'Blomkvist, Mikael Blomkvist'

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The Independent Culture

The financial crisis has left Daniel Craig's most famous alter ego shaken and stirred. But just like James Bond, the British actor is a master of reinvention.

For his next big role, he may be about to step into the shoes of a subtly-different literary hero: Blomkvist, Mikael Blomkvist. Mr Craig is reported to be nearing a deal to star in a forthcoming Hollywood film of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first in a planned trilogy based on perhaps the hottest property in publishing: Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson's hugely-successful "Millenium" series of novels.

Craig was in Los Angeles on Friday having dinner with David Fincher, the director of films like Se7en, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, according to the film industry website The Wrap, which broke news of the potential casting. The high-profile project is scheduled to begin shooting in October.

Craig's potential character, a Swedish journalist who has lost a high-profile libel suit and spent a short time in prison, is perhaps less of a beefcake than James Bond. But they share a talent for cracking unsolved mysteries. In Larsson's thrillers, Blomkvist attempts to track down the missing niece of a Swedish industrialist. The manuscripts for the "Millennium" novels were discovered at the author's home following his death in 2004. They were published posthumously, and became a literary sensation, selling almost 30 million copies in 41 countries.

A Swedish-language film of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was released last year. Despite being made by a tiny independent company, on a shoestring budget estimated at $13m (£8.96m), it has generated almost $100m (£68.9m) at the box office. Those returns convinced Sony of the blockbuster potential of Larsson's novels, and they purchased English-language rights to all three of them last year. Fincher, who intends to shoot the first in the series on location in Stockholm, says the film will be released in the summer of 2012.

Speculation has been growing as to the identity of his cast for months, and previous contenders for the lead role have included Brad Pitt, who has collaborated with Fincher on several of the most successful projects on his CV. Craig is arguably a far better fit for the rough-around-the-edges role, though, and his sudden availability may have presented an opportunity too good to pass up. The British actor was originally supposed to be spending this year filming the latest James Bond film, but that project is on hold until MGM's financial future can be resolved.

The studio, one of Hollywood's most storied, is currently nursing debts of $4bn, and has put itself on the market hoping to secure a deep-pocketed buyer. But none has so far come forward, meaning that a slew of its future projects, including Peter Jackson's Hobbit films, have yet to get the green light.

In the days since Craig was first linked to the role, excitement about his casting has reached fever pitch on the hundreds of blogs devoted to Larsson's work. Although neither Craig, nor Fincher, nor even Sony, which is releasing the film through its Colombia label, have confirmed any deal, they have conspicuously failed to deny that negotiations are under way.

If Craig does agree to project, he will almost certainly have to commit to three complete films over the coming years. The other books in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest, will be green-lit unless The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for some reason fails to perform at the box office.

That seems unlikely, though, given the success of other recent adaptations of hit thriller novels. Although films of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons garnered terrible reviews, they made a combined $1.2bn at the box office.

Speculation will perhaps now focus on which actress will be Craig's co-star. British stars Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley have both expressed interest in playing Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker recruited by Blomkvist. So too has Natalie Portman.