Solidifying its plans for one of the most anticipated movies in decades, Sony Pictures has announced a release date of Dec. 21, 2011 for the Hollywood adaptation of Stieg Larsson's best-seller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (A Swedish version came out last year). With David Fincher (Fight Club) on board to direct and Daniel Craig seemingly set to play the male lead, the burning question is: Who will play the tiny, terrifyingly brainy, titular "Girl," Lisbeth Salander? "Every actress in the world wants it," says Sony Pictures co-Chairman Amy Pascal, as quoted in The Wrap. "It's the greatest character for a girl since I-don't-know-what." Though a global casting search is underway, a shortish list of contenders is already being talked up. Here's the latest:

Ellen Page: She's appropriately short and intense (see Hard Candy) and, with the success of her current film, Inception, some say she's the actress to beat. Possible advantage: Noomi Rapace, who plays Salander in the Swedish film, told the Los Angeles Times that she likes Page's acting.
Carey Mulligan: Though regarded as a front-runner, the Oscar-nominated British actress (An Education) told Entertainment Weekly earlier this week that she's unequivocally out: "I can officially quash that rumor once and for all. It's not going to be me. But I’m excited to see it. I love the books and I think it will be great."
Kristen Stewart: Fans of the moody starlet, whose Twilight performances are distinguished by a decidedly un-Salander torpor, are incensed that she has not been cast, or even considered. "Lisbeth is a struggling, angst-ridden, sexually combustible (and very take-charge) brilliant young girl," say Ted Casablanca and Marc Snetiker in E Online. "Kristen is...perfect."

Mia Wasikowska: According to the International Business Times, the Aussie actress (Alice in Wonderland) flew to Los Angeles this week after being "short-listed" for the role of the "awkwardly asocial" Salander. Wasikowska is currently demonstrating her broad range in the "I have two mommies" comedy The Kids Are All Right.
Emily Browning: "Browning would make a killer Salander," says Eric Ditzian in MTV News. After tackling a similar character (institutionalized, vengeful) in the upcoming film Sucker Punch, she's more than capable of playing Salander, "a woman who becomes both victim and aggressor."
Rooney Mara: Though she has the advantage of having worked with Fincher in his upcoming Facebook flick, The Social Network, "Mara simply seems too sweet" to play the ruthlessly surly Salander, says Ditzian.

Yo-Landi Vi$$er: According to New York magazine, Fincher has said that Vi$$er, a member of the South African dance-rap group Die Antwoord, precisely embodies his vision for Salander. On the plus side: She has a petite frame and a mullet. On the down side: No acting experience.
Noomi Rapace: Though she's already (brilliantly) brought Salander to cinematic life, the Swedish actress says she has no interest in reprising the role in English. "I'm done with Lisbeth," she told the Los Angeles Times. "It's time for someone else to step into her shoes."

Sources: Deadline, IMDB, The Wrap, Los Angeles Times, EW, Eonline, MTV News, The Daily Telegraph