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‘Girl in the Spider’s Web’ director on casting ‘Crown’ star Claire Foy



the girl in the spiders 2
Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl in the
Spider’s Web.”


  • “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” director Fede Alvarez talked
    to Business Insider about why he decided to take over the
    franchise after David Fincher walked away following “The Girl
    with the Dragon Tattoo.”
  • He explained why he recast the role of Lisbeth Salander with
    Claire Foy. It was previously played by Rooney Mara.
  • Alvarez, who previously made the “Evil Dead” remake and the
    box office hit “Don’t Breathe,” also touched on why he thinks
    he’s a failure if everyone likes his movies.


On paper, it seems almost like career suicide to take over a
franchise that was once overseen by an auteur like David Fincher.
But in a short time, Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez has proven
he’s never looked to play it safe. 

You only have to go back to his feature debut to see that. In
2013, he remade one of the most iconic horror movies of all time,
Sam Rami’s “Evil Dead,” and didn’t get kicked out of town for
doing it.

Now following his 2016 hit horror, “Don’t Breathe,” he returns to
the pressure of taking on a well-known property. With Fincher
walking away from making a sequel to his 2011 thriller “The Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo” — the first American adaptation of the
popular Millennium book series from the late Swedish author Stieg
Larsson — Sony has enlisted Alvarez to give the franchise a
reboot. “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” (opening in theaters
Friday) skips to the fourth book in the franchise and replaces
Fincher’s moody dark thriller vibe for an action suspense story
and a new lead. Claire Foy, known best for her Emmy-winning
performance as Queen Elizabeth II on Netflix’s “The Crown,” takes
over playing the franchise star Lisbeth Salander from Rooney
Mara, who played the role in Fincher’s movie.

In “Spider’s Web” Foy still plays Salander as a computer-hacking
renegade who avenges abused women, but unlike “Dragon Tattoo,”
she’s now the center of the story with journalist Mikael
Blomkvist (played by Daniel Craig in the Fincher movie, though he
didn’t come back for this one either) in the background. And this
time, the stakes are higher, as Salander must retrieve a program
that can access the world’s nuclear codes before her evil twin
sister, Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks), gets it.

Business Insider talked to Alvarez about making a soft reboot for
a franchise that barely got off the ground, why he never met with
Rooney Mara to see if she wanted to continue playing the Salander
role, and the reason he’ll feel like a failure if everyone likes
the movie.

Jason Guerrasio: What fascinated you about the
project when it came to you?

Fede Alvarez: It was the character of Lisbeth
Salander above all things. Obviously, it’s a very special
character. It’s one that when I saw it for the first time,
probably the first Swedish movie, you fall in love right away.
She confronts you with all your prejudice in a way because when
you see her you never expect to really encounter the character
you will eventually in the story. It’s someone that’s as three
dimensional as they get. That’s one part and I think the other
part is it wasn’t the second book or third book, it wasn’t a
continuation of the last American movie. It was the fourth book
by a different author (David Lagercrantz took over the series
following the death of Larsson) and it’s been eight years since
the last movie. It was the right moment to say I can just do
whatever I want to do with it and I can make it my own

the girl in the spiders web sony
Claire Foy in “The Girl in
the Spider’s Web.”


Guerrasio: So when they came to you they said
they wanted to focus on the fourth book? That’s how it was
pitched to you?

Alvarez: Yeah. If they’d said they wanted to
make the second book, I would have said no. No way. I would never
have even tried to continue Fincher’s story with my eye because
we make different movies. I make pulpier movies. If someone wants
a very dark classic thriller then they should go and rewatch his

Guerrasio: In regards to Lisbeth, what were you
walking into? Was Rooney still going to be involved?

Alvarez: Sony deferred to me, in a way. If I
remember correctly, if they brought back Rooney they would
basically bring back the whole cast. If you bring one you bring
back the whole universe. And casting is a big part of the
director’s job and I never make a movie where I don’t write it. I
write all my films. So with that approach I also have to cast the
movie. I cannot take someone else’s cast. It would be wrong for
me to just use actors that are someone else’s vision of the
characters. In some franchises it’s totally necessary but for
this I didn’t believe it was. 

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Guerrasio: That all being said, Rooney commented in the past that she
was still interested in playing the character, did you talk to
her and get a sense if you two could work together?

Alvarez: No. I never had that conversation. I
think she would not have done it without Fincher. That’s my

Guerrasio: Tell me how you came to casting
Claire as your Lisbeth.

Alvarez: Normally the process is to start
auditioning people. Have them come in for readings. At least
that’s how I do it. To really open it up to anybody. Even looking
at the young actors who just landed in Hollywood. And I think we
did some of that in the beginning of this. But then I saw Claire
in “The Crown” and I felt right away that this is the actor to
play this role. 

Guerrasio: That’s interesting, even her playing
the Queen of England, all prim and proper, you could see that she
could play Lisbeth Slander?

Alvarez: Yeah. Because a director should not
look at the superficial. You don’t look at the clothes or how
they speak or move. You look beyond that, you have to. And what I
saw is this is someone that is really trying to keep feelings to
her own and trying to be secretive of how she really feels
because as the Queen she’s not allowed often to express how she
really feels. I felt the person to play Lisbeth Slander, a
character that doesn’t open up and doesn’t share feelings, you
need an actor who has a technique and has a craft that is so good
that you’re able to have a window into her soul. 

the girl in the spiders web 3
Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist in
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web.”


Guerrasio: I will be honest, the casting of
Mikael was very strange for me. I would assume you would want a
known actor for that part. Can you explain why you went with
lesser-known Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason
for the role?

Alvarez: In the first movies, both the American
and Swedish, although Lisbeth Salander is the most interesting
character in them she’s not the lead, the lead is Mikael
Blomkvist. He’s your way in, he’s the character you love and know
and understand everything. Lisbeth is a muse, is someone that
he’s following. But those movies are not about her. So for such a
feminist icon as Lisbeth I felt like we cannot do that to her
again, this has to be her movie. She has to be in the front. Do
we need Mikael in the movie? Yes. You can’t adapt a Millennium
book without him, but I wanted to make sure he would not
overshadow her. And that’s when you write off any big star. The
star would not just take that screen attention but the star will
usually demand more screen time and perhaps even ask to change
the story so he’s more present in the movie. And that’s not what
I wanted. I wanted Mikael Blomkvist to be what many female
co-leads have been for too long, the damsel in distress. I wanted
him to be that. He’s the one stuck with the kid in the end while
she goes out and saves the world. [laughs]

Guerrasio: A conscious decision, but did you
have to sell that to Sony?

Alvarez: Not really. No. I’ve been lucky that
all the movies I’ve made I managed to make them with total
independence and creative freedom. I just work with studios and
producers that trust me and my decisions and support what I do. I
don’t go to those other Hollywood movies that you are just hired
to do your part and it’s more studio control. I don’t do that.
I’ve never done those and I’m going to keep trying to avoid

the girl in the spiders web 4
Girl in the Spider’s Web” director Fede


Guerrasio: This is not the first soft reboot
you’ve done. You also directed the 2013 “Evil Dead.” Did you take
anything from that experience and put it into making “The Girl in
the Spider’s Web”?

Alvarez: With “Evil Dead,” people loved it or
hated it and that’s something I do with my movies. I never try to
please the whole theater. If I do I think I’ve failed, that I
played it too safe. I always expect some portion of the theater
to walk out pissed. Either feeling offended or the movie did
something that rubbed them the wrong way. I always look for that.
What I learned from that was if I’m faithful to the spirit of the
material then eventually it would be okay. The perception of “The
Girl in the Spider’s Web,” at the moment because of the
comparisons, you always start on the wrong foot. That’s what it
was for “Evil Dead.” You start on the wrong foot because of
people’s expectations. I feel if my heart is in the right place
people will eventually appreciate it. 

Guerrasio: Did the aura of Fincher hang over you
at all while making this? Meaning, you didn’t write something a
certain way or shoot something a certain way because you felt
Fincher would do it that way.

Alvarez: No. Now, he is an executive producer on
this film, but I have never met him or had any conversation with
him. That’s unfortunate, because I’m a big fan of his work. But
no. Directors tend to have a singular vision of how things should
be, at least I am. I feel there’s only one way to do it and I try
to capture that. So there’s really no time to think like that. I
knew that the tone would be so different and the style and plot
that I didn’t have to worry about that. So even if a shot is
similar accidentally, or even on purpose a shot looks like a
Fincher shot, hey, that’s a good problem to have.
[laughs] He’s a master of the craft. But in the context
of the movie, it’s not a Fincher movie. 

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