“The world is ready for a vigilante hero like Lisbeth Salander”
The Girl In The Spider’s Web is a first-time adaptation of the recent global bestseller by David Lagercrantz, which continues the acclaimed Millennium book series created by Stieg Larsson, under the direction of rising filmmaking talent Fede Alvarez, the director of 2016’s breakout thriller Don’t Breathe, with a screenplay adaptation crafted by Jay Basu & Fede Alvarez and Steven Knight.
The fierce vigilante star of Stieg Larsson’s massively popular Millennium trilogy of dark, twisty, vengeance-driven cyber-thrillers, and four acclaimed film adaptations, independent hacker Lisbeth Salander is everything we need in a modern hero: smart, resourceful, driven by demons but not defined by them, and possessing a me-against-the-universe attitude that has been more than enough to take down abusive men, hidden killers, and anyone foolish enough to go up against her.
Now, in the blistering thriller The Girl In The Spider’s Web, fans will experience an all new Lisbeth Salander adventure that finds this misfit outsider – 21st century fiction’s most original and complicated warrior for justice — in the middle of her most dangerous and personally revealing crusade yet.
When a scientist employs her to steal his work from the Americans, Lisbeth (Claire Foy) finds herself pulled into a dark and violent web of intrigue after mysterious forces take the data, torch her apartment, and leave her for dead. With her old friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), acting as an unlikely ally, Lisbeth must go on a perilous journey to find her attackers, protect the scientist’s young son, and get back what was taken from her. As the net tightens, she is drawn ever deeper back into the shadows of her own mysterious past.
The bad men of the world take on Lisbeth Salander at their own peril. But for those who need a new kind of hero – the voiceless, the vulnerable — she’s that righteous, volatile rebel we may need now more than ever.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web is the first in the best-selling series to be produced into an English-language film in its initial adaptation. The previous books in the series had been adapted into Swedish-language films, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a remake of the Swedish film. It became a global hit, taking in over $230 million worldwide.
The studio continues its development of the next book in the Millennium series, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye. Columbia Pictures retains the rights to all future Millennium Series books.
The Millennium Series is a worldwide bestseller, with the four books selling over 86 million copies since their debut.
Readers around the world have made the Millennium series of books one of the new century’s greatest success stories in publishing, thanks to the explosive appeal of Stieg Larsson’s memorable creation Lisbeth Salander.
Over four well-received movie adaptations, Lisbeth’s iconic grip on her fans has only deepened, so when David Lagercrantz’s acclaimed continuation of the novels, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, was released in 2015, the next movie in Sony Pictures’ popular franchise practically announced itself.
David Lagercrantz (Author) is a Swedish journalist and best-selling author, internationally known as the author of I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the #1 best-selling The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a sequel of the millennium series.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web, published in the fall of 2015 in a worldwide launch, immediately reached number 1 in the US, UK, France, Germany and Spain among others. It was roundly praised in the New York Times, Guardian, USA Today, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Times, Der Spiegel and Le Monde.
“The world is ready for a vigilante hero like Lisbeth Salander,” says producer Amy Pascal. “She’s a hero for the abused and vulnerable, and does it on her own terms. There’s simply no one like her. The time is right for this movie and there are many more stories to tell.”
At the same time, Sony Pictures was celebrating the box office prowess and creative energy of rising director Fede Alvarez. The producers overseeing the development of the franchise had a deep desire to bring the story into a new direction – one that would stand on its own as an action-adventure while also satisfying the character’s longtime fans.
Fede Alvarez (Director / Screenplay) was born on February 9th, 1978 in Montevideo, Uruguay. He spent his teen years as an amateur filmmaker, using his father’s VHS camera to make shorts with his friends. He quickly grew into local industry figure as a commercial director. In 2010, Fede surprised the world with his short film Ataque de Pánico. It quickly became a viral sensation, landing him his first Hollywood job.
In 2013, Fede wrote and directed his feature directorial debut, a remake of the cult classic Evil Dead, which went on to gross nearly $100 million worldwide. After fielding offers from nearly every major Hollywood studio, Fede decided to make something that was truly his own. In 2016, Fede released Don’t Breathe, a wholly original and suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller, grossing over $160 million worldwide.
In this, they identified Alvarez as a striking new filmmaking talent with right sensibilities for the project, as evidence by Alvarez’s 2013 remake of the horror classic Evil Dead and his original 2016 thriller Don’t Breathe. With the producers’ deep understanding of the material, Alvarez’s ambition to keep pushing the boundaries of genre movies, and the studio’s desire to continue working with a director who had become part of the studio’s family, it only seemed natural to bring Alvarez into the Millennium fold with The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
For Alvarez, the chance to bring his skill with unnerving tension, and knack for charged character dynamics, to a story steeped in drama, suspense, and action, was a perfect fit. The feel of The Girl in The Spider’s Web, he realized, needed to be its own engrossing hybrid of the visceral and emotional.
“The main thing that describes it for me is just that it doesn’t look like anything else, and that’s what I’ve always been looking for as a filmmaker when it comes to choosing a project,” says the director. “And there was something very particular with this one that just gave me the opportunity to make a film that I knew didn’t have to look like anything else. It’s a strange combination of an action movie, a powerful character drama, and a Nordic noir thriller. All these elements combine in a particular way and made it very, very different”
At the top of that list of compelling elements, for Alvarez, was of course Lisbeth Salander, who for the first time takes center stage in one of the Millennium stories as the plot’s chief protagonist, rather than a featured player. “Lisbeth is the reason why I decided to make this film,” says Alvarez. “”She does something that is very relevant for these times, which is, she represents a woman saying: Enough is enough!”.
One of the strongest traits of Lisbeth as a character, says Alvarez, is her sense of fight, something he chose to explore fully and viscerally in Spider’s Web. “Lisbeth does a great job not wanting to become a victim,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how much you throw at her, she will come through – she’ll put up a great fight, which is what you see in this story better than any of the other ones in the past. You will see an iron will. It doesn’t matter how much she gets beat up or thrown back or put on her knees. She will stand up again and keep fighting. And I think that’s a feeling that everybody taps into.”
Tattooed cyber-mercenary Lisbeth Salander is a role that on the page is an actor’s dream job: mercurial, gifted, tough, mysterious, and unconventional in every way, yet fueled by a clear-cut sense of right and wrong. To do bad is to ignite her passion for justice, especially if an evildoer targets the vulnerable. And since Lisbeth is the epitome of the modern superhero, finding the right person to play her was the production’s central challenge – no different than finding the right James Bond or Superman. Which is why Alvarez, along with Pascal, Cantillon, and the rest of the producers of Spider’s Web, were thrilled that “The Crown” star Claire Foy, one of the most captivating acting talents to hit screens big and small in recent years, relished the opportunity to step into the role.
“This is a Lisbeth Salander story we’ve never seen on screen before, and a new interpretation of the character by Claire Foy,” says producer Elizabeth Cantillon. “Claire is fearless in her outward appearance, but she truly becomes Lisbeth in her internal transformation – she becomes this strong heroine with hidden vulnerabilities.”
Alvarez, a fan of “The Crown” and Foy’s award-winning portrayal of the young Queen Elizabeth II, says the British star’s rare gift with deep characterization made her perfect for the undercurrents coursing through Lisbeth Salander. “From her first scene of ‘The Crown,’ I fell in love with the way she was able to tell an emotional story,” says Alvarez. “She has an ability to express a sea of repressed emotion with only her eyes.”
Foy was already a fan of the Millennium novels and the character of Lisbeth. “I loved the books,” she says. “It’s about twelve years ago that I read them. At the time, I was a girl in my 20s and reading about a girl in her 20s. I just found it quite eye-opening, really, and especially a story which focuses around a woman, and that she’s sort of the most interesting person to follow in the story, as well.”
The Lisbeth of The Girl in the Spider’s Web is, in Foy’s view, someone who’s grown since the momentous events of the first three books, but is still in a tenuous state about where she’s come from, and where she’s going. Says Foy, “She’s not a ward of the state anymore. She’s entirely independent. She has a lot of money but I think I see her as pretty lost. She’s a fighter, and I think that for a long time she had something to fight against, and you sort of find her in this film not really having a purpose. So she sort of makes a lot of bad decisions in order to find one. But she’s stronger than she looks. She’s the classic don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover person.”
This movie, says Foy, engages directly with the part of Lisbeth so affected by past trauma that she finds it hard to form relationships, at the same time it sends her on a mission designed to show off her skills as a vanquisher of bad and defender of the wronged. “It’s sort of two parts of Lisbeth’s life massively converging and crashing together in spectacularly awful fashion,” says Foy. “The side of her that is about social justice and righting wrongs and also being spontaneous, and taking the law into her own hands, collides in a huge way with an unresolved part of her past with her sister, and the love she has for her sister, which she denies and which she never wants to be reminded of. So it’s essentially about her running away from her past but then essentially, it’s going to come back.”
When it comes to that combination of fiery determination and social dysfunction, says Fede Alvarez, casting Foy was, to his mind, ensuring that the audience would get a completely unique Lisbeth. “Claire is the one that makes it work,” says Alvarez. “What fascinates me the most about the whole making of movies is knowing Claire as a person, she has nothing to do with Lisbeth, right? They couldn’t be more different in some levels. That says how great of an actress she is, because she could turn into that person, and she understood the character, and she could play it in a way that was fascinating to see every day.”
For Foy, working with Alvarez was an enlivening and enlightening experience. “Lots of people already know it, but he genuinely is a very special director,” says Foy. “He is so musical. He understands filmmaking in a way that is, he’s sort of an audience member but also a director at the same time, which I think is very, very rare. He understands that you need to change the rhythm and the pace of the film in order to communicate something about the story, but also to keep the audience interested, and also to let them learn something else about the character. He just plots it all and knows it all in such a kind of musical way.”
When it came to casting the rest of the movie – whether characters familiar from past installments or new figures in the Millennium orbit — Alvarez sought an approach that not only considered the best performer for each role, but that took into account authenticity to the narrative’s European origins. Says Alvarez, “My main goal was to really try to find the best actors I could, above fame and who was the most famous actor. And also, we wanted to make it legit, meaning, if we’re going to have some of these characters from a lot of different countries in Europe, let’s try to get them from there. It was exciting to find a Mikael Blomkvist who was actually Swedish!” (Gudnason is Icelandic-Swedish.)
That would be Sverrir Gudnason, fresh from his breakout role as Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg in “Borg/McEnroe,” and now tasked with bringing to life Stieg Larsson’s intrepid journalist hero Mikael Blomkvist, sympathetic friend and uneasy ally to Lisbeth Salander. For Gudnason, Blomkvist is “like Lisbeth, a righter of wrongs,” and, in the universe of the stories, “probably one of the only persons Lisbeth trusts. Of course, they’re very different. But they share the same morals. He’s looking for justice.”
Gudnason continues, “At the beginning of the story, he’s kind of on the downhill. He’s drinking too much and getting pushed out of his own magazine by clickbait journalists. And he hasn’t seen Lisbeth for about three years. But she steps back into his life asking for help, and that kind of reignites him and makes him come alive again.”
Alvarez says Gudnason brings “a different freshness” to the role of Blomkvist, a character the director admires for how he relates to Lisbeth. “He doesn’t question Lisbeth at all, which is amazing about how they get along. He just accepts her as she is. It’s a very human quality, and when I met [Sverrir] he connected pretty great with the character. With Claire, they had amazing chemistry on camera. It was beautiful to see it happen.”
Claire Foy found in Gudnason a genuine partner in finding the truth in any given scene. “He’s just there and engaged, and he’s a very clever man, anyway,” says Foy. “He’s just a brilliant actor, amazing.”
Gudnason, likewise, has nothing but praise for Foy and her portrayal of Lisbeth. “She’s not only a brilliant actress,” says Gudnason. “She’s so focused and determined, and really gets into the character. She really made Lisbeth Salander her own Lisbeth. But Claire is such a nice person and so easy to work with.”
His admiration extends to Fede Alvarez, too, whom Gudnason calls “a brilliant director. He’s very incredibly smart and he has a clear vision of what he wants to do. And he gently guides you in that direction. From his earlier films, he’s of course bringing a lot of tension to this project, so it was nice a pleasure working with him.”
Jay Basu (Screenplay) first rose to prominence in the UK for writing several high-profile scripts including GBH and Bad Traffic. After writing an action/epic of Dante’s Inferno for Fede Alvarez and a script for Chris Morgan, he moved to LA as part of Universal’s Monster’s Program. Since then, he has rewritten Red Queen for Universal and has adapted Joe Hill’s The Fireman for Fox. Basu’s current feature projects include Labyrinth for Fede Alvarez to direct at Tristar and the Joe Hill adaptation The Fireman for Temple Hill to produce at Fox. In television, he is working on an original pilot for 42 and ITV to produce.
Steven Knight (Screenwriter) is a writer and director. In 1988, Knight and Mike Whitehill started a freelance writing partnership providing material for television and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” (co-created by Steve and produced by Celador) won awards around the globe including a BAFTA, National Television Awards, Indie Awards, Broadcast Awards, New York Festival, Silver Rose of Montreux and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
Knight has had four novels published. The Movie House, Alphabet City, Out of the Blue and, in 2011, his first children’s novel, The Last Words of Will Wolfkin.
Knight’s first screenplay, Dirty Pretty Things, directed by Stephen Frears, premiered at the 2002 Venice Film Festival to outstanding reviews and was selected to open the prestigious London Film Festival. His first stage play, “The President of an Empty Room,” directed by Howard Davies, opened at the National Theatre, London in 2005. Two more screenplays were released in 2007. Amazing Grace, directed by Michael Apted, and Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg.
Other screenplays include– The Hundred Foot Journey (directed by Lasse Hallström) released in 2014, Pawn Sacrifice (directed by Ed Zwick) premiered at the Toronto Film Festival 2014, Seventh Son (directed by Sergei Bodrov) and Burnt (directed by John Wells) both in 2015 and Allied (directed by Robert Zemeckis), a WWII thriller, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard released in 2016. The November Criminals (directed by Sacha Gervasi), an adaptation of the book by Sam Munson, in 2017 and Woman Walks Ahead (directed by Susanna White).
Knight is also the creator and Executive Producer/writer on BAFTA award-winning Peaky Blinders, starring Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Paul Anderson. It also won the TV Choice Awards in 2018 for Best Drama Series and Best Actor The fifth season is currently shooting and will air next year on BBC1.
He’s also the Executive Producer/creator/writer on BBC series “Taboo,” which starred Tom Hardy.
He has directed and written his directorial debut, Hummingbird, and , Locke, with Tom Hardy.
His new film (written and directed), Serenity, starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, will be released in January 2019.