Why Claire Foy's Lisbeth Salander Is Much-Needed Representation For Sexual Assault Survivors — VIDEO
While conversations rage on about who should be the next actor to play James Bond, a secret agent of another ilk gets a new face in The Girl in the Spider's Web. Claire Foy of The Crown takes Lisbeth Salander's leather jacket from Rooney Mara (who starred in David Fincher's American feature) and Noomi Rapace (who starred in the original Swedish films), and it's a role bound to expand public perception of what the actor — so proper in the Netflix series — is capable of. But while playing Lisbeth requires a punk makeover and some serious stunt action, Foy found her way into the character through the abusive past that shaped her Lisbeth, while taking care not to portray her as a victim.
"It's everything that she is," the actor says during a press junket the day after the movie's international premiere at Rome Film Fest. "I don't mean that to say that she's defined by the experience she's been through, but it's definitely shaped who she is as a person."
Whether you met the hacker first through the book series or the film adaptations they inspired, you know that Lisbeth is a survivor of abuse and a defender of women. The trailer for Spider's Web shows her punishing a man who's been violent towards his wife and to sex workers, literally stringing him up and bleeding his bank account. While the majority of the movie focuses on her involvement in the theft of a computer program that could literally bring about the end of the world through nuclear war, with the reemergence of an important figure from her childhood comes more exposure to Lisbeth's tragic, formative years. No matter how many times she appears on our screens or our bookshelves, the character will carry those experiences, and that's important to Foy. She calls playing her "a real honor."
"I think the more we see people on screen who are real, it allows people to see a movie and recognize their own feelings reflected back at them," she says. "Her approach to herself is entirely based on the experiences that she's had growing up and as a young woman."
It's true that Lisbeth Salander lives in a heightened universe, but the trauma that she lives with is relatable to too many viewers. And though this particular chapter of the franchise doesn't deal directly with that trauma, it's impactful to have survivors at the center of many stories. Considering that the National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that one in three women experience sexual assault in their lives, that demographic is underrepresented in film and TV, especially in narratives that are not about their assaults.
She understands the responsibility in playing this character, as does director Fede Alvarez. He tells Bustle why Foy was the top choice for him when it came to casting such a complex, wounded character. "Lisbeth Salander is not a character that tells you much, that communicates a lot with words," he says. "For that, you need an actor that could be able to play scenes with a fierce quality but could let the audience know through her eyes how scared she is."
You can reconnect with Lisbeth Salander when The Girl in the Spider's Web hits theaters on Nov. 9.