How #MeToo shaped Claire Foy’s take on Lisbeth Salander in ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’
November 8, 2018
Article taken from USA Today.
NEW YORK – In “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” Claire Foy trades the upper crust for uppercuts as the fist-throwing, computer-hacking, dragon-tattooed vigilante Lisbeth Salander.
Riding a motorcycle and shooting fight scenes for the crime thriller (in theaters Friday), “I ended up doing a lot of the (stunts) myself,” says the actress, who won an Emmy Award in September for playing Queen Elizabeth II on Netflix’s “The Crown.”
“I am the new Tom Cruise,” she says. “Just kidding. Please don’t take that out of context.”
“Spider’s Web” is adapted from the 2015 novel by David Lagercrantz, which itself is a continuation of the late Stieg Larsson’s best-selling “Millennium” trilogy. The latter books were adapted as a Swedish-language film series starring Noomi Rapace and later into 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. Although the American remake netted strong reviews and a best-actress Oscar nomination for Mara, it underwhelmed at the box office and two planned sequels were scrapped.
Now, the movie franchise has been rebooted with fourth book “Spider’s Web,” which picks up with a more monastic Lisbeth than viewers might remember. Far removed from her incendiary detective work with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) in “Dragon Tattoo,” Lisbeth has largely retreated to her cavernous warehouse apartment in Stockholm, save for the occasional lover and vengeful act against so-called “men who hate women.” But she’s brought out of semiretirement to hack into a defense program containing nuclear codes, which are coveted by ruthless Russian mobsters and her long-lost evil sister, Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks).
As a fan of the previous big-screen installments, Foy, 34, initially was skeptical of reviving the series.
“I was like, what else is there to do? It’s been done, and I thought Rooney’s and Noomi’s performances couldn’t get better,” Foy says. But after meeting with director Fede Alvarez (2016’s horror hit “Don’t Breathe”), “I re-read the books and started to think about things I had never really thought about the character.”
By the time she walked onto the set just two weeks after wrapping Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man” (in theaters now), “I felt sort of like the custodian of Lisbeth, like if I didn’t stand up for her, no one else was going to.”
Production on “Spider’s Web” started in January, just three months after the #MeToo movement upended Hollywood and forced men to reconsider how they treat women. As a result, the director says, “I felt a big responsibility, more than ever, to really listen to (Foy) and not create a female character out of my own male imagination and fantasy. So when it came not just to the look, but the way we shot the movie and portrayed her character on screen, we wanted her to have a big say in a character that means a lot to a lot of women.”
The British native took her role seriously: forgoing the punk-rock chic wardrobe of past Lisbeth incarnations for more practical, grown-up clothes, which she paired with a moppish haircut and minimal tattoos and piercings. And while the character does appear naked at times, Foy questioned the necessity of sex scenes in the script, which Alvarez in turn cut.
“I probably made everyone’s life quite difficult because I sometimes just refused to do things that felt wrong for Lisbeth – I didn’t want to wear that or put that makeup on, and that didn’t feel right,” Foy says. “But I’m really pleased I did, because it keeps the essence of the character.”
Foy bristles at suggestions that Lisbeth’s anti-misogynistic message is made for this cultural moment. (“It’s reductive,” she says. “#MeToo is the culmination and continuation of something that’s been going on for hundreds of years.”) But she does acknowledge the movement and the character have helped give her confidence in her own voice.
In this past year, “I have noticed a huge difference in my own faith that I am allowed to speak up,” Foy says. “It doesn’t mean that I’m a terrible person or that I’m rocking the boat. It just means that I have just as much right as anybody else on set to say, ‘I’m not sure this is right, actually. Is there not something we should do about this?’ And if I say that, people have to listen; you can’t ignore someone.
“And I never felt like that before. I kept my mouth shut: ‘Don’t say anything, smile, be nice to everyone and don’t cause trouble.’ And I hope that now, other people feel (empowered) as well.”
In March, Foy became an unwilling face of the #TimesUp movement, when it was revealed that her “Crown” co-star Matt Smith was paid more than her, though he had less screen time as Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip. (Despite reports that she would receive $275,000 in back pay, Foy told Al Arabiya several months later that she never received it.) Although Foy wasn’t surprised by the outrage over the wage gap, it’s still not a subject she wishes to dwell on.
If she’s learned anything from the experience, it’s that “the conversation goes on,” she says, shaking her head. “I’m not ashamed of it, but at the same time, I don’t know what else I can say. I’m very pleased that there’s a very strong example of (wage inequality) out there. That I’m involved in it, well, then, so be it.”
Now in the thick of promoting “Spider’s Web” and “First Man” – for which she’s widely predicted to earn a supporting-actress Oscar nomination, playing aggrieved housewife Janet Armstrong – Foy has no future projects lined up. She’s focused on parenting her 3-year-old daughter, Ivy Rose, whose dad is her ex-husband, actor Stephen Campbell Moore.
Having worked continuously for the past several years, “if I walked onto set right now, I’d be useless,” Foy explains. “I just need to get back to reality for a bit and be myself.
“There’s nothing on the table at the moment, but I’m also willing to fall back in love with (acting) as soon as I need to.”