The piercings (including multiple ear, eyebrow, and nipple piercings) that Rooney Mara sports as Lisbeth Salander are real, not cosmetic simulations. Mara got the piercings in a series of sessions in Brooklyn and Sweden. The ear, nose, eyebrow and lip piercings were removed after shooting completed, but she kept the right nipple piercing for possible sequels. "It's not something I want to ever get repierced," she said. "So I'm going to keep it in."
While filming a scene in a diner, the cast and crew were surprised to find out that Ellen Nyqvist, daughter of Michael Nyqvist, the first actor to play Mikael Blomkvist, was working there as a waitress while attending school. Upon finding out, they wrote in a few extra lines for her, allowing her to interact with her father's successor, Daniel Craig.
Many Swedish critics questioned the choice to have many of the characters talk in "Swedish-accent". Most criticism was pointed to Rooney Mara's accent that many critics heard as Russian or Dutch and not Swedish at all. Daniel Craig admitted in an interview that he thought this was stupid and therefore used his real voice.
Two of the movie's taglines: "Evil shall with evil be expelled" and "What is hidden in snow, comes forth in the thaw" are Swedish proverbs. Stellan Skarsgård, himself a Swede, told them to David Fincher during filming. Fincher liked them and thought they fit the story and setting well, so he made them taglines for the movie.
Noomi Rapace's performance as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) was so well received, a campaign to have her reprise the role in the English language version gained wide attention in the media, championed by film critic Roger Ebert, among others. Ultimately Rapace declined to reprise the role, saying that after playing the character for three years (during the filming of the original trilogy), she couldn't play the role again in the same stories.
Daniel Craig originally turned down the role of Mikael Blomkvist due to possible conflicts with the next James Bond film Skyfall (2012). After production of the film was suspended Craig's schedule freed up and he retook the role.
After discussions about how to best devise an original score for the movie, David Fincher consulted composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, ultimately deciding that dissonance and tinkling bells (no orchestra) should provide the motif/ambiance for the stark coldness of the Swedish landscape.
When Lisbeth first visits Plague, Plague is wearing a black shirt with a white logo on it; the logo represents the band Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor is the founder of Nine Inch Nails and wrote the score for this film with Atticus Ross as well as the score for director David Fincher previous film The Social Network (2010), for which Reznor and Ross won "Best Original Score" at the 2011 Academy Awards.
In the director's audio commentary David Fincher discussed how a merkin was utilized for actress Rooney Mara, after she suggested to him that the character she portrayed in the movie was a natural red head in the book and actually dyed her hair black. Consequently, the merkin she wore was made in the color red.
Tim Miller, designer of the arresting opening titles, was asked to come up with some thoughts about what Lisbeth's nightmares would consist of. He came up with about 50 ideas which were whittled down to 25. Miller was then given 8 weeks to realize them.
Shot in a period of 160 days. By contrast, Fight Club (1999), also directed by David Fincher and shot by Jeff Cronenweth took only 132 days. Cronenweth stated in several interviews that the large amount of time was mainly due to the lack of night time in Sweden - on-location sets required pre-lighting days ahead before shooting.
Max von Sydow, a genuine Swede, was the original choice to play Henrik Vanger, but had to bow out and was replaced by Christopher Plummer. Had Sydow been cast opposite Stellan Skarsgård's Martin, this film would have featured two actors who have played the role of Father Lankaster Merrin in the "Exorcist" movies.
For the opening, David Fincher had the idea of doing a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song". He really wanted a female singer to provide the vocals so sound editor Ren Klyce gave him and composer Trent Reznor the email address of his friend, Karen O.
Jeff Cronenweth is formerly an understudy of the legendary Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Nykvist was famously known for his use of soft-lighting photography; Cronenweth stated that he shot a bulk of the film with soft-lighting as homage to him.
The film received two Golden Globe nominations on December 15, 2011, six days before the film's release date. Rooney Mara was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were nominated for Best Original Score.
When Lisbeth talks to a security guard halfway through the film about the murder of a woman, he tells her that the husband was investigated first, as it's always the husband that is the first suspect. David Fincher's next film would be Gone Girl (2014), a film about a man being suspected of the disappearance and possible murder of his wife.
The full musical score was released on December 9, 2011. Seven days prior to the official release, composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross released a 6-track sampler of the score online for free. The download was also accompanied by a free 8-minute trailer for the film available via iTunes.
The original soundtrack album by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is one of the biggest for a film, consists of 3 CDs, 13 tracks each, a total of 39 tracks (just for comparison - a lot of TV show soundtrack for entire seasons are shorter than that). Trent and Atticus made a lot of music, and some of the music that appears on the album isn't even on the film (example: track 32: "Oraculum"). Trent Reznor called it "some of the most beautiful and disturbing music of our careers. The result is a sprawling three-hour opus". They released it on Reznor's independent label "The Null Corporation".
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Most of the bruising seen on Rooney Mara's body when she takes a shower is in fact real, the physicality of shooting the rape scene the day before resulted in countless bruises on the actress' wrists, neck and torso.
In one of the more harrowing scenes in the film, Martin Vanger has Mikael Blomkvist bound and he switches the music on. The music playing is the song 'Orinoco Flow' by Enya. This choice came about after discussion on the scene when Daniel Craig flicked through his iPod and called out the first song he found, which was initially met with a lot of laughter.
In Lisbeth's revenge rape scene, Yorick van Wageningen was not actually without clothes as it appears. He was wearing flesh-colored trunks which were then digitally removed. Van Wagingen was willing to perform the scene in the nude, to even up for the previous rape scene when Rooney Mara was stripped, but, after consulting most of the cast and crew, David Fincher decided that no one actually wanted to see this abusive man naked.
In the script, Martin Vanger was to tear off a sheet of cellophane to wrap around Blomkvist's face, but the action proved to be too awkward for the actors. David Fincher ordered the prop department run to the nearest store to obtain plastic grocer bags instead.
David Fincher contributed the idea that Martin should have an old video camera and reel-to-reel tape player in his dungeon to suggest how long he had been kidnapping and murdering people in that room, and also to suggest that Martin was used to things never changing in his secret life.