UPDATE: Sony Pictures Entertainment has issued a press release on Mara. I’ve included it after Deadline’s story break.

EXCLUSIVE: Ending one of the most drawn out and closely watched casting searches for an actress in years, Sony Pictures Entertainment and director David Fincher have chosen Rooney Mara to play Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the film that begins shooting this fall in Sweden, with Daniel Craig starring. The film will be released December 21, 2011. Rooney was considered Fincher’s first choice in the process: the director had just helmed her in The Social Network. Closing a deal will amount to a formality, because Mara essentially agreed to terms when she and other young actresses signed on to tests that Fincher and producer Scott Rudin have conducted over the past several weeks. Her deal includes an option for two sequels that will cover The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, the second and third books in the Millennium Trilogy by the late author Stieg Larsson. The books continue the same murder conspiracy storyline.

Deadline revealed that Craig was signed a deal with two options weeks ago to play Mikael Blomkvist, the investigative journalist and part owner of the magazine Millennium, and Deadline also broke the story that Robin Wright was in talks to play Erika Berger, his occasional bed partner and the publisher of Millennium. Stellan Skarsgard was also reportedly in talks to play Martin Vanger, who joins the magazine’s board.

The search for Salander has been the role that really captured the public fancy. Slight of frame and short, Salander is a brilliant but troubled computer hacker who helps Blomkvist unravel a decades-long murder mystery. The storyline is as dark as the subject matter that Fincher tackled in Seven, and subsequent books establish Salander as far more than Blomkvist’s sidekick (and occasional lover). While established actresses have been named as being in contention for the role — Natalie Portman (who tried to buy the books early on), Ellen Page (who filmed her own test), Carey Mulligan and most recently Scarlett Johansson — Fincher has focused his testing process on discovering an actress who fits Salander physically and in age proximity, which is early 20s. Mara was among a group of young actresses that included Alice In Wonderland star Mia Wasikowska, Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning (even though neither actress signed test deals), Fish Tank’s Katie Jarvis. Mara tested along with Sophie Lowe, Sarah Snook and French actress Lea Seydoux.

Chantell
•
2 years
Loved loved loved Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. She played the role perfectly. Wow.
Ambrose Woodard
•
2 years
Thanks for helping.
Craig Cobb
•
3 years
Having seen the Swedish films, which I have to say, were very well-made, it seems rather unnecessary...

Mara is a strong match: she is the right age and looks like Salander. She also had the advantage of working with Fincher and Rudin on The Social Network. The sister of Brokeback Mountain‘s Kate Mara and the great granddaughter of New York Giants football team founder Wellington Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Mara was most recently seen in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Mara is repped by WME.

(Culver City, August 16, 2010) — Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara have been cast in the lead roles of Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy under the direction of David Fincher. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – the first film of the series, which also includes The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – begins shooting next month in Sweden. The screenplay is written by Steve Zaillian and the film is being produced by Scott Rudin, Cean Chaffin, Ole Sondberg and Søren Stærmose. Mikael Wallen and Anni Fernandez are executive producers. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is set for worldwide release December 21, 2011.

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson has been published in 44 countries and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide thus far. In the U.S. alone, the series has sold over 10 million copies, and the sales were recently calculated at the remarkable rate of one book per second. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has broken sales records in virtually every country in which it has been published. It has sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. and has out-sold any other e-book in that rapidly expanding market. A literary phenomenon, all three books currently sit atop the New York Times Best Seller lists. In describing the scale of Larsson’s achievement, The Economist said: “Stieg Larsson’s vivid characters, the depth of the detail across the three books, the powerfully imaginative plot, and the sheer verve of the writing make the trilogy a masterpiece of its genre.” Michiko Kakutani, of The New York Times, described the Lisbeth character: “Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson’s fierce pixie of a heroine, is one of the most original characters in a thriller to come along in a while – a gamin, Audrey Hepburn look-alike but with tattoos and piercings, the take-no-prisoners attitude of Lara Croft and the cool, unsentimental intellect of Mr. Spock. She is the vulnerable victim turned vigilante; a willfully antisocial girl . . . who has proved herself to be as incandescently proficient as any video game warrior.” The three novels have all become #1 worldwide bestsellers, an achievement unrivaled in trade book publishing.

DAVID FINCHER most recently directed this fall’s much-anticipated The Social Network for Columbia Pictures, which opens in the U.S. on October 1st.

DANIEL CRAIG recently starred in the two highest-grossing films in the James Bond franchise, Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale. His earlier film roles include Munich, Enduring Love, Layer Cake, The Mother, Road to Perdition, and Some Voices. He has also recently completed filming on Jim Sheridan’s Dream House, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, and Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens.

ROONEY MARA will appear this fall in David Fincher’s The Social Network.