Lisbeth Salander is Coming Back to the Screen

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All three of the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” films were made in Sweden with Noomi Rapace, but only the first was filmed in English, with Rooney Mara. Now, for the first time, the fourth book in the series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, written by David Lagercrantz after the death of Stieg Larsson, is going to be filmed, with a new English-speaking cast.

IndieWire has some intriguing suggestions for the part of Salander. All are such good choices I hope it inspires casting directors to consider them for a bunch of new women-led action films.

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No Small Parts: Learning More About Character Actors

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I love character actors — from the silent era through the present, they are some of my favorite performers. I’ve written about the outstanding documentaries, That Guy…Who Was in That Thing and That Gal…Who Was In That Thing, which show the dedication, talent, and frustration of roles where you have to provide all the exposition and you have to be perfect every time so they can use the one take where the star was at his or her best.

So I was delighted to find Brandon Hardesty’s “No Small Parts,” a web series devoted to these outstanding actors. Short versions appear on the Internet Movie Database, but the full-length episodes are really worth watching.

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Favorite Movie Witches

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For Halloween, some of my favorite movie witches:

Kim Novak is a sexy witch who will lose her powers if she falls in love in “Bell Book and Candle.” The outstanding cast includes Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, and Elsa Lanchester.

Angelica Huston is a very scary witch who can turn humans into mice in Roald Dahl’s “The Witches.”

Meryl Streep was a singing witch in Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”

Animated Disney witches include Ursula the Sea Witch in “The Little Mermaid,” Julie Walters in “Brave,” and Martha Wentworth as Madame Mim in “The Sword in the Stone.”

Bette Milder, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are Colonial era witches who appear in modern times in the family favorite “Hocus Pocus.”

Veronica Lake is a witch who marries the descendent of the family she cursed in “I Married a Witch.”

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List: Tarzan Goes to the Movies

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This week’s new “Tarzan” movie should inspire families to check out the many, many earlier versions of this classic story.

In 2012, Neely Tucker of The Washington Post wrote a wonderful tribute to Tarzan in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first Tarzan story by Edgar Rice Burroughs, with a fascinating gallery of portrayals of this now-iconic character.  Burroughs had no special calling to be a writer.  According to Tucker’s story, after a series of unsuccessful jobs,

Burroughs was suddenly in his mid-30s and pawning his wife’s jewelry for cash.

And then — there’s always a “and then” in these kinds of stories — he was reading a pulp magazine, checking to see whether his company’s ads were correctly placed. He thought the magazine’s stories were so poor that even he could write better.

So he sat down and wrote a science-fiction piece, “Under the Moons of Mars,” and sold it to All-Story. (Today, you know this tale as “John Carter,” which inspired the unsuccessul Disney film.)

He sold it for $400, roughly the modern equivalent of $9,300. This got his attention.

“I was not writing because of any urge to write nor for any particular love of writing. I was writing because I had a wife and two babies,” he later told an interviewer. “I loathed poverty and I would have liked to put my hands on the party who said that poverty is an honorable estate.”

The character of Tarzan was an instant sensation, and Burroughs was a good enough businessman that he not only copyrighted his stories, but he trademarked the character.

Copyrights expire, but trademarks do not.  Burroughs wrote two dozen Tarzan books but the character is best known for its many popular movie and television versions, from Elmo Lincoln’s portrayal in the silent era to an animated Disney feature film with music by Phil Collins.

Olympic gold medalist Buster Crabbe played “Tarzan the Fearless” (and also Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers).

There was a 1960’s television series starring Ron Ely.

And one with Wolf Larson in the 1990’s.

Joe Lara starred in “Tarzan in Manhattan.”

My favorite is still the classic with swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan.

Burroughs’ version of Tarzan was highly educated. He had the books left behind by his late parents and was able to speak many languages.  But what makes the character so enduringly appealing over a century is the idea of him as completely isolated from civilization, raised in the jungle. That gives us a chance to consider the deepest questions about what makes us human at the same time as we have the pleasure of imagining ourselves, like Tarzan, Jane, Boy, and Cheetah, swinging through the trees.

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