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The Sun – Having won a Golden Globe last year for her plummy-voiced portrayal of the Queen in Netflix TV series The Crown, the 33-year-old British actress appears to be the princess of Tinseltown.
But she is far from royalty.
She was born in Stockport, Greater Manchester, raised by her single mum, worked on the checkout in Tesco for five years and described herself as “a massive commoner”.
Claire’s childhood was marred by illnesses, one of which — a tumour in her eye at the age of 17 — could have shattered her dreams of becoming an actress.
Instead it made her more determined to succeed.
She said: “It was horrible and debilitating, but it made me realise that I needed to grab the life I wanted.
“If that hadn’t happened, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to throw my cards on the table and say I wanted to study drama.”
Fortunately the tumour was benign and could be treated without invasive and potentially disfiguring surgery.
She said: “I’m quite lucky to have a face. I was a bit like Cyclops and it was all a bit scary.
“I was on steroids for about a year and a half afterwards that makes you put on a lot of weight and have really bad skin.”
Claire grew up in a huge Irish extended family — her maternal grandparents, who came from Dublin and County Kildare, had 22 siblings between them.
Her mum, Caroline, was an office worker, and her dad, David, was a salesman for photocopier giant Rank Xerox.
Claire had an older brother and an older sister, and her parents found paying the bills was already difficult.
But when she was eight they divorced, and her mum became a single working parent.
Claire said: “I don’t know how she did it.
“She took a job that meant she could be there for us when we got back from school. She is an extraordinary mum.
“There is not anything that she has not given us.”
But with money tight, Claire found work in a pub in her teens and said: “I was always very, very aware of money and not having any.
“I always knew there was no money coming from anywhere else, so it was a case of ‘Well, I’ve just got to get out there and make it myself.’”
Pulling pints was just the first of a long line of menial jobs she took in her youth.
She said: “I did telesales, I gave out magazines at Tube stations, I worked at Wimbledon as a security officer. I was a piano teacher for a while, I worked in sales.
“And for a long time I worked at Tesco, which was actually a dream job because I’d always wanted to work on a till.
“Seriously, when I was younger I used to look at tills in the Argos catalogue, I was so obsessed with them.
“So when I started working at Tesco, I was thinking, ‘OK, here we go. Ping! Ping!’ I loved it.”
But Claire’s ultimate job was always going to be as a performer.
Her first ambition was to be a ballet dancer, but soon after the family moved to Longwick in Buckinghamshire, that idea was crushed.
At the age of 13, the previously sporty girl developed juvenile arthritis which left her temporarily crippled and in agony and set her apart from the rest of her schoolgirl pals.
She said: “I was on crutches while the other girls were running around. My knees were swollen while theirs were being shown off in miniskirts.”
The experience gave her confidence a knock.
It was only after the eye tumour at 17 that she applied to study drama at Liverpool John Moores University, and later at the Oxford School of Drama, but it did not automatically transform her into a confident actress.
She said: “I was never the prettiest or the most talented girl. It was always an uphill struggle. I’ve loved drama, but somehow I just thought everyone else was better than me.”
Like most actors, it took her a long time to make her breakthrough, but it came in 2008 when she landed a small part in the pilot of BBC Three drama Being Human, which then saw her get the title role as Amy in BBC1 period drama Little Dorrit, later that year.
After that, the parts steadily rolled in, from the 2010 revival of Upstairs Downstairs, to The Promise in 2011 and Wolf Hall in 2015.
Some of the roles required her to do sex scenes — which Claire hated.
She said: “If I never had to do a sex scene again, that would be the best thing in the world, because no one in their right mind would enjoy that.”
“You’re worried about what the crew are thinking, whether they’re really uncomfortable, whether you’re uncomfortable. You’re just thinking, ‘God, let this be over!’”
While making her first film, 2011 fantasy Season of the Witch, Claire fell in love with co-star Stephen Campbell Moore, and they married in 2014.
The following year she gave birth to their daughter and landed the role of the young Queen Elizabeth in The Crown.
Then at the end of 2016, when the first series aired, Stephen was diagnosed with a benign tumour on his pituitary gland at the base of the brain, which controls metabolism.
The 38-year-old actor said: “You realise you’re not the most important person in that process, and everybody who loves you goes through far worse.
“My daughter didn’t know what was going on at all. But my family did, and I could see it in them.”
The couple, who live in North London, had to prepare for the worst when Stephen had to have more surgery last summer.
He said: “There are certain things that you make sure you’ve done before you go into surgery.
“You write a letter. But it’s all very much on the offchance that something did go wrong, because every part of you is saying that nothing will.
“Waking up and being told the operation had gone well was understandably a huge relief.”
Though Stephen now seems to be on the mend, the fear of losing her husband could not have come at a worse time for Claire.
She could cope with being pregnant while filming the first series of The Crown, but last year she had to make the second series amid the stress of not knowing whether she would soon be a widow.
Now Claire, who has never discussed her husband’s illness, has started a whole new chapter.
After her Golden Globe for The Crown, she has now left the series, with the older Queen Elizabeth being played by Olivia Colman.
Claire Foy is a part of the December issue of Vogue USA, which celebrates the 125 years of Vogue, and she talked about her carreer, about her life and about the second season of ‘The Crown’. She was also photographed for the issue and you can check everything related to this below:
What happens to an actress once she has played the queen? Does some magisterial DNA rub off on her? Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Judi Dench have all been appointed dames. Only Cate Blanchett, who so magnificently illuminated Elizabeth II’s namesake, Elizabeth I, is yet to receive a title. But since she’s an Aussie and thus, technically, a subject of Her Majesty, there’s still a chance. Besides, Blanchett exudes innate queenliness.
“The role can give you quite a lot back if you let it,” says Peter Morgan, who should know, since he wrote not only The Crown (for TV) and The Audience (for the stage) but also The Queen, the 2006 movie that arguably restored the monarchy’s popularity following Princess Diana’s death. “When Helen was a guest of the Obamas at the White House Correspondents’ dinner,” says Morgan, “everyone else was being mercilessly teased, but the entire room stood up and cheered her. I’m not sure Helen didn’t grow two inches.”
The glow of imminent stardom flickers like Saturn’s rings around Claire Foy, who will be back as Elizabeth Regina in season two of The Crown this month. Directors from Steven Soderbergh and La La Land’s Damien Chazelle to Evil Dead’s Fede Alvarez have lined up to work with the prolific but previously little-known 33-year-old British actress. Far from being in character when we meet for chamomile tea at the chic London members’ club Quo Vadis, she is wearing tortoiseshell glasses, her blondish hair scraped back with visible roots—the remnants of her role in her recent movie Breathe, opposite Andrew Garfield— and a denim jumpsuit from Citizens of Humanity. (There’s no such thing as a bad jumpsuit day in Foy’s book; at the Emmys in September, she arrived in a silver-trimmed black version by Oscar de la Renta.) By the time you read this, she and her jumpsuits will have decamped to Atlanta to film Chazelle’s First Man, which traces America’s determination to get its man on the moon before the Soviets. Foy plays Neil Armstrong’s wife, Janet, opposite Ryan Gosling.
“She’s incredibly resilient and very physically fit,” says Foy, a knotty contrast not just with the body language required for the queen but also, she says, with herself. Janet would happily have gone to the moon, while Foy feels nervous on a crowded Tube. Then there’s Janet’s voice. The dialogue coach, she says, “keeps saying, ‘Stop! You’re doing the queen with a different accent.’”
Foy is used to range. She has played two queens (Anne Boleyn, on the TV version of Wolf Hall, and Elizabeth), an angelic Dickensian heroine (barely out of drama school she was cast as Little Dorrit in a fourteen-part BBC adaptation of the Dickens blockbuster), and Lady Macbeth (onstage, opposite James McAvoy). With each, she excavated layers that academics have sometimes overlooked. “She’s a lot of fun in person and has a kinetic energy,” says Chazelle, “but when you really talk, you realize how much else is going on. When we first discussed the part, she came with this idea of an interview with Janet she’d found. There was nothing in the script about it—it was astounding she’d unearthed it. I wound up putting some of it into the movie.”
With the weight of so much praise comes a burden of expectation, and Foy seems hell-bent on staying grounded. She likes to tell entertaining stories at her own expense. Today it’s about how she’s been struggling to juggle the care of her two-year-old daughter with her mother and her husband, the actor Stephen Campbell Moore, who starred in The History Boys. How she’s a homebody who likes to bake cakes and, having weaned herself off “terrible reality TV,” watches documentaries, particularly those by Louis Theroux. Foy and Moore recently bought a house in Wood Green, an “up-and-coming” corner of North London, and she spends her weekends puttering around the neighborhood shopping for rugs and cushions. “I love putting everything together,” she says, “but nothing makes sense.” She talks about how no one ever recognizes her. How her first forays onto the red carpet “were like roadkill. If it hadn’t been for Felicity Jones, who knew exactly what to do, I wouldn’t have even known you’re meant to twirl.”
But in the golden rays of a fall afternoon, it’s her pellucid blue-gray eyes, the delicate, below-the-surface incandescence—which Tina Brown, writing in The New York Times, described as “luminously ordinary”—that draw you in. For most of our conversation she leans toward me across our little table, back curved: the Conspiratorial Girlfriend Hunch. She can communicate beauty, comedy, or pathos seemingly by tilting her head, depending on whether sexual sorcery or prim, plain-as-milk sourness is required.
One Friday, a few weeks after our tea, I catch up with Foy over breakfast at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, where she is about to take part in a Q & A as part of a whirlwind promotional tour for Breathe. Tonight she will catch a plane to Zurich. On Monday she hits New York. Meanwhile, the Internet has been ablaze with speculation as to what she will bring to her newly announced role in The Girl in the Spider’s Web. If Janet Armstrong is a swerve away from Foy’s previous roles, taking on the raw, anarchic, borderline anorexic Lisbeth Salander in Fede Alvarez’s reboot of the Stieg Larsson franchise is the giant leap actresses dream of. For Alvarez, it was never a stretch. “From her first scene of The Crown, I fell in love with the way she was able to tell an emotional story,” he says. There’s already a cybersphere mock-up of Foy in Salander’s goth makeup and tattoos.
Her take on Larsson’s divisive thrillers, which she devoured, along with the movies, when they first came out, is characteristically nuanced. She doesn’t find the violence misogynistic. “I think the books show how this girl was taken advantage of by the system and by men and had chosen her sexuality,” she says. “Mind you, it’s weird when something’s written by a man. Are you just playing a woman through a man’s eyes? Then again, it’s my job as an actress to bring that missing link.”
Foy is efficiently working her way through a croissant with jam and butter. “The sugar-free thing isn’t going too well today, as you can see,” she deadpans—five minutes earlier she’d been telling me that her greatest luxury, apart from the Bechstein piano she bought post–The Crown, is stocking up on healthy food. Not many actors would be able to segue seamlessly between French baking, blonde highlights (“Being blonde changed my life. I loved it. When you’re brunette, people don’t hold the door open for you—but the upkeep!”), and devastating insights into three different characters. Four if you count Steven Soderbergh, with whom she recently worked on Unsane, a film shot in New York on an iPhone over ten days, and whom she (semi-) jokingly refers to as “a man of mystery.” Unsane was the ultimate antidote to The Crown. “There was no time to stress or overthink anything, no extraordinary lighting and cameras. Steven likes to explode reputation, and that’s completely what I needed.”
It’s probably safe to assume that professionally, Foy will not look back when she leaves The Crown after the two seasons to make way for an older actor and a more recent timeline. “Generally, there’s less pomp in the second season,” she says. “Matt”—Smith, who plays Prince Philip—“and I were always saying, ‘Can we have more domestic scenes?’ because you really, really want to see them as human beings. What’s so interesting is what slippers they wear, and those sorts of things.” As the mother of a newborn, then a baby she nursed on set during filming, Foy found the royal couple’s prolonged absences from their children hard to wrap her head around. During a Commonwealth tour in 1953–54, for example, the queen and Prince Philip left five-year-old Charles and three-year-old Anne at home for five months.
Foy’s own family—sprawling, Irish, and raucous on her mother’s side; unknowable on the other, since her father was adopted—is a tight nexus. The youngest of three siblings, she was eight when her father, a salesman for Rank Xerox, and her mother, an administrator in pharmaceuticals, divorced. Initially, despite the alacrity with which Foy performed at home for anyone who’d watch— acting, dancing, and playing piano, despite not being able to read music—she didn’t even consider a career as an actor, deterred, she says, by the prospect of “singing songs and having to pretend to be animals.” She turned to it only when her application to study broadcast journalism was rejected.
In her youth, Foy suffered from a congenital form of arthritis, which meant she couldn’t do much sport, and spent a lot of time watching old movies on TV. She’s still careful to get rest (“I’m like a child; I like to be in bed at nine”) and insists that after Spider’s Web, “that’s it. I’m categorically taking time off.” Then, at seventeen, she developed a (benign) tumor in her eye that required steroids. “It was definitely disfiguring,” she says. “Before, I had a relatively symmetrical face, and now my right eye is a completely different shape.” The sunny interpretation is that the tumor’s aftereffects somehow caused what Alvarez describes as “her ability to express a sea of repressed emotion with only her eyes.” “Maybe the muscles had to learn to work in a different way,” muses Foy. “What it taught me is that it’s human nature to get ill.”
Which means that, like the queen, for whom she has acquired enormous respect, she is stoic. Foy has met Her Majesty only once, briefly, at a Buckingham Palace celebration of Charles Dickens’s birth in 2012. They shook hands—Foy remembers the queen’s were gloved. “My overwhelming feeling was, God, it’s 10:30. She’s in her 80s, and she’s still up. How incredibly hard she works! What really breaks my heart,” she continues, switching back to the show, “is her relationship with her sister. Margaret’s so effervescent and aliv… I think the queen would love her freedom. But she wouldn’t do what Margaret does—which is the point.”
Foy, meanwhile, relishes not just freedom but risk-taking, which is why she’s ready to say goodbye to the queen. “I’ll probably cry when it’s finally over,” she says. “But what’s the point of doing all this if you’re going to play it safe?”
Vanity Fair – The Crown has cast Olivia Colman as its new queen. The actress, seen most recently in the U.S. in AMC’s The Night Manager and Amazon’s Fleabag, will step into the role of Elizabeth II for the series’ third and fourth seasons, replacing Claire Foy as the action of the show moves closer toward the present day. Creator Peter Morgan has said he always planned to replace the cast in later seasons in order to accurately portray the show’s characters as they age. And Foy, for her part, is “thrilled” to pass the crown to Colman.
“I’ve known for a long time. I found out many, many months ago, and I was just like, yes, just do it! Whatever happens, don’t let her get away. Make her do it,” Foy told Vanity Fair at the B.A.F.T.A.’s Britannia Awards in Beverly Hills Friday evening, where she was honored with the British Artist of the Year award. “It was to the point where I actually spoke to her on the phone and told her, you have to do it. You have to do it! She’s the most extraordinary actress and person in every single way. I love her, so I’m thrilled. I have always loved her. I can’t wait to see her in it.”
Foy, who has won a Golden Globe award and a Screen Actors Guild award for her compelling performance as Queen Elizabeth, has one piece of advice for Colman—not to compare herself to the other actresses who previously portrayed the Queen.
“There’s no shortcut in playing the Queen. It’s for her to discover, and she’ll probably find out lots of things that I never found out,” said Foy. “She’ll play the Queen at a very different time to me. It’s a rolling thing, and it’s ever-changing and ever-revolving. That’s the secret in portraying the Queen—no one owns it. It’s everyone’s interpretation, and that’s also the beauty of it. I think the most important thing for her is to just do it, and not think about anyone else who has ever done it before. It’s a challenging role, but she knows what she’s doing. She’ll completely reinvent it and make it her own.”
The second season debuts December 8 on Netflix, and it’s been several months since Foy has wrapped production. Now that her successor has been announced, her time on The Crown is officially coming to an end. What she’ll miss about playing Queen Elizabeth is not the beautiful costumes or the grand sets, she says, but her costars.
“People have said it before, but it’s the truth. We really became a family, and I will miss them the most. Meeting John [Lithgow], meeting Matt [Smith], Vanessa Kirby, Victoria Hamilton, Peter Morgan—they are these people who I got so close with and had such a bond,” said Foy, who will next appear as Lisbeth Salander in the upcoming film adaptation of The Girl in the Spider’s Web. “We shared such an experience. So that’s what I’m going to miss, the people. I’ll miss them so much!”
During the Britannia Awards ceremony, Foy reunited with Lithgow, who earned an Emmy last September for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. While presenting Foy with her award, he gushed to the audience that “acting with Claire was one of the greatest joys of my life in my 50-year career.” He also shared that he was in awe of his costar’s professionalism and her strong work ethic.
“Though she was unquestionably the star of this vast project, I never once saw her assert the slightest whiff of privilege or entitlement. She cheerfully slogged through the mud to the makeup trailer from her cramped Honey Wagon dressing room, identical to everyone else,” said Lithgow. “I never heard her mutter a single complaint or even saw her frown at any of the daunting conditions that we frequently worked under. And this was the young mother of Ivy Rose, a beautiful 1-year-old baby girl. Claire’s kind nature prevailed over the cast and crew of 100 people. Off-camera, she never let more than 40 seconds pass without that cheery, bell-like laugh breaking forth. In fact, the only problem that Claire and I faced in playing the many two-handed scenes between Elizabeth and Winston Churchill was cracking each other up.”
Besides missing her costars, the one regret Foy has from her time on The Crown was not being able to take home any props from the set. “I wanted so many things, but we weren’t allowed,” she said. “They need it all for the next couple of seasons. A crown would have been fantastic!”
Vogue – It is an appropriately serene afternoon in Regent’s Park: hazy golden summer light, long shadows and the smell of cut grass. We walk, Claire Foy and I, from a long, chatty lunch in Primrose Hill towards the West End, where she is due to drop off a signed contract with her agent. The brown envelope in the small hemp carrier bag she is swinging commits her to an upcoming project: Damien (La La Land) Chazelle’s First Man perhaps, playing the wife of Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong, or Fede Alvarez’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web – the fourth in the Millennium series – in which she will play Lisbeth Salander.
“If this had happened to me when I was 23, I think I would probably have spun into a vortex”
One thing is absolutely certain. This brown envelope does not contain a contract committing her to a third season of The Crown, Netflix’s £100 million drama series written by Peter Morgan, in which she gave a masterfully poised Golden Globe-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth II. Foy’s commitment was to only two series – the second of which is released next month. By the end of this forthcoming season, which spans the years between 1956 and 1963, the monarch will be approaching middle age and Foy will therefore, in the interests of authenticity, be replaced by an (as yet unnamed) older actress. “To say that Claire is going to be a hard act to follow is an understatement,” says Morgan. “Everything – everything – pivoted on her performance, which was faultless, by the way. Without someone as technically brilliant and as hardworking as Claire at its centre, a show like The Crown would have completely disintegrated.”
Disintegrate it didn’t. If the naysayers needed proof that long-format television series were capable of filling a hole which a quick-fix society has left in our souls, The Crown was it. Clever writing, sumptuous production values and truthful performances gave it a core strength and solidity not unlike the 65-year reign of the woman whose life it follows – whether you support her or wish to depose her – and that has also threaded through the tapestry of our lives.
On paper, there is nothing to link the two women – one a jobbing actress from Buckinghamshire, the other a jobbing monarch from the mid-20th century – and yet… There is an essence, a certain poise, which chimes. It’s there in the face, in the pretty plainness that simultaneously distinguishes and disappears, and it’s behind it in the sense of a spirit, a silent strength which speaks – from somewhere beyond that blue-eyed gaze – of a certain knowing.
Bubbling and chatting and sharing jokes, as a lunch companion Foy, in dressed-down, fresh-faced mode wearing a blue denim Citizens of Humanity boiler suit, silver Converse All Star hi-tops and with her hair loosely braided back from her face, behaves like an old friend. But behind the jokes – the stories of her two-year-old daughter, Ivy, thinking that every stately home or town hall they ever pass is “Mummy’s work”, and her entire extended family trying to use her as a means to get to Matt Smith (her co-star in The Crown) and “basically lick his face” – there is a secret self that is harder to reach. This self is the one whose parents divorced when she was eight, whose single mother then struggled to make ends meet, whose early teenage years (more on which later) were marred by a battle with juvenile arthritis, and whose later teenage years were shattered by the discovery – and subsequent treatment with steroids – of a benign tumour growing behind one eye. Little wonder that, when asked if she had anything in common with the Queen, whose elusive combination of delicacy and steeliness she portrays so flawlessly, Foy was reported to reply, “I guess we can both be tough old birds.”
Making The Crown has required Foy to draw on all her deepest reserves of resilience. Famously hardworking – professional and uncomplaining to the umpteenth degree – she started filming the first series a mere four months after giving birth to her daughter. “On the first day of filming, I found myself halfway up a Scottish mountain, with engorged boobs and no way of getting down to feed my baby,” she remembers. “I had to ring my husband [the actor Stephen Campbell Moore, whom she met on the set of Season of the Witch] and tell him to give her formula. It was like someone had stamped on my heart and, as I sat in a Land Rover trying to get a broken breast pump to work, I felt I’d made the worst mistake of my life.” In retrospect, Foy – who had a very traumatic birth involving haemorrhages and blood transfusions – thinks her hormonal exhaustion might have served her well. “Because I was so tired, I just played each moment as each moment,” she explains. “I didn’t over-think it, and I genuinely didn’t have the energy to invent any emotions that weren’t there. It was just one steady bulldozer of emotion pushing me all the way through.”
For season two – in which we see the Queen entering middle age, with all the accompanying crises (particularly within her marriage) that that might entail, and her sister Margaret embarking on an explosive relationship with society photographer Tony Armstrong Jones (Matthew Goode) – Foy had a different kind of hardship to contend with. As well as the pressure of the success of the show, and always being “mindful of complacency”, she had to juggle the demands of her work – a rigorous, sometimes six-day-a-week shooting schedule sustained over nine months – with the needs of her family. Ever the company player, Foy – who, for the most part, had Ivy with her on location (“she’s basically in love with Matt [Smith]”) – took it upon herself to speak up for everyone when, on occasion, the demands of the production became too much. “Because I was number one on the call sheet, I was in a position to stand up for my department and say, ‘I don’t think you can work people on a Sunday. And no, I’m not being antsy and I’m not being tricky. I just think it’s out of order and we all need a day at home with our families.’’’
While on the one hand the success of The Crown spurred cast and crew on – “Everyone upped their game,” says Morgan – on the other, it played against them. For Foy and Smith, in particular, days off from filming were spent promoting the first series around the world. “Eleven-hour flight there, blah, blah, blah about the show, 11-hour flight back and straight back on set saying, ‘Oh, that was glamorous.’ Not! And now I’ve got an eye infection…” By the time filming finished in May, Foy was a physical and emotional wreck. As the director called “Cut!” on the final scene – an exchange between her and Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret) – disco lights started flashing and a spontaneous party was held on set. “And I didn’t cry or laugh or feel anything particularly. All I could think was, ‘I need to go home now.’’’
To say that The Crown has been life-changing for Foy is an understatement. Little more than a year ago she was relatively unknown, aside from her complex portrayal of Anne Boleyn in the BBC’s Wolf Hall. Now she is a Vogue cover girl (“Who would have thought it? Claire Foy on the cover of Vogue!” she laughs), the star of a show that has been watched by tens of millions around the globe. “I know, it’s completely mental, isn’t it?” she says. “I can’t really get my head around the fact that people like Elton John and Helen Mirren actually know who I am because of my acting.”
An unlikely pairing, Elton John and Helen Mirren, and one that makes Foy laugh – as she does frequently and uproariously throughout our interview. But that’s just the madness of it. One minute she was a quietly jobbing actress, the next she was getting letters of admiration from Mirren – “incredible stuff that she really didn’t need to say” – and accepting Golden Globes in a shimmering pale pink sequined Erdem gown. “Genuinely the weirdest experience of my life,” Foy remembers. “There I was, standing in a sandwich between Stevie Wonder and John Travolta, having a completely out-of-body experience.” For a moment, at the after-party, Foy started to feel utterly overwhelmed. “All I kept thinking was, ‘Um, I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t know what to do with this thing that’s happening to me.’ But then I had an espresso martini and WhatsApped my family and friends with all the gossip, and then I felt fine.”
If there’s a certain guilt that comes with Foy’s new-found fame – “I really cannot see why this has happened to me and not to someone else” – there is also a healthy cynicism: “I’m under no illusions as to how fickle success can be. I’ve been on the outside of it enough to see it come and then see it go. If this had happened to me when I was 23, I think I would probably have spun into a vortex but I genuinely have enjoyed the past year for what it is. It’s great that people like the show. Really amazing. But I have never, at any point, thought, ‘Yes. This is where I should be,’ because, dear me, if you do think that then you’re going to have some serious problems further down the line.”
The world that Foy grew up in was a world away from the one she now inhabits – “I didn’t even know these people existed. I’d never met an actor.” The youngest of three, she was born in Stockport but moved to Buckinghamshire when her father, a salesman for Rank Xerox, got a job there. Foy endlessly forced her older brother and sister to stage plays in which she usually cast herself as the star. Aged 11, she joined her siblings at the local grammar school, where she gravitated more towards sport than drama. But at 13 she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and taken off games indefinitely. “I didn’t really register that I was ill,” Foy recalls. “I was simply annoyed that I had to be on crutches while the other girls were running around, and that my knees were swollen while theirs were being shown off in miniskirts.”
If it was at this point that Foy’s interest turned towards drama, her ambition crystallised five years later when she was struck down by another auto-immune condition, this time the tumour behind her eye. “It was horrible and debilitating, but it made me realise that I needed to grab the life I wanted,” she says, matter-of-factly. “If that hadn’t happened, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to throw my cards on the table and say I wanted to study drama.”
After gaining a degree in drama and screen studies at John Moores University in Liverpool, Foy studied acting at the Oxford School of Drama. Success was by no means a given and Foy worked hard – “for a film catering company, in a hat-making factory, you name it” – to support herself between bit-part acting jobs. Her big break came in 2008 when she was chosen to star in Little Dorrit, a BBC adaptation of the Dickens novel. “What stood out was her fragility and her extraordinary eyes,” remembers director Dearbhla Walsh. “Big saucer eyes that were like a window into her soul.”
By the time Foy went to audition for The Crown some seven years later, she had built up an impressive CV made up of mainly television roles – Peter Kosminsky’s The Promise, Upstairs Downstairs, White Heat and Wolf Hall – and was six months pregnant with her first child. “I’m sure that’s why I got the part,” Foy remembers. “Because by that point in my pregnancy, I was so distracted.” Peter Morgan remembers it differently: “She was electric, even in composure and silence.”
Several months before our interview, Foy filmed a banquet scene at Wilton House near Salisbury, set during John F Kennedy’s presidential visit to England in 1961. In it, she and 60 other actors, including Matt Smith, Michael C Hall (JFK) and Jodi Balfour (Jackie Kennedy) are in their full finery, but it is Foy who stands out – not for anything she says or does, but for all the things she doesn’t say or do. As she walks through a majestic backdrop, head high, saying nothing, it is, above all, her stillness that resonates. “Claire has a very powerful ability to do very little and speak volumes,” says director Stephen Daldry. “It’s an incredibly powerful combination which serves the role perfectly. On the one hand we, the audience, feel that we know her Queen, but on the other hand we don’t feel that we know her at all. When in doubt, I just put the camera on Claire. Even in silence, she can say a million things.”
When Foy acts, she does so with her gut. “She instinctively knew things about my mother that even I, the person who arguably knows her best in the world, didn’t know,” says Jonathan Cavendish, the producer of Breathe, the tear-jerking true story of his father’s refusal to be cowed by a paralysing bout of polio and his mother’s unbreakable love for him, in which Foy stars opposite Andrew Garfield. “Claire didn’t mimic my mum. She felt her way into her. It was extraordinary to watch.”
Despite her self-deprecating insistence that “it could all be over in five years”, Claire Foy is indisputably here to stay. Yet she puts her chameleon powers to good use, as a means of disappearing into normality. She lives a grounded, consciously unstarry life in a small house in Wood Green; her greatest extravagance is a second-hand Bechstein piano on which she can hardly ever play because the only space for it is directly underneath her daughter’s bedroom. But this is the way she likes it – keeping life simple, maintaining her integrity, and staying invisible when she needs to.
“I’m telling you, nobody recognises me at all, ever,” she insists, when I question whether she can really travel by public transport unnoticed. “I think it’s because I look normal, like someone’s sister or cousin.” As she says this a woman approaches – a polite, middle-class, middle-aged woman who will surely have watched The Crown – and asks the way to Baker Street. “Oh, crikey, now you’ve got me,” says Foy, getting out her phone to help. I watch, delighted, waiting for the passer-by to register that she’s talking to the Queen and watch, deflated, as she walks away. “You see?” Foy smirks triumphantly, amusement dancing in those majestic clear blue eyes, as she puts her phone back in her bag and walks purposefully on.
“Breathe” is in cinemas from October 27.
The Telegraph – In her roles as Queen Elizabeth II and Anne Boleyn, Claire Foy has demonstrated a quiet genius for conveying a multitude of emotions and thoughts without saying a word. It is all there in the face: porcelain pale, with perfect features and those startled-wide eyes.
The pauses, the almost imperceptible shifts in expression; the steely, basilisk gaze. It is hard to take your eyes off her. It is something she shares with Mark Rylance – whom she acted opposite in Wolf Hall – and which is rooted in a particular ability that may not be immediately apparent to the average viewer.
‘The one thing they do better than any other actor that I know is listen,’ says the director of Wolf Hall, Peter Kosminsky. ‘In real life you don’t know what the person you’re talking to is going to say next, so we listen very carefully, not least because we have to work out what our next remark should be.
‘The problem for actors is that what is about to be said is known to them – they’ve spent much of the previous day learning it. But somehow they have to make it feel that what they’re about to say flows out of what’s been said to them, and that is about listening.’
Foy in person is much more animated than her facility for silences might suggest. A petite figure, dressed in a black jumpsuit and trainers, we meet for lunch at a hotel in Clerkenwell, where she arrives precisely on time.
There has been a mix-up over booking a table, but we shan’t worry about that, so we sit in the bar, eating crisps, dips and Scotch eggs, which Foy devours – she’s not the least bit regal, and somewhat bemused by the whirl of attention occasioned by the extraordinary success of the Netflix series The Crown.
The second series of The Crown arrives on our screens in December. It is Foy’s swansong in the role. In the third series the Queen will be played by an older actor, yet to be announced. While the first series dealt with the Queen struggling to come to terms with her position, and the conflict between duty and family, the new series concentrates more on her marriage to Prince Philip.
‘They’ve had 10 years of a relationship,’ Foy says, ‘and it’s changed beyond belief from when they first met each other. Rather than just talking to each other, they’re essentially fighting the entire time, which is awful. But it’s also about her advancing into middle age.
The monarchy are weirdly a reflection of us… They are at our whim, we can turn on them in a second.
‘When she first came to the throne she could do no wrong in peoples’ eyes. Then, coming in to the ’60s, it’s more a case of, “Who are you? What are you for? Look at your hair! What on earth are you wearing?” And her going, “I feel a bit frumpy. I’m wearing the same clothes as my mother.” She is realising that she as a person is open to criticism and that the institution is, too. It’s “change or die”, but she’s in a quandary of “I don’t know how to change”.
‘I think that’s the nature of the monarchy as a whole; they are weirdly a reflection of us. A lot of people may think they are incredibly privileged, but they’re at our whim. We can turn on them in a second and you’ve seen it happen time and again, when they’ve carried on and then realised they have to catch up. They reflect public attitudes and they have a responsibility.’
For Foy herself, playing the Queen has also been a process of change, modifying her attitudes to the monarchy. ‘That’s why I think the series is so good; instead of just looking at the institution, it’s looking at them as people, what experiences and challenges they’ve had and what you can learn from how they’ve dealt with things.
‘I don’t think you can take away from her the fact that she has never had a choice to do what she wants to do. She has completely lived for her country, and she’s still working now, at her age, and I really admire that.’
We are meeting to talk about Foy’s new film, Breathe, based on the true story of Robin Cavendish, played in the film by Andrew Garfield, who in 1958 was struck down by polio at the age of 28. Paralysed from the neck down and able to breathe only with the use of a mechanical ventilator, he was given three months to live.
But a year later – against the advice of his doctors – he was able to leave hospital and, thanks to the development of a Heath Robinson-esque mobile ventilator, attain a degree of mobility that enabled him to live at home and even travel abroad.
Supporting his family by playing the stock market, he became a tireless advocate for the disabled, helping to develop numerous devices to provide independence to the paralysed. He lived to the age of 64. Produced by Cavendish’s son Jonathan, Breathe is the directorial debut of Andy Serkis, best known for his motion-capture acting roles as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and as the giant ape in King Kong, and with whom Foy appeared in 2008 in her first major role in Little Dorrit.
It is a remarkable and deeply touching film. Garfield gives an extraordinary performance (most of it lying on his back) as the indestructible Cavendish. While Foy – who is becoming something of a specialist in playing living characters – is superb as his wife Diana.
The couple had been married for only a few months when Cavendish contracted polio; he urged his wife to switch off the machine and build a new life without him. Refusing to let her husband succumb to despair, she nursed, cared for and went on to campaign alongside him.
‘She was very young when they met,’ Foy says. ‘And so suddenly meeting the love of your life, and him saying, “I’m done for,” her reaction was, “Well, you’re not. I know it’s terrible, but trust me. If you’re going to be alive, you’ve got to make the most of it.”
‘How incredible that he was able to come out of that depression and say, “This isn’t the life I wanted, but I’m going to go on living it.”’
Throughout his life, Cavendish was always just three minutes away from certain death – the amount of time he could have survived had his respirator failed due to a power cut, a blown fuse or – as happens in one particularly heart-stopping moment – a playful dog yanking out the plug.
‘That happened,’ Foy says. ‘But thankfully they had a bell that he was able to ring.’
In other emergencies, Cavendish was kept alive by Diana and Jonathan hand-pumping the respirator. True, one thinks, to Cavendish’s indomitable spirit, Serkis injects a light-hearted vein into what could otherwise have been a sombre story.
This includes the presence of Tom Hollander playing identical twins, and a knockabout scene where the family make a hair-raising journey to Spain in their converted Bedford van, to the accompaniment of Lee Marvin’s Wand’rin’ Star.
‘Andy said he wanted to make a cross between The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,’ Foy says with a laugh. Diana is now in her 80s and ‘the most extraordinary woman’, says Foy, who spent time with her to prepare for the role.
‘She doesn’t see herself as a hero at all. I asked her, “What’s the worst thing I could possibly do?” And she said, “Over-sentimentalise it and make me some angel.”
Jonathan said, “I saw my mother cry once, at Christmas, because she was given a kettle as a present.”’ Diana’s precisely modulated upper-middle class tones, and her practical, determined and no-nonsense manner inescapably calls Foy’s role as the monarch to mind.
‘There was a moment when I thought maybe I just can’t do this, because they are similar people in many ways. But there is no way I could have not done the film. ‘It’s the same kind of time period, and they’re a similar generation. They’re both very much: “Don’t complain, just get on with it, suck it up.”
I have more debt than when I was 16… I live beyond my means. My Ocado shops are off the scale
‘You say to Diana, “Did you ever get depressed?” And it’s, “Of course not! Why on earth would I get depressed?” You get up and get on with it and have a cup of tea.’ It’s the war generation. They must just look at us now and think, ‘“My God, you’re going to see a therapist?”’
The daughter of a salesman, Foy was born in Stockport and is the youngest of three – she has a brother and sister – but moved as a child to Longwick in Buckinghamshire. Her parents separated when Foy was two, leaving her mother to bring up the children on her own.
‘I don’t know how she did it. She took a job that meant she could be there for us when we got back from school. She is an extraordinary mum and an extraordinary grandmother. There is not anything she hasn’t given us.’
Circumstances were difficult. ‘I was always very, very aware of money and not having any.’ At 14 she was working for pocket money at the local pub. ‘I always knew there was no money coming from anywhere else, so it was a case of, “Well, I’ve just to get out there and make it myself.”’ She laughs. ‘It makes me sound like I was some sort of pickpocket or something.’
After grammar school, Foy attended Liverpool John Moores University to study drama and screen studies with a view to becoming a cinematographer. But following the advice of her drama teacher to concentrate on acting, she went on to drama school instead. Her first role was a small part in the TV series Being Human, which led to her being handed the title role in the 14-part BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit.
For Foy, the role was a seminal education in learning how to convey more by saying less – or nothing at all. ‘I was playing this character who never, ever asked anything of anyone, and who was a complete angel, really giving, unassuming and shy. But I was like, “That may be the way she acts, but it’s not what she’s thinking.” And I remember Dearbhla [Walsh, the director] saying, “You just need to trust you can convey what you’re thinking without having to move your face.”
‘I don’t need to make exaggerated facial gestures. If you know where your character is coming from and going to, and all those sorts of things, then you can be in the moment and let it happen – you don’t have to do any more.
‘What I love is when you’ve done a scene and you can’t remember what you did. That means you weren’t thinking about the guy holding the boom, or that your shoes were too tight, or “I can’t remember my next line”. That’s the dream – but to try and do that every time is a fool’s errand.’ ‘Trying to be in the moment,’ she adds, is her, ‘constant endeavour in life.’
On Wolf Hall, Kosminsky says the challenge facing Foy was to play a character who was initially deeply unsympathetic.
‘A lot of actors – particularly leads – are very nervous about these roles because they want to be liked by their audience. So they will either avoid them or they’ll try to make them more likeable than they are written. ‘But Claire really went for it. She was able to take you on this journey so you ended up being powerfully moved and affected by Anne, despite her idiosyncrasies.’
Kosminsky recalls talking to Hilary Mantel in the early stages of making Wolf Hall, trying to get ‘some early pointers’ about how to take on the challenge of adapting her book to the screen.
‘She said, “Please remember these people don’t know they’re in history; they’re not playing the ending. They don’t know that every child in Britain has read that Anne Boleyn is parted from her head. She believes that within the vagaries of fate, life and luck, she is master of her own fate. She’s not a historical figure – she’s living her life, just as you and I.” And I think that’s very true of Claire’s Anne – you didn’t feel at any point that she was playing the ending.’
What is also rare in Foy, says Kosminsky, is her ability to move in and out of a role almost at the flick of a switch. ‘She can be chatting quite happily as Claire Foy, then seemingly in a moment switch into character, with no sign whatsoever of any diminution of focus, attention or depth of performance. Then as soon as “cut” is called, switch right out of it.’
Foy offers the theory that as the youngest of three siblings, it was almost pre-determined that she should become an actor. ‘You find a lot of youngest are actors; they’ve been given free rein because a lot of the time with the youngest it’s a case of “take care of yourself – we’ve got a lot on”. But also they’re looking for someone to say “this is who you are”; that feedback that you don’t get otherwise.
‘It has been really weird this past year that suddenly people seem to view me in a different way: “Oh, you’ve been in a successful TV show!” I mean, I was in Little Dorrit then and blah, blah, blah – but I’ve never had that “Pow! Off you go to Hollywood” and all that. I’m just very grateful that it’s happening now, because I know how it works. If it had happened when I was 23 I would have been massively overwhelmed and probably affiliated a lot of my own self-worth with what everyone else thinks about what I do.’
Presumably, she has more pocket money now. ‘I have more debt than when I was 16…’ She would rather like a six-bed house on Hampstead Heath, ‘But unless I have, like, £8.9 million, that’s never going to happen.’ As it is, she lives in a terraced house in north London. ‘I live beyond my means. My Ocado shops are off the scale.’
She is married to the actor Stephen Campbell Moore, whom she met in 2011 when both were in the Hollywood fantasy film Season of the Witch, and who has recently recovered from the removal of a brain tumour. They have a two-year-old daughter. (Foy was pregnant throughout the shooting of the first series of The Crown.)
‘My life has changed extraordinarily since I’ve had a child, but I’ve just been working, really. I mean, I’ve had some time off, but I’m in a cycle – I’m working now, then I have time off, then work again. I always would have wanted to go back to work, but you can’t have it all. If I’d said, “I’m dedicating the rest of my life to you, darling,” then 18 years down the line, it’s, “Bye, see you later.” “What? I gave you everything!’ She laughs. ‘I think it is important to keep that part of yourself, but I wish the hours weren’t so mental.’
Her next role will be playing the astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first wife, in a biopic directed by Damien Chazelle, the director of La La Land. Foy says she ‘is in the throes of an existential crisis’ at the prospect. But at the same time, happy to move on from the role of the Queen that has come to define her.
‘I feel she’s still there, somewhere, deep down, but I can’t wait to see someone else playing it,’ she says. ‘I think it’s going to be weird watching it, and I think I will pine, definitely, but in a good way. I feel very lucky that I played her out of time, when she was younger – I’m not the “Queen Queen” that everybody recognises now.’
I disagree, I joke; she’s made it impossible to look at the Queen without seeing her as an imposter. ‘Well there you go then,’ she laughs, ‘I’m just going to have to take over.’
Hello Giggles – Lots of young actresses dream of wealth and fame. But that was never the end goal for Claire Foy, the British actress whose rise to fame recently skyrocketed after winning a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series The Crown. It’s so popular, even the real Queen watches the show IRL!
Foy has been acting for ten years, mainly in BBC biopics such as Little Dorrit, Upstairs Downstairs, and Wolf Hall. Prestigious, yes, but far from mainstream. But all that changed when she stepped into the Queen’s shoes for The Crown.
We all know that Foy’s performance was brilliant. But the actress says the fact that people watched the series in the States shocked her.
“We knew it got good reviews and people were watching it,” Foy told NYLON. “We knew people in the industry were watching it because we got some lovely emails from colleagues and peers and stuff. But I had no concept of the fact that anyone watched it in America or anything, because it’s thousands of miles away.”
It wasn’t until doing press and hearing her name was announced at the Golden Globes that Foy realized just how many people were watching — and loving — the show.
“When I won, it was a very surreal and slightly disconcerting moment,” she continued. “The thing that I really remember is, I accepted it, walked off the stage, and just kept saying, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, OHMYGOD’ really loudly. And then we won drama series and I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’”
Despite Foy’s surprise, it’s not shocking to us that she won — her performance was stellar.
Luckily, we’ll get to see her work her magic in a bunch of upcoming projects. She stars alongside Andrew Garfield in the new film Breathe, which just hit theaters yesterday.
But that’s not all.
She’ll also play Lisbeth Salander in the forthcoming film The Girl in the Spider’s Web. AND, Damien Chazelle cast her alongside Ryan Gosling in the Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man. Phew!
And of course, we can’t wait to see her reprise the role of Queen Elizabeth II! Season 2 of The Crown hits Netflix in December.
The Sun – The star of the hit Netflix drama says she wouldn’t be willing to support the monarchy if people opposed its existence – and, as well as comparing Queen Elizabeth to Madonna, said she is delighted she doesn’t have to play her any more.
Claire Foy has made some surprising comments about her view on the Queen, whom she plays in The Crown
Mum of one Claire, a Stockport native who identifies as a “commoner”, has played the now-91-year-old monarch for two series, and is now handing over to an older actress.
And explaining why she was more than happy to stop playing the Queen, Claire told The Daily Mail’s Weekend mag: “I need change.
“I need to play somebody who’s able to communicate on a more open level. And that’s not Elizabeth.”
She added: “I’ve been released! I’m no longer her, so I feel like I’ve escaped!”
The Crown has wowed critics, though some fans think it is not critical enough of the monarchy
Asked her general feelings on the British monarchy, Claire was not brimming with praise, and said she wouldn’t “personally” feel inclined to support them.
She said: “I don’t know if the Royal Family will always carry on, and if they don’t, I don’t know that I’d be out there waving a placard saying ‘Save the Monarchy’!”
She went on: “I don’t know whether I’d personally be doing that at all…
“I think the monarchy only works if it’s a source of good, and the British monarchy has done very well at realising that they’re there to serve the public.”
But after playing her for two series – which she never expected to do when the project first came her way – Claire is well aware that Queen Elizabeth is a nuanced character.
Comparing her to a slightly less regal woman, Claire said of the Head of State: “She’s sort of timeless and bias-less, which is how she needs to be… A bit like Madonna, really!”
Claire – who stars in the upcoming Stieg Larsson sequel The Girl In The Spider’s Web – added that she admires the Queen for “making time for herself” by occasionally escaping from her royal duties.
Giving her thoughts on the constraints of the Queen’s life, she explained: “There were moments…. when I really understood that she was trapped where she was, that she couldn’t get out.”
However, Claire’s ability to empathise with the monarch is limited, as she admitted: “Some of the decisions she makes, I struggle with….
“But I think that through making this amazing show I will always have a small understanding of her, but also a huge amount of respect for her because of what she’s had to go through, and how difficult times have been for her.”
Quite unlike her on-screen alter-ego, who she plays for the last time in series two of The Crown this December, Claire says she has worked all kinds of jobs “except medical stuff”, including being a checkout assistant in Tesco.
She said: “[It was a] dream job because I’d always wanted to work on a till – seriously, when I was younger I used to sit and look at tills in the Argos catalogue, I was so obsessed with them.
“So when I started working at Tesco, I was thinking: ‘Okay! Here we go! Ping ping!’. I loved it.”
But now a career in movies and TV means relaxed days with her husband Stephen Campbell Moore and their daughter, who’s two-and-a-half, are “few and far between”.
Series two of The Crown is being released on December 8 on Netflix when it will be available to binge watch.
People – We already knew that the corgis starring in The Crown were talented – they have their own trailer for the new season, after all! But they really seem to have the acting thing down to a fine art.
And their skills are on full display in a certain scene coming up in season 2 of the Netflix drama, which PEOPLE observed during a set visit earlier this year. As Queen Elizabeth, played by Claire Foy, and Jodi Balfour’s Jackie Kennedy wrap up a scene where they have an intimate, get-to-know-you chat, Foy’s character says, “Right, we’re going now.” And in take after take, the dog, resting in her lap, faithfully looked up at her right on cue.
Foy may have the magic touch in capturing the look and character of the Queen’s younger years, but she modestly brushes off praise for the way the corgi behaved in her lap.
“Dogs are quite perceptive and if you talk to them they tend to look in your direction. Often they don’t. That was probably just lucky,” she says. “I definitely don’t have some sort of Dr. Doolittle secret!”
Along with the corgis, the upcoming season features a few new arrivals with the births of Princes Andrew and Edward. Season two will also touch on the Queen’s difficulties to adjusting to a new era on the eve of the ’60s.
“I think [Queen Elizabeth] starts to realize she needs to pay more attention to her personal life now that the other part of her life is going all right,” says Foy.
“The world’s changing faster than anyone can catch up with. There is no letup. She just keeps having to go from one crisis to another to another, and at some point, it’s about five crises at the same time and you have no idea how she manages to get up in the morning,” Foy adds.