millions have read the Millenium Trilogy, and Noomi Rapace depicted the dark female in the Swedish film adaptations — but with the release of David Fincher’s new The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adaptation last week, American audiences are meeting the strange, vengeful hacker once again — and in a very new way, thanks to 26-year-old actress Rooney Mara.

Casting Mara, says Fincher, “wasn’t about finding someone who would comply. What I was smitten with, from about the third screen test of the five or six we did, was that this was a person I could turn this over to. I could say to her, ‘Here are the most annoying marbles that you need to keep rattling around in your skull. Now go—make it hurt, make it unfathomable, don’t articulate it, don’t use any of an actor’s greatest tricks or natural tools to build a bridge to the audience. Not even eye contact.’ And she’d do it.” Mara, for her part, understood Salander’s contradictions. “She has this ability to be ­incredibly violent, and she has a lot of anger and rage, but it’s something she works incredibly hard to keep at bay,” says the actress.

Then there was that Salander look, which she and Fincher worked hard to perfect. “Rooney’s a beautiful girl,” says Fincher. “She can look like Audrey Hepburn—but she can also look like a boy. So we’d decide where we wanted to put the stud through her eyebrow by asking, ‘Where is it going to be most in the way? Where is the most distracting place?’ ” Also, he adds, “We had to be really sure that the nipple piercing was in the place where it was going to catch the light.”

For more on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – plus an in-depth Q&A with Rooney Mara and answers to your burning questions about the film—pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Dec. 30.

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