Cast­ing of new Lis­beth helps Spi­der’s Web di­rec­tor start fresh

Story doesn’t de­pend on au­di­ence see­ing pre­vi­ous Dragon Tat­too films

Times Colonist - - Arts - RICK BENT­LEY

When mak­ing The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web: A New Dragon Tat­too Story, di­rec­tor Fede Al­varez knew once he had made the de­ci­sion not to use any of the ac­tors who starred in ei­ther the Amer­i­can or Swedish films based on the book se­ries cre­ated by Stieg Lars­son, he was fac­ing a daunt­ing chal­lenge.

He had to find an ac­tor who could play the tight emo­tional con­trol of Lis­beth Sa­lan­der while get­ting across ev­ery­thing she’s feel­ing to the au­di­ence. He found that in Claire Foy. “Lis­beth is a very min­i­mal­ist per­son. She’s not some­one who shares her feel­ings or has any con­ver­sa­tions that are ex­po­si­tion,” Al­varez says. “You just have to fig­ure it out by look­ing into her eyes.

“That is a rare gift that very few ac­tors have. Claire Foy has it. She can be stand­ing there look­ing at you an­gry and you will know ex­actly how scared she is. How ex­cited she might be. Those feel­ings can only be ex­pressed through her eyes.”

Foy has been show­ing her emo­tions over the past decade through a host of roles since ap­pear­ing in the Bri­tish ver­sion of Be­ing Hu­man. Since then, she has starred in Lit­tle Dor­rit, The Prom­ise, Up­stairs Down­stairs and The Crown. Along with Spi­der’s Web, she cur­rently can be seen play­ing Janet Arm­strong in First Man.

Al­varez met with Foy be­fore film­ing started to talk about the themes of The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web, which in­clude very per­sonal mo­ments for Lis­beth. The hacker finds her­self in a show­down with her sis­ter, Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks), who has taken over the fam­ily’s crime busi­ness.

There’s not much time for fam­ily re­unions as Lis­beth is hired by Frans Balder (Stephen Mer­chant), an Amer­i­can pro­gram­mer who fears for his life be­cause of the soft­ware he cre­ated that can hack any nu­clear ar­se­nal on the planet.

The di­rec­tor al­ways talks with his ac­tors to make sure they have the same vi­sion for the role as he does. It’s some­thing the Uruguayan film­maker has done with his past fea­tures Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe.

The de­ci­sion not to use Rooney Mara or Noomi Ra­pace to play Lis­beth was made eas­ier be­cause The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web is based on the book by David Lager­crantz, who took over the book se­ries af­ter Lars­son’s death.

Al­varez took the change as a sig­nal to look at Spi­der’s Web as a whole new film rather than as a se­quel or re­boot.

“When you tell a story that re­ally doesn’t de­pend on you hav­ing seen the other sto­ries to un­der­stand this one, it is a stand-alone story. It doesn’t over­write any­thing that hap­pens in other movies or con­tra­dict any­thing,” Al­varez says. “It’s just a good en­try point for the au­di­ence.

“As a film­maker, I just see it as a film. A film­maker should never see their work as be­ing con­nected to some­thing else. My start­ing point is just the idea of mak­ing a good film.”

He does con­cede mak­ing a movie based on a book is both good and bad. That the char­ac­ters are well known to au­di­ence mem­bers who have read the books shows they have been tested and the au­di­ence has em­braced them. It does hurt when there were pre­con­ceived no­tions based on el­e­ments in the books that had to be changed in adapt­ing the work to the big screen.

Al­varez’s in­ter­est in mak­ing movies started when he was a seven-year-old liv­ing in Mon­te­v­ideo, Uruguay. It was his 2009 short film Ataque de Pan­ico, which de­buted on YouTube, that sparked in­ter­est in him as a di­rec­tor, and he was signed to helm Evil Dead.

His pas­sion for film­mak­ing grew with each film he made with his VHS cam­era, but he thought mak­ing a liv­ing as a di­rec­tor was not pos­si­ble.

“If you grow up in Los An­ge­les and go to film school it’s re­al­is­tic that one day you will make a film. It’s still hard be­cause so many peo­ple want to make movies,” Al­varez says. “Add the Uruguay ele­ment to that and it makes it even more dif­fi­cult. It had never hap­pened that some­one from over there had started mak­ing movies in Hol­ly­wood.”

In­stead of let­ting that stop him, Al­varez re­al­ized with­out the po­ten­tial for a ca­reer as a film­maker loom­ing over him, he was able to make films driven purely by his pas­sion for the art form. He kept hav­ing fun mak­ing movies un­til his work got spot­ted and even­tu­ally led to his be­ing caught up in The Spi­der’s Web.

ALESSAN­DRA TARANTINO, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fede Al­varez, who grew up in Uruguay, says he never thought he would make a liv­ing as a di­rec­tor.

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