Article taken from The Irish Times.
To the Rome Film Festival for the world premiere of The Girl in the Spider’s Web. You picture limousines jockeying for position on the Via Veneto. You imagine some successor to Marcello Mastroianni elbowing his way towards a descendent of Anita Ekberg. You know? Like in La Dolce Vita.
The reality is different. It may come as a surprise to learn that the Rome Film Festival came into being as recently as 2006. Nobody is likely to confuse it with its much older, much more distinguished cousin in Venice. Particularly not tonight. The premiere is taking place at the Parco della Musica, a few miles to the northeast of the ancient city. Renzo Piano’s trio of buildings, rounded in the style of enormous slugs, is elegant, but the grounds – around which the red carpet winds – offer too many suggestions of a German industrial park. Marcello stares sadly from a poster as Sigourney Weaver, here for some presentation or other, makes her way past modest huddles of fans in Ghostbusters costumes.
Lisbeth – a better Batman than the current Batman – speeds her way about the meaner streets of Stockholm
The interior is stranger still. It’s a very nice concert hall. But it’s inarguably a concert hall. When Claire Foy, who plays Lisbeth Salander in the latest addition to the Millennium series, arrives in glory we half-expect her to pull out a fiddle and give us a few bars of Mozart’s Third.
She doesn’t. But Fede Álvarez’s film is odd enough in itself. Adapted from David Lagercrantz’s continuation of Stieg Larsson’s blockbusting trilogy, the picture sends the tattooed avenger in pursuit of evil computer hackers as they plot to access the world’s nuclear arsenal. Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist who once seemed the series’ protagonist, is edged into the wings while Lisbeth – a better Batman than the current Batman – speeds her way about the meaner streets of Stockholm.
So, how did we get here? The three original Swedish films, starting with The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, did respectable overseas business and made a mid-level star of Noomi Rapace. Then David Fincher set to work on his characteristically miserable, shadowy and overlong English-language version. Seven years after that film’s release, we have jumped past the succeeding two Larsson novels – the writer died in 2004 after sampling only a smidgeon of the success to come – and moved onto Lagercrantz’s indifferently received continuation. Foy replaces Rooney Mara. Sverrir Gudnason replaces Daniel Craig in the role of Blomkvist.
The day after the premiere, Álvarez, Uruguayan director of the excellent horror Don’t Breathe, is being diplomatic about the complex shenanigans.
“I know they tried and probably Fincher didn’t find a script he wanted to do,” he says. “Then I was presented with a script by Stephen Knight for the fourth. I would never have made a film of the second or the third because the stories are direct continuations.”
Yeah, all right then. It would not require enormous reservoirs of cynicism to conclude that some downsizing has taken place. The Fincher film took in a relatively disappointing $231 million (€201 million). The release was not a disaster for the studio, but it was underwhelming enough for Gary Barber, then chief executive officer of MGM Holdings, to admit: “it is below our expectations and we booked a modest loss”.
Nonetheless, Fincher was still making noises about a possible sequel when promoting Gone Girl in 2014. “I think because [Sony] already has spent millions of dollars on the rights and the script it will result in something,” he said. “The script that we now have has huge potential. I can reveal as much, as it is extremely different from the book.” Mara also declared herself available, but The Girl Who Played With Fire never got to the starting grid.
Made for less than half of the $90 million (€78.3 million) that Fincher ate up on Dragon Tattoo, the new film is leaner, faster and less up itself. They have done well in their lead. Still best known for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown, Foy whitens her face, teases her hair and squeezes her vowels to play convincingly against her assumed type.
She does sound less posh than the queen, I’ll give her that
“I have an aversion to be being told I have to look a certain way to be an actress,” she says. “It might be nice to play somebody glam . . . That was never something I thought was important. I did what I always do with Lisbeth: I fought for what I thought was right. I didn’t need to be looking approachable.”
Wearing striking green jeans that might be made from leather (like I know), Foy looks at home in Rome’s eye-wateringly swanky Eden Hotel. She is articulate, polite and interested. Ask her a question and she’ll poke through the undergrowth in search of an answer. The familiar pinched features from The Crown wrinkle at less welcome questions, but she is never unfriendly.
I wonder if people expect her to be posh.