Lisbeth Salander is returning to the big screen this year in The Girl in the Spider's Web, and this time The Crown star Claire Foy is taking on the role of "the girl who hurts men who hurt women." The Girl in the Spider's Web marks the first adaptation of one of the Millennium books since David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and is the first ever adaptation of this particular novel, which was written by David Lagercrantz. Fede Alvarez (Don't Breathe) co-wrote and directed the film, which was shot at Babelsburg Studio outside Berlin, and Screen Rant paid a visit to the set earlier this year, where we had a chance to speak to the cast and creative talent.
During our visit, Foy was filming the scene that kicks off the recent trailer for The Girl in the Spider's Web. Lisbeth tracks down a powerful, wealthy man who has been abusive to his wife and other women, and hangs him from the ceiling by his feet. As a measure of both disguise and intimidation, she has a splash of white facepaint over her eyes, has hair in a mohawk, and is wearing black leather tactical gear. It makes for quite an impressive sight, and during a break in filming we sat down with Foy to find out more about this latest incarnation of Lisbeth Salander.
- This Page: Lisbeth's Look, The Previous Movies, and Lisbeth Salander in the Age Of #MeToo
- Page 2: Lisbeth's Sister, Lisbeth's Relationship With Blomkvist & 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 what it's evoking?
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. 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 been 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?
CF: 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 three 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..." It's very specific, what she finds galling, and she wants to right that wrong.
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?
CF: 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, does this actually fit with who she is?"
I 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, 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. Is the whole purpose to do something different here?
CF: No, I think this 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, 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.
This falls within a certain period in the entertainment industry, with #MeToo. How do you feel about this coming out in November and this presenting a very strong female, action-led drama. And in the midst of that, Lisbeth, 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... this story's been around for well over a decade... 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.
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 this character has always been around, 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 experienced what a lot of women experience. But she's able to right the wrongs, I suppose, and it's about seeing that fulfilled. But this film hasn't come out yet, so I don't know what the reaction's going to 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.
- The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018) release date: Nov 09, 2018