Claire Foy talked, recently, to Collider about Lisbeth Salander, The Girl in the Spider’s Web and how her character fits the #MeToo era. Check it out below:
Lisbeth Salander is one of those instantly iconic literary characters that taps into something primal and universal in audiences. Since making her debut in Stieg Larsson’s 2005 mystery The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the character has been brought to screen by two different actresses — Noomi Rapace in the beloved Swedish trilogy adaptation and Rooney Mara in David Fincher’s 2011 film — and now, Golden Globe-winning The Crown breakout Claire Foy will put her stamp on the punk hacker turned sleuth in The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
However, this version of Salander is a little different than what we’ve seen before. Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez takes the helm for the latest spin on the Millenium series, and he turned to the fourth book for inspiration. Written by David Lagercrantz after Larsson’s death, The Girl in the Spider’s Web has never been brought to the screen, featuring a bit older version of Lisbeth, toned down from the extreme punk aesthetic, who takes center stage in a twisting mystery that somehow leads back to her own dark past.
Back in March, I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Girl in the Spider’s Web in Berlin, Germany and sit down for a chat with Foy about how she’s reinventing the iconic character once again. Foy was filming her character’s introduction in the film that day — a ferocious reminder of who Salander is and how she wields her vigilanteism. With a fearsome white war paint like a mask and hair spiked in a ragged mohawk, Foy joined a small group of journalists to talk about her take on the character, from costuming to creating her persona, Lisbeth’s relationships in the film, why she’s the anti-superhero, and how she fits into the conversations surrounding #MeToo, and more.
First and foremost, you’re obviously so transformed, and this look is amazing. I wanted to ask about a) what it feels like to live in that skin, and b) the makeup. It looks a little… superhero-y. Is that sort of a little bit of what’s evoking, or is it a different thing?
CLAIRE FOY: No, she’s not a superhero. I think the most amazing thing about Lisbeth Salander is that she doesn’t have any special powers, you know. She’s sort of an underdog, she has been an underdog her entire life. And the only power that she really has is that she’ll never give up, and she’ll fight to the bitter, bitter end. She’s sort of the most human person I’ve ever played, really, for that reason. This makeup is very specific, it’s not what I have the whole movie or anything like that, it’s partially practical to kind of disguise her face, but it’s also what Lisbeth does a lot, which is to try and scare people away so that they don’t underestimate her, I suppose.
As regards to living in her skin, she’s a huge contradiction and she’s incredibly strong and intelligent and sort of powerful in her own right, but at the same time she’s so vulnerable and she has so, so damaged by what’s happened in her life. And she doesn’t necessarily work from an entirely conscious level, you know what I mean? Because of all the things that have happened in her past, she lives her life in a kind of… she’s very, very closed off, and very, very- got her defenses up the majority of the time, and I suppose this sort of film is about her growing up a bit.
Does she do a lot of vigilante work?
FOY: Vigilante- do you mean to sort of suggest that she’s against the establishment? Or to mean she’s against government? She has no respect for authority whatsoever, because when have they ever helped her? Why would she have respect for them, really? They let her down at every single opportunity in her life.
So, I don’t think she’s a vigilante. And I don’t think that Lisbeth, in my head, when it comes to this story, as the story of the end of the 3 books, which was the fact that she was free of her identity that had been created for her. That she was a ward of the state and that she was in some way not like everybody else, that she was a menace to society. That she didn’t have the intellect that other people had, that she was somehow lesser than everybody else. And she doesn’t have that around her anymore, that’s been got rid of for her, in a way. And then she’s got to find her own identity and what she is, and I think you see her at the very beginning of the film doing what she can’t help, which is that she can’t help but get drawn into the injustice of the way women are treated, or the way powerful men take advantage. I think that’s what she’s just like, “I have to right that wrong.”
She’s moved to do it, she’s not just like, “What cause can I fight now, what can I do now.” It’s very specific, what she finds galling and she wants to right that wrong — I keep forgetting that I’ve got this face and I’m really sorry! I forget that I’ve got loads of wet paint on my face, so sorry, it’s been a bit intense.
When it comes to the look, her look is very extreme and I could see some people stepping into an outfit like this and the face paint and just feeling really out of sorts. How do you command her look?
FOY: Well, for me it was very, very important that it’s me playing the part, I can’t just put the costume on and go, “This is the character.” Because that’s a lie. We’ve always, all of us together, have questioned and gone, “Did this feel right? Does it look right, is it too much of a cliché, is it too much of a- does this actually fit with who she is?”
I think I have always, from the very, very beginning of any character, start with nothing, start with the basics. I never like to put stuff on because it’s what people expect or anything like that. I always think less is more, so I always start with the bare bones, and then as time goes on you sort of think, “does that feel right or not?” So yeah, it’s been a process that we’ve all sort of done together. But I love the Lisbeth that we’ve created in the sense that she’s really, really composed and in complete possession of herself at some points, but at other points she’s like a 12-year-old girl who has been a victim and treated like a victim her entire life, and she’s like, “I’m not. I’m not a victim, I’m not, I’m not, that’s not who I am.”
Something that- when I was reading the books- that I really, really understood and made a lot of sense for the character for me was that from the outside, people, especially with victims of sexual assault, things like that, they find the victim, they find the person. It’s that the predator finds the victim as opposed to someone just walking around being a victim, they find the person that they want. And Lisbeth, to me, is that. From the outside she’s so easy to underestimate and say, “She’s vulnerable, I could take her.” But then if you try she’d cut your balls off.
This Lisbeth is way different from the one in the previous movies. How do you approach that, you are talking a lot about in books but I meant in previous movies. Obviously, you saw them, I guess, but the whole purpose is to do something different here?
FOY: No, I think this is character and this story has been told before, I think our version of this film is obviously the fourth book, so you sort of have a little bit more leeway in the fact that it is a different story. You’re not telling the story which was, especially the first book, which was the story of the murder and the thriller element of it, which was trying to find out and the investigation and those things. We’re not retelling that story, obviously, because everyone’s seen it and they’d go, “We know the ending!”
But I think by virtue of someone else playing a part, it’s always different, as story is always different. I don’t think we have attempted or tried to make it different, because I think if you try and do that then the audience will just see straight through the fact that you’re like, “Look, guys, we’re trying something crazy here.” I don’t think you can- you have to accept the world that you’re living in and I think people do that with this character. They are immediately drawn to her and her circumstance and what she’s going through as opposed to anything outside of her.
No, is the answer. I don’t know. I think the Swedish versions were incredible, I think the David Fincher version was amazing, and I think Rooney and Noomi are amazing. It’s just I’m doing it this time, which is weird for me, but so many things about it haven’t felt weird, which I find encouraging. I think that Fede is incredible, I think he is genius. I think Pedro, the DP, is genius, and I think it’s exciting for that reason, it’s a really exciting combo.
We’ve been talking to people obviously about, this falls within a certain period in the entertainment industry, with #MeToo, and how do you feel about this coming out in November and this presenting a very strong female, action-led drama, with real weight to it, as well. It’s not just kind of an action hero. In the midst of that, who is specifically a vigilante for women who have been victims of abuse.
FOY: Well, I think to say that, you can’t underestimate the fact that, when did the books come out? I don’t know the exact date of the books coming out, you know, this story’s been around for well over a decade. With that, I think the film was out 8 years ago… I think you can- I’ve done period drama where I’ve been asked that question. “What’s relevant about this story today?” And the point about stories and the point about dramas is it always is, because there’s people in it, and we’re all people.
I think that it sort of, to say that Lisbeth is around and that the story is around because it’s popular or it’s part of the zeitgeist, is slightly wrong. Because she’s, this character, has always been around, really essentially. I just think it’s the fact that it’s about people want to see women in the central roles, and she just happens to be a woman who has experiences what a lot of women experience. But she’s able to right the wrongs, I suppose, and it’s about seeing that fulfilled, really. But this film hasn’t come out yet, so I don’t know what the reaction’s gonna be, and I don’t know where it’s gonna sit, this conversation. You know, 6 months ago we wouldn’t have been having this conversation, so, you know, I live and hope that in 6 months time it will be an even bigger, wider conversation as well. So who knows, really.
What are Lisbeth’s feeling towards her sister? I always think they’ve been estranged for quite a long time, do you think that’s kind of needling at her? Is there a desire to reconnect there, or has she left her sister behind in a way?
FOY: I think Lisbeth has left herself behind, in the sense that as soon as she left the children’s hospital, that was it. Whatever happened pre- that date didn’t exist anymore, because it was too painful and too awful and how can someone live with that and think about it, actively think about it? And so I think that she genuinely has cut everything out of her mind and her life that would make her feel pain or make her feel anything, really. That’s one of the most fascinating things, I think, about her, is how much she feels or whether how much, it’s all just up here. You see that change. That’s why I think that the film really works, because you do see that crack and that, hopefully, letting in of the light a bit into the heart.
I think the relationship that anyone has with a sibling or a family member is always going to be something that your subconscious is in charge of and not you. I think she thinks, “No, I can- whatever, I don’t care, ugh.” But, deep down, you know, it’s always there, like little kind of… yeah, broke her heart a bit.
I think this a character that maybe on the surface might seem easy to oversimplify, because of the look and the intensity. You talked about it in your early process stripping it down to the basics, what were the keys that helped you understand her?
FOY: I think it’s always really, really luck when you’ve got some books. Because you have an insight. But there were things about her that I really found incredible, I really admire about her. I admire her lack of judgment, I don’t think she judges anyone. I think she finds people sort of interesting and bit weird, and there’s a lot of detail in the book about how when she’s hacking into people’s computers, she finds all sorts of things. Whatever people’s sexuality is, what they’re sexually- what gets them going, she’s just like, “Huh. That’s interesting.” She’s not judgemental, and that’s why I think people like the books. It’s because she doesn’t really give a shit. She doesn’t live within the realms of what society tells you- you should be married, you should have kids, you should be doing this. She’s just like, “Should I? Don’t want to.”
She doesn’t have to fit within that idea, and therefore she can work outside of that. She’s sort of on the fringes and she can observe society for what it is, really. I love that about her, I love that she’s bisexual and she just loves sex and has absolutely no qualms about enjoying it with whoever she enjoys it with. And Fede was very about this as well, she’s just not comfortable in her own skin. Although she puts up a defense and although she seems like she knows what she’s doing, she’s very easy to find her buttons, I think. She’s very easy to find what would make her feel uncomfortable and vulnerable and she has a purpose, really. It’s like people, places, and things. She has avoided being in situations with those people at those- you know, that’s what she does, she avoids them.
The look is a defense, it’s not like, “I’m super cool and I’m amazing and I belong to this group of people.” It’s not that. It’s a porcupine, it’s like, “Don’t come anywhere near me. Don’t even think about touching me.” That’s what it is, it’s not a statement. If someone said she was cool, she’d be like, “Huh?” She just wouldn’t get it.
There’s an interesting moment in the book where she’s just hacked into the NSA and left a message for Ed Needum. And in the moment, she feels really self-righteous and then afterwards she feels kind of empty, I think it says. Do you think she’s kind of a character who needs to constantly be doing something?
FOY: Yeah. Well, that’s what I mean about the fact that I think at the beginning she’s a bit bored. She has survived for so long fighting that when she has money, she’s like, “What’s next? Hang on. Oh, it’s me. I’m next, dear God, no! I don’t wanna think about myself!” And that’s why I think she then goes into that whole situation and why playing always helps her get a new job or whatever. I think the interesting thing with Lisbeth is what happens when she doesn’t have a task. And I think what I found really great about the second book was that after she solved that whole story and she’s fallen in love with Michel a bit and she’s had her heart broken, she just goes to Granada and reads about mathematical theorems. She has to engage her brain in something to distract from what she’s really, achingly needing to figure out, which is herself. She sort of goes into all these things, and that’s the thing with life, unfortunately, or fortunately, whatever way you look at it, that it catches up with you. There’s a line in this script which is that “You can’t outrun the darkness.” Or, “you’re in shadow.” Which one is it. Can’t remember. “You can’t outrun your own-“
Either one applies.
FOY: Yeah. You can’t outrun it, it’ll always find you. And that’s definitely in the story of this, that she tries her best to look in the other direction.
You said that Fede is a genius, can you elaborate a little bit more?
FOY: He just is. He just is, and I sort of knew from the moment I met him, really. He sort of is like a concert trained pianist. He’s incredible. He just has an understanding of film and story and audience that I think very few people do. It is studied in a way, but it’s not studied. He loves film and he is able to see, to go, “It needs to be …” He sees the rhythm of it. “It needs to be this, this, this. And then that. And then
Photo by: Michael Campanella. Getty Images for Sony Pictures Releasing International. 2018 Getty Images it needs to be this, this, this. And then THAT!”
He creates a beautiful image with Pedro, they’re just an incredible team, they just have such beautiful eye. And it’s always slightly different to what you would think it would be. I haven’t done a single shot in this which has been like, “Well now we have to cross you and we have to get you all close…” That hasn’t been the case at all. It’s never felt like a formulaic way of making anything. I think he’s full of heart as a person, and really cares about this movie, which is very, very rare. It’s not a vehicle for him, he’s in it, and that’s lovely.
Can you just quickly talk about how her relationship with Blomqvist has evolved, and being ex-lovers and the tension and the intimacy in working together, how is that playing out?
FOY: Well, I think it’s that thing that she- from the outside as a spectator you sort of are like, “Go on! Get together! Be happy!” If that was the normal, commoner garden story. But it sort of diminishes how interesting they both are as characters. I think it makes it slightly different, the [inaudible 00:18:54] were close, much closer in age. I mean obviously I’m not supposed to be able to say, slightly younger than I am. But, I think that makes it sort of more interesting in a way because it’s not an age difference thing, it’s not like “Young girl, older man.” It’s actually that we have a deep connection and a deep understanding of one another, but it’s like, in what world would these two people ever make it work? And it’s not just the fact that she’s a vigilante sort of person, but it’s more the fact that… how do you even begin to cross that bridge of differences between them?
But I think in this one they have a shorthand, they’ve gone past that point. I think it’s at the end of the third book where he sort of, he’s at her front door and he’s like “Alright, can I come in?” I think Steig says something about letting her back in, she let him back into her life. And I think we haven’t don’t that in this one, what we’ve said is the fact that they haven’t seen each other for three years. And where have they gone? He’s missed her and she’s got over him, you know what I mean?
So that’s the interesting thing, where you find that she’s like, “No, no, no! I don’t care about you at all, I don’t care!” And he’s like, “Come on!” And whether she goes for that or not is the thing. They’re certainly not gonna walk down the aisle, yeah. That’s never gonna happen.
Recently, Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret on The Crown) and a big friend of Claire spoke up to Vulture about the payment gap between Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth II) and Matt Smith (Prince Philip) on The Crown that became public recently, check it out below:
One of the biggest stories that emerged from the show’s second season was the gender pay gap. How surprised were you to learn that Claire Foy was being paid substantially less than Matt Smith?
I’ve spoken to Claire recently about it, and she’s talked so eloquently about the whole thing. It’s incited a change in her and all of us. The best thing about it is now the conversation is open and it’s less likely to happen again. This is partly why I feel proud at the moment to be in this industry, because for better or worse, us women are talking about it. Hopefully, this will impact other sectors and industries that don’t get the media coverage. If Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow talk about these issues, people are reading about it. I hope we can be the instigator of change. I’m sure Claire felt like that too.
I was surprised how openly the producers admitted the disparity, and how they assured it won’t happen again. You don’t see that level of candor a lot.
I’m so glad you said that. It’s true. Suzanne [Mackie], the producer, is the most amazing woman. What she did was actually begin the conversation that was so essential. I think that it’ll help a lot of people.
After the disparity was revealed, did you investigate how your pay compared to men’s roles?
My situation is separate, really. It wasn’t comparable with Claire’s issue. I think a lot of it has to do with market value, and there’s a lot of problems with that, too, in the sense that women haven’t been giving as many opportunities for leading roles for men. You’re actually at a disadvantage, even when people are negotiating for you, because you haven’t had as many opportunities to get your position in the market. There are a lot of complications, which is why the pendulum has to swing as much as possible with everything that we do know. For all women as much as possible. It’s desperately unequal.
Yeah, whether someone’s “market value” is a justifiable argument to be made or not. Even if Claire wasn’t too well known in America at the time, she was the crown.
Totally. Also, I think it’s about people getting conscious and mindful of the norms and questioning them. Challenging them. Trying to do things differently. Having a commitment to change. It’s crucial. I definitely feel galvanized, as I’m sure women across our industry do, to speak up and stand up for equal rights and equal representation on the screen. A representation of women we can identify with as being women we would know, who are idiosyncratic and real and flawed and messy and brilliant. We have to really fight for that representation on screen now. I felt so blessed to find Margaret in that way.
Collider interviewed Fede Alvarez, the director of The Girl in the Spider’s Web, where Claire Foy plays Lisbeth Salander, and he spoke about the movie, Claire and more, check it out:
Punk hacker and modern literary icon Lisbeth Salander is headed to the big screen once again in The Girl in the Spider’s Web. With the beloved Swedish film trilogy and David Fincher‘s 2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation behind us, Sony Pictures turned to Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez to breathe new life into the franchise based on Stieg Larsson‘s bestselling Millennium book series.
Recruiting Golden Globe-winning The Crown breakout Claire Foy to take on the role of Salander, Alvarez looked to the fourth book, David Lagercrantz‘s The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Lagercrantz took over writing the series after Larsson’s death) for the next chapter in Salander’s journey — one that puts the character front and center. Never before brought to screen, The Girl in the Spider’s Web offers the perfect tale of trauma, conspiracy and vigilantism to reinvent the franchise with Alvarez’s signature chilling style.
Back in March, I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Girl in the Spider’s Web in Berlin, Germany, where we watched Foy suit up and go full Salander and spoke with Alvarez during a break in production. Often, when you visit a set, you don’t get time with the director. It’s understandable — they’re just a little busy — but we got nearly twenty minutes with Alvarez and the filmmaker had plenty to say about his vision for the film and how he’s bringing his own touch to the hit book series. While Alvarez was reluctant to discuss the plot of the film (especially anything to do with Camilla — Lisbeth’s mysterious sister — secrets, secrets!), he talked at length about putting his visual stamp on the material, how his script integrates book two and three, why he doesn’t quite consider Lisbeth a vigilante superhero, working with Foy on a new iteration of the iconic character, and a lot more. Check out what he had to say below.
I was curious about the mixed formats and what you’re chosing.
FEDE ALVAREZ: It’s not really a mixed format. We’re shooting on Alexa 65, which is like the digital version of a bigger format. We have standard Alexas but most of what you see, that’s Alexa 65, which is kind of a gorgeous format. But I think it’s really a matter of taste. Most of the audience doesn’t really care about Alexas, and this technical stuff, but for me and Pedro, the DP, it was just exciting to be shooting with this camera.
What are you using to evoke the visual palette? It does seem to create the sense of tension and also the horror elements that you’re known for.
ALVAREZ: Pedro is the same DP, we worked on Don’t Breathe together, we’re friends since we were 20, 21 years old, and we’ve been working together ever since. It’s all in the light, really. I mean, obviously production design is an important job and we’re trying to keep the colors under control, but a lot is in the light, and also where the camera is… it has a lot of elements of a horror movie. It is a very scary thriller, if you want, just because that’s kind of what I’m interested in [laugh]. I’m on my third movie, and that’s the time when suddenly as a director you kind of look back a little bit, and look at the themes you repeat over and over – because I’ve been a writer on all my movies – it becomes evident. You go like, “Well, you obviously have an issue with this or that because you go back there all the time.”
I definitely have an issue with guilt, all my stories are about guilt. And at the same time, I’m obsessed with this idea that we all have this idea of a door, that there’s something horrible beyond that door that we would rather not go through it. We know it’s there, we look at it all the time, there’s something dreadful on the other side, you never know when you’re going to have go there. So some movies, more optimistic movies, say if you open that door it’s not going to be as bad as you think. My movies on the other hand… [laughs] They say what’s on the other side is way worse than what you imagine, but it says that if you go through that, and you face that, then what’s beyond that will always be for a better life. So that’s a constant theme of all of my movies and you’ve seen that here as well. So it definitely has a tone, that there’s a little bit of dread that something bad is coming in the story, that’s what you see Lisbeth going through, since the beginning, she’s gonna go through that door and she’s going to face that dread.
We have been hearing a lot today about how Salander is like a superhero, a vigilante, like Robin Hood. Now we saw her with the “mask”. Are you trying to create a more kind of superhero-ish movie hero with this character?
ALVAREZ: First of all, I obviously didn’t create her, it obviously comes from the books, but in the books she does quite amazing stuff, and you could say she’s a superhero. I would never really personally use that term with her, because I think it’s the approach to the character. So, in a particular scene she does something that will be more in that world… it is definitely more vigilante, if you want. We don’t see a lot of that aspect of her. I mean, we see it at the beginning with the intro of who she is… This movie is in a way more about the girl behind that. It’s like if you were watching a movie that’s all about Bruce Wayne, in a way. You get to see Batman in the first minutes, but you’ll never see him again, because I’m more interested in that aspect of her. So yes, there’s definitely an aspect of a superhero, but usually, me as an artist, I’m sure you too, you connect way more with the human being behind and who is that person, what sort of life are they living. And she’s a very obviously fascinating character, and a very complex one, and one that, you know, she doesn’t want you to like her, she doesn’t care about if you like her or not, she acts in that way. So it’s different from most heroes, that are looking for some sort of approval or they are more socialized. She’s none of those things, and that’s part of what fascinated me about her. So yeah, I wouldn’t call her a superhero. Definitely for sure she does some things… the mask is more like a war paint, it’s really something to intimidate. For people who are familiar with her, everybody has a different idea of who she is, that’s part of the fun of working with this character.
Is the movie more centered around Lisbeth and not so much about Blomkvist?
ALVAREZ: For sure, yeah. I mean, he’s definitely in the movie, he has a big part in the movie, but it’s the difference between… particularly the last American film, like, this one is all about her. It starts with her and ends with her.
When we spoke with Claes [Bang] he suggested that the movie isn’t entirely like the book, it might be pretty different. Can you talk about what was your approach to seeing the book, wanting to do something with that, and then turning it into a Fede Alvarez story.
ALVAREZ: When I was writing a friend of mine asked me that question, like, “How is this a Fede Alvarez movie?” and I was like, “I don’t know, because I made it.” [Laughs] You never think about yourself as “What’s my style, what’s my…” -Personally I don’t, I just do, and if I’ve done it myself there’s probably going to be something that has my identity in it. Particularly because I don’t do jobs, I just go for the ones I really believe in and that’s it.
So there was the story in the book that I connected with, but there was a lot of freedom to interpret that and tell my own story. It’s something that I wanted to do because they never made the second or third book, and I think there’s a lot of elements of Lisbeth that you get to learn a lot more about her and her life and her father in the second or third. Our approach with Jay Basu, my co-writer on this, was like, let’s base the storyline on the main events that happen in the fourth book, but let’s take some of the emotional journeys that she goes through, and even kind of the structure of the plot, the things that happen in two and three. For people who are familiar with the books, they’ll see little moments, they’ll be like, “That’s straight out of the second book, and that moment is more based on the third book. ” So there’s little windows of those books as well. In a way it’s based on two three and four, in a way, but obviously all the characters and all that come from the fourth book.
What was it about the book that hooked you and connected you to the story?
ALVAREZ: I think it’s her. It’s Lisbeth, more than anything. Her character is just unique. There’s nothing like her, particularly in an industry obsessed about “You have to have a likeable main character!” – something like that. “We have to like her, how do we like her?” And again, everything she does is to push you away and make you not like her. So that’s what I love about it… You’re allowed to create this story that puts a character at its center that’s not what you are used to.
It does sound like there’s been kind of a shift in balance, because the book is very Blomkvist-heavy, so have a lot of the Blomkvist elements been dropped for the movie?
ALVAREZ: No, you see most of the stuff he does. Again, a book is a book and a movie is a movie. I think certain books are sacred, I think, when you do an adaptation you have to make sure you don’t betray any element of the book because then the fans will murder you. I wouldn’t have done that if it was such a book. I think more what everybody agreed on was, let’s embrace the universe and let’s base on that story, but let’s make sure that above all things it’s a great film. Because if there’s anything in the film that suddenly I’m doing and I don’t like, and the audience is like “I didn’t like that part.” “I’m sorry, it’s in the book.” They don’t care. The audience just wants a great film. And the author was onboard with our story and it was more like really we adapted that story to the film world. Because again, for me, the thing that matters the most is when you see the audience through the story and they have a great experience. I have to put that in front before honoring any particular detail of the novel. The novel’s one
Image via Sony Pictures Entertainment thing, the film is a completely different format.
You talked about the idea of opening a door. That’s often, metaphorically, just a door in our minds to our past or a part of ourselves. In this it’s like that thing is coming out physically, in the form of her past and her sister. Can you talk about their relationship and how that’s playing out?
ALVAREZ: It’s hard to talk about that without spoiling the whole movie. But there is definitely, actually something very interesting about this particular book. I think in all the books, in the first three, there’s references to Camilla, and she’s named. I think in the first book they name her twice, they never really go there until this one. That to me was fascinating as well, like, who is her sister, what is their relationship, how do they get along… All elements of something I was very intrigued about, and here in the movie you’ll get an answer to that, but anything I could tell you would spoil it. You do open the movie with an episode of their childhood…
Oh yeah, we saw a flashback scene.
ALVAREZ: Yeah, you get to see Lisbeth and Camilla as kids at the beginning. You get to see their father and there’s a quite dark episode of their childhood that kind of defined who they are. So in a way, probably in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, you really get behind her skin to understand how she becomes the girl with the dragon tattoo. It really shows you kind of a window to her psyche. You’ll see it, in the first scene, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Everything that created who she is as an adult happened on that episode.
What is your collaborative relationship like with Claire [Foy] – finding this character, your guys’ iteration of Lisbeth.
ALVAREZ: I think it’s always an ongoing process, and usually you have the conversations before we cast, so when I was just meeting her for the first time, and that point is when you realize you connect with the actor and have a similar approach. This one is definitely not about the get-up and the piercings and all that, we just kind of left that aside and it made it way simpler. She’s not the 24-year-old Lisbeth of the first book anymore, so I was interested in what’s the more mature Lisbeth, the one that is not so much about the club and the piercings in her face and all that. I didn’t want that to define her. I didn’t want that to be something where, as soon as you see her you have all this look, I didn’t want to make it about that. And for [Foy] it was the same, it was just like, let’s make it simpler. So you get to see her here, with that [points to monitors with Foy in vigilante get-up] but in the next scene she washes her face and she has nothing on her face, it’s just a girl. So on that we really connected, and when you start in a good place then the creative process is way more exciting. It’s usually problem if you start in places where you don’t look eye-to-eye. That’s when it’s a mess.
It’s been a lot of fun, and she’s a fantastic actress, it really blows my mind every day. You sit there and you ask for something, and you’re looking at the monitor and you can’t believe it. For me the best actors, for the big screen, are the ones that when you’re standing there and you look directly at what’s happening, you think nothing has happened. You go, “Did she do that thing?” And then you go and you look at the monitor, and of course that’s going to be on a massive screen where one eye becomes the size of a person. Even when they’re not doing anything you see what’s happening in her eyes and you see what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling, what she wants to say – every emotion she’s repressing, you see it there. That’s something that you don’t do in theater because you don’t see that, and in TV the screen is too small, but it’s perfect for the movies, and that’s what I’ve always been interested in. So you’ll see, I think she’ll blow everybody away because it’s such a nuanced performance with a character that is all about her inner life, and she’s trying to hide every emotion she has from everybody because she doesn’t like people [laughs]. But it’s been amazing for me.
Can you talk a bit about Lakeith’s character, Ed? Has he been changed a lot from the book, or is he still… he’s quite high-strung in the book.
ALVAREZ: Oh yeah, yeah. He has changed a lot from the book, for sure [laughs]. Different age, different race, different everything. But it’s still faithful to the spirit that he’s this NSA agent that is very arrogant, but cool in his own way, and Lakeith is crushing it. He’s one of those guys where you’re having so much fun, and you cannot have enough of it. Like, you’re watching him… it’s just fun to watch. Every scene he’s in, he’s such a powerful energy. And also the take on the character, what he created is something unique, and something actually that exists in the states, it’s this new generation of people that go from CIA to NSA and back to CIA and live in that world, and they’re computer nerds but also they have field experience. Because, you know, back in World War II you needed mechanics, engineers and people that used to work in a car shop and went to war, and now it’s a lot more of the computer people that used to just be nerdy on a computer or a hacker, and then need them in the field. So it’s kind of this new breed of young NSA agents that we’ve been doing research on and [Lakeith has] created stuff with that. And I think you haven’t seen a character like that, because you think you know what he is at the beginning when you meet him for the first time, but then during the whole movie you get to know him more ad you realize you have no idea. He’s just such a talented actor, and a lot of fun to work with.
Can you talk at all about the relationship between Lisbeth and August, and how that’s translated from the book?
ALVAREZ: That’s one of the things I think we’ve been more faithful to, because it starts in a place where, as a premise for her story… suddenly she’s stuck in a situation where she has to suddenly be responsible for and take care of this kid for a minute, and she’s not really good with kids [laughs]. At all. She doesn’t want to be. And he’s special in his own way, so seeing them together – last week we were shooting some of that scene and both of them are very awkward, and they’re trying to connect somehow but it’s very difficult. Actually, you get to see a lot more here than what you get in the book, because in the book you always kind of see it through the flashback of someone saw them together, running from here to there. And here you really get to spend more time with them and see how they’re trying to connect, and how she’s trying to not be terrible, but she’s terrible, it’s a lot of fun to watch [laughs]. Being really, really bad with kids! But then eventually they’ll find things that they have in common, and they have a lot more than what they think. But if I say more I’ll spoil it.
Do we see August’s drawings, from the book? Is that a big plot element?
ALVAREZ: Yes, there’s different kinds of drawings, though, but he is some sort of artist here. We’ll see… I think you’ll like what we did with it.
Those characters [Lisbeth and August], they’d be similar in a lot of ways because they both have a desire, somewhere, to connect.
ALVAREZ: For sure, but that’s what’s good about these characters, like, in movies your main characters always are, particularly in horror movies, they’re always pretty much in touch with their emotions, and they’re good public speakers and they have all these qualities, right? They’re very charming and they talk a lot and the good thing with Lisbeth is she’s none of those things. So you put her in a situation where she has to connect with this kid – and the kid is also not the classic snappy, joyful kid from movies [laughs] he’s the total opposite of that. So seeing the two of them together is what makes it fun, but you’ll see that they have a similar soul, and they recognize each other as soon as they see themselves for the first time.
We are here in this studio that has so much history, so how is it for you to be working here?
ALVAREZ: It’s amazing! Just amazing. I mean, apart from obviously, buildings are buildings, it is kind of film sacred ground. The local crews are amazing. That’s what you want when you’re shooting, because if the studio’s amazing but the crews are shit, there’s no history that will make it fun. You will be frustrated all day. But the people we’ve got here are really the best in the area. But also it’s like, every time I walk in the office there’s a bunch of chairs of famous directors that worked here. It has that charm of an old-school film studio. When you drive in every day and that’s your day at the office, it’s a pretty good feeling.
Also, Collider released some behind the scenes pictures, check it out below:
Claire Foy attended, on June 11, two events in Barcelona for The Girl in the Spider’s Web press tour. Check out the pictures below: