It’s been eight years since Lisbeth Salander last surfaced on the big screen as part of a big English-language adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now she’s back in The Girl in the Spider’s Web (in theaters November 9; tickets now on sale) – this time portrayed by The Crown actress Claire Foy – in a more explosive story that centers on Salander and the complicated history she has with her own family.
Lisbeth is unlike any character Foy has played before, and according to director Fede Alvarez, part of why they cast her was because of that: she wasn’t who you’d expect. For Foy, who spoke exclusively to Fandango about taking on such an iconic role, there was a lot about Lisbeth that intrigued her. “She’s the kind of character who stays with you,” Foy said. “You know how if you really like something, you can’t stop thinking about it? I think I was really interested in her vulnerability and the idea that her subconscious was driving her all of the time and that there was deep, deep, deep pain in her past that she hadn’t quite faced.”
Below, we chat with Foy about how she Lisbeth has evolved since the last time we saw her on screen, as well as future sequels, swiping a biker jacket from set and exactly how long it takes to put on that dragon tattoo.
Fandango: When did Lisbeth first enter your life? Had you read the book or watched one of the earlier movies?
Claire Foy: I read all the books, so it must’ve been about ten years ago, maybe. Right when this movie came out, maybe … no, about twelve years ago. I read those books, and I loved them, and then the Swedish movies came out quite soon after, and I watched them all. I just thought they were amazing. I thought they were so … She was such a fascinating character and the intrigue, and I just found her really compelling. Then also with the U.S. version with Rooney Mara, and I watched that. Then this came along.
Fandango: Did you think at that time that this would be a great character to play? Did that cross your mind at all?
Claire Foy: No. I think it’s very difficult watching those movies to think that. I think the performance is so incredible that you just believe those women completely, utterly.
Fandango: What was the central attraction for you when it came to playing Lisbeth? Was it because it was so different from anything that you’d played before, or was it something else?
Claire Foy: There’s a lot about her that I recognized. There’s a lot of her that I thought I wanted to investigate. She’s the kind of character who stays with you. You know how if you really like something, you can’t stop thinking about it? I think I was really interested in her vulnerability and the idea that her subconscious was driving her all of the time and that there was deep, deep, deep pain in her past that she hadn’t quite faced.
Fandango: Was there anything unique or unexpected that you did in order to prepare to play her? Did you watch anything or read anything or listen to anything specific?
Claire Foy: I tried to find as many firsthand accounts of things that she’d been through, which is obviously very difficult, because what she’s been through is so traumatic. The books, for me, were the main resource. I read them over and over again. I find it interesting rereading them as I was trying to, you know, dissect them and dissect her, as opposed to just as a reader. That was kind of fascinating to me to do that. And yeah, there was a lot of accent work and physical training into it, as well.
Fandango: Speaking of the physical training, how would you say Lisbeth has evolved since we last saw her in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? She is definitely more physical than she was in that movie.
Claire Foy: In the books, she becomes more physical. She already did boxing, but with her wealth that she has now accumulated and with her freedom that she now has after the episodes in the final book, she now has free movement, and so she takes up kickboxing and things like that. She’s still not a physically strong person, but she has what she’s always had, which is her ability to fight to the bitter end. She’ll try and defend herself. Even if she’s overcome by someone much stronger, she’ll still be trying to figure out a way to fight until the end.
Fandango: Was there a specific thing that you did or you went to to help you get into her mindset when you were getting ready to play her on set? Did you listen to a song and that helped you find her? Was there something that you did that helped you find her immediately?
Claire Foy: No. There’s no immediate thing for Lisbeth. You have to get to know your character the same way you have to get to know people. Sometimes it’s instantaneous, but Lisbeth is such a concept character that there were many ways in. She’s not a musical person. She doesn’t listen to music, which I found really difficult, because I’m very driven by music, and it means a lot to me when I’m making characters, and so I had to choose songs that she wouldn’t listen to herself but that I thought encapsulated her, which was really important to me. A lot of the things, like learning to touch type, learning to fight, learning to pretend to ride the motorcycle, all informed me about her character.
Fandango: How long does it take to put on the dragon tattoo, and did you only wear it for scenes where you can see it, or did you have it on you the whole time?
Claire Foy: I didn’t have it on the whole time. They’re pretty expensive, but most of the other tattoos I had on all the time. Ultimately, for parts of the movie, you do end up seeing it. I’d have it on for days at a time. I think we got it down … All the tattoos and the hair and makeup, we probably got down to about two hours in the makeup chair. But I was really proud of it. It was something that we designed and did together, so it was something I was really proud of, in the end, was the look.
Fandango: Is there anything of Lisbeth that you’re holding onto and that you maybe took away from the movie, to remember playing her?
Claire Foy: I had the undercut for a long time, and that’s finally grown out. I may have taken one or two leather biker jackets.
Fandango: You know, it’s been seven years since the last time we saw Lisbeth on the big screen. What is it about this story and maybe also this moment in our world that makes it the right time to bring her back?
Claire Foy: I think there’s so much here. Elizabeth and Amy, the producers, really always understood that Lisbeth is a completely fascinating character, and there’s so much to still learn from her and to understand about her. I think anytime is a moment to bring her back. I think the world is interested in their different and varying female stories with female heroines involved.
Fandango: What do you hope that audiences are talking about when they leave the theater?
Claire Foy: The movie, hopefully, and not the popcorn. I think it’s very much Fede’s film, and he’s put a lot in there to thrill and to excite and to make people question possibly their own choices and decisions and relationships they have in their own life and whether they would make the same choice, I suppose.
Fandango: Is Lisbeth someone that you would want to play again? Do you feel like there are aspects of her that you’re still itching to explore?
Claire Foy: Oh, yeah. I will always be. She’s deeply fascinating. Yeah, I will always be looking to explore more and find out more about her. Yeah, forever.