Lisbeth Salander is back in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, and if you’re a fan of the best-selling Millenium series, you know that means Mikael Blomqvist is back again too. This time, the characters are played by The Crown breakout Claire Foy and and Borg vs. McEnroe star Sverrir Gudnason, repsectively, and they’ve got some new characters joining them in the tale of mystery and conspiracy.
There’s Blade Runner 2049 star Sylvia Hoeks as Lisbeth’s estranged sister Camilla, a mysterious force who comes back into Lisbeth’s life in a big way during the film, and Atlanta star Lakeith Stanfield as Ed Neeham, the bristly NSA agent on the hunt for Salander. Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez takes the helm for The Girl in the Spider’s Web, adapted from the fourth book in the series, which has never before been brought to screen.
Back in March, I had the opportunity to visit the set of The Girl in the Spider’s Webin Berlin, Germany and sit down for a chat with the trio to talk about their characters (or what little they could reveal), what Foy brings to Salander, and working with Alvarez on the film. Stanfield talked about playing NSA Agent Ed Needham and how his path crosses with thevigilante hacker , Gudnason spoke about bringing a new iteration of Blomkvist to the screen and how reconnecting with Salander ignites something in him again, and well, to be honest Hoeks couldn’t talk much about playing Lisbeth’s long-lost sister Camilla at all, but she did discuss why she thinks Camilla is so different from her Blade Runner 2049 character Luv. Check out what they had to say in the full interview below.
Each of you have a slightly different relationship with Lisbeth – and maybe mixed feelings in certain cases. Can you just talk about what that dynamic is for each of you? I mean you’re hunting her down.
STANFIELD: Yeah. My character just wants to find her to secure some very precious cargo that she’s stolen, that could potentially hold in the balance the future of the world. And so really his motivation is to stop it from getting into the wrong hands, and he assumes that it might have been in the wrong hands, having been taken by who he finds out is Lisbeth. So he just spends his time knocking down trees, jumping over fire pits, rolling around in the snow, trying to find this woman. His relationship with her… it changes throughout the story and becomes one of like – first of all, who is this unknown entity? And then he finds out who it is, and then they develop a little partnership.
Does he have an admiration for her, as a fellow computer nerd?
STANFIELD: Who doesn’t? Yeah, I think so. I think he’s very in awe of what she’s able to pull off, the things she’s able to accomplish. He’s like, “How does one person do all of this?” So, I think there’s a little admiration, although I don’t think he might admit it.
As her estranged twin sister, can you talk about some of the mixed feelings that Camilla might have?
SYLVIA HOEKS: In my view, she really missed her a lot. I think that is the most that I can tell you about this character [laughs]. It’s hard to tell you a lot without revealing anything – I’d like to! But I think they’re both very intriguing characters and I think they support each other in their history, but they have such a past that it would be hard to reconnect.
We saw a glimpse of some flashback scenes, to their childhood. Is that something we’re going to see a lot of – where they came from and their relationship with their father?
HOEKS: I think that’s what this film is really also about, is the past and what we see of the past, there’s a lot of Lisbeth’s past revealed through this film, and Camilla’s a big part of that. I think what we know of Lisbeth is she’s a very strong female character that represents kind of a Robin Hood, but for women, abused women. She’s striving for them, and I think in a time like this, that’s very important. And to have another strong female character next to her that reflects on her past and the pain that she has… that is something that we want to know and we want to learn more about.
STANFIELD: Some damn good times with this movie, huh?
What’s your take on that [to Gudnason]?
SVERRIR GUDNASON: I play Blomkvist, the journalist and editor of the magazine,and Blomkvist and Salander had a lot to do with each other in the past and she’s a very, very special person for him. She’s his fuel, in a way. And when she needs his help, he’s always there to do what he can.
In the book, Blomkvist is kind of under fire for being a bit of a dinosaur – like he’s not on Twitter or anything.
GUDNASON: Yeah, I mean he kind of lost his mojo in the beginning of the story, but re-teaming with her and starting this mission gets him going again.
Is he kind of the entry point? Because in the book there’s a lot of technological jargon.
GUDNSON: I would say he’s probably one of the- he might be the only normal person in the movie, for sure.
HOEKS: [Laughs] What is normal?
We’ve seen Lisbeth and Blomkvist’s relationship explored before in films. Is this a little different than we’ve seen their dynamic before?
GUDNASON: I mean, they share a very special bond, and I can’t really reveal how it’s done in this movie but I can say that they’re very, very special to each other.
You were talking about how you couldn’t have predicted things would have happened the way they did over the past several months in the entertainment industry, but what do you imagine the conversations will be like by November, and how welcome will this character be?
HOEKS: I really think that for women and the characters that are written for actresses, I think there’s a really good vibe and a really good wave of interesting female characters, and I think this movie’s one of them. And [Lisbeth] was one of the first few great female characters in cinema, so to see another film of her will be fantastic to have that legacy going forward. And I think in a time like this it will hopefully be more applauded and seen. And I would be very happy if this wave continues and women are able to support each other, because it’s a long time ago that we’ve been competitors and our husbands hunting for meat and we’re protecting our family and not having sex with someone else over there – you know? That’s a long time ago. So women are able to have their own careers and support each other, and I’ve always felt very strongly about that. So, I’m hoping that this whole wave will be good for that, and I think a film like this will be important for them too.
Bringing it back to Ed – in the book he’s quite an abrasive character, he’s not very popular in the workplace because he’s a bit of an asshole. Is that the same in the movie or is he a little bit more mellow?
STANFIELD: I don’t view him as an asshole. I think he just doesn’t take time and engage in small talk too much… just getting straight to the point. I think he has to be to do the kind of work he does. Of course, he deals with information and a lot of sensitive, high-security type thing. So you could maybe get a cold disposition from him, he could maybe be perceived that way because he doesn’t spill his guts out and talk about things, and he would probably need to be a less emotional person to do the work that he does. So maybe one might view him that way, but I view him as actually just a person who takes his time and moves fast, if that makes sense.
GUDNASON: I love when an actor defends his character.
STANFIELD: Yeah, I mean I just- I couldn’t play an asshole, I think he’s just a part of me that, like I said, takes its time and moves fast. You got to get shit done but you have to wait for power move, which gives him this coolness, you know, it seems like- and then he might just [mimes zig-zagging]. So yeah, it’s fun.
Can you guys talk a bit about working with Fede and how he works with you guys on performance?
GUDNASON: He’s just a great person and a great director, I love working with him. He started this whole shoot off with a Uruguayan barbecue, and you kind of sensed immediately that he was good to work with, very talented and had his heart in the right place.
Is he a little hands-off – like he casts you and lets you do what you want?
STANFIELD: He’s been getting on my nerve since we started this thing. [Laughter]. No, it’s a great collaboration, really, and one that I really cherish, and you don’t always realize how much you will appreciate a director and their discussions with the character about you until it happens… He’s just so intelligent and aware of the story and all its many details in a way that I think a director should be. And it’s nice, I haven’t worked with a director quite like him. And his visual style is so good, I think he’s a good actor’s director because he sees things visually before they happen, and that’s important, so I’m not always having to run back to the monitor to make sure I’m still within the vision, he kind of already has that there. And that’s nice, it’s a nice gift.
I did a set visit for Don’t Breathe where he was cutting as he went along, cutting little trailers for the movie during the production. Has he done that for this at all?
STANFIELD: I don’t know. I don’t think so…
HOEKS: I think they are editing while they’re filming. I don’t know, I don’t ever hear anything about that, but he is very… he’s very clear in a very kind way. So he kind of lets you do your own thing, and if you ask him, if you really want more ideas and he has a different opinion he’ll be very clear about that, but in a very calm way. So there’s a safe feeling that you can do and talk about anything.
STANFIELD: And he’s really open and malleable too, like there were certain parts of the story that I thought initially didn’t make very much sense, or certain things that Needham might do or situations he might be in that I didn’t really feel went with the character. And I would voice them, and we would change the fabric of scenes, and whole things were able to change just based on some notes I was giving. So not only did he have a vision, but he was listening and able to dance with us, and that’s equally important because you don’t want to feel like you’re running into a brick wall.
We know something about the technology at the center of the film, the MacGuffin. Why is it we keep building Skynet?
STANFIELD: [Laughs] I don’t know, man, transhumanism, man, it’s a real thing. I don’t know, but the world is scared. You know, sometimes movies like this provide a little insight as to where we might be going when it comes to certain things, and technology in particular… I remember reading a part of the script and being like, “I could see that being a real thing. It’s crazy, but I could see it.” I wish I could tell you guys what it is, but you shall see. But yeah, I could definitely see that in the next five to ten years, being real – if it’s not already real. They could have some military insight that I don’t know about.
HOEKS: We’re trying to create fantasy and not reality, and sometimes the two of those go together and you’re actually scared of that happening in real life.
One of the things that everyone loved about Luv [in Blade Runner] was that she was very ruthless and vulnerable at the same time. Are there any similarities with this character…?
HOEKS: No! [Laughs] I mean, the similarity is me playing the part, I guess.
Sure. She looks very similar.
HOEKS: Yeah, I still have bangs! No, I really wanted to create a blank- kind of a new palette for Camilla. Hence the bleached eyebrows and the bleached hair… I wanted to really have a new instrument to play with, and she has some similarities in a certain kind of pain, but I think every human being does and we can identify with that. And I just found this character very compelling and very intriguingly helpful to the story and when I read the part I was really just, “Yeah, that’s me, I want to play that.” So when I think of Luv and being afraid of doing the same thing, it’s not the same thing, but of course she has some similarities in her way of viewing certain things. When I read the script I really felt very close to Camilla.
Do we see a lot of the politics of the magazine, because in the books there’s kind of a takeover happening and they’re trying to change the identity of the magazine.
GUDNASON: Yeah, yeah, that’s really how it starts, with Blomkvist getting pushed out of his magazine. For me, playing the character, it’s been played before by two people, and you can ask every actor who’s done a character in a revival of a famous play, to take over a part is something special. I’m a big fan of Daniel Craig’s, but also for me stepping into the shoes of Michael Nyqvist, who was a good friend of mine and who died recently, is a big thing for me.
What kind of stage is Blomqvist at in his life in this movie. Is he a little bit jaded perhaps?
GUDNASON: I would say he’s a little bit down on his luck when it starts. But then of course reteaming with Salander gives him some fuel.
Can you guys talk a bit about what Claire brings to the performance and how her iteration is unique?
STANFIELD: I think Claire, for me, what’s been valuable to see in her is the way she acts off-screen, her countenance, and how she’s always in a very balanced mood, as far as I’ve seen. And it’s been quite nice. A lot of times the tone is set by the lead and sort of created for the rest of us, and they’re going through the heaviest workload, so if they’re able to show up and have a good time sometimes your insecurities as an actor, which – I don’t know about anybody else but I’m full of them sometimes! – are sort of done away with by being surrounded by someone who just does it so effortlessly but also still is able to, when they call cut, just be fine. You know, it’s a really big story, a really big project, so it’s easy to get nervous about a lot of things, but with her and Fede together it’s like you just feel cool. And so I thought that was important, I sort of clocked that and thought it was cool.
HOEKS: Yeah, it’s true, she’s all about the work and she’s- I don’t want to say she’s serious, because she’s a lot of fun – but she really comes across as somebody who takes on this character in their own way. She sees what she sees in the character and really goes for that. And then discussing our relationship and the characters was really good because she’s a very open person and I’m a very open person, so you just work together and you feel very committed and very safe. You know, there’s no game-playing, there’s no ego, she’s just working hard and she loves her job, and she’s brilliant, so I’m really happy to work with her.
GUDNASON: Yeah, she’s brilliant, and of course it’s a crazy leap from the Queen to Salander, but it’s so right, and she’s so right for the part, so I’m really happy to be working with her.
STANFIELD: I kind of get the sense that, just in the little bit of things I’ve seen – most of my stuff is just trying to find her [laughter] – but in the little bit of things I’ve seen I get the sense that there’s some kind of real connection to Lisbeth’s ambitions and sort of her view of the world and sort of her righteousness, she has a certain righteousness, and wanting to help the less fortunate… You kind of get a sense that there’s a little bit of that in Claire. I could be wrong but I see that. And I think that’s important, you have to feel what your character feels and sort of believe that, but I think it’s cool. Like, they don’t call cut and she’s like, “Alright, let’s go murder babies!” [laughter]. So yeah, it’s nice.
Always a good quality in a co-star.
STANFIELD: Yeah. But you’d be surprised how rare it might be.
What was it for you guys when you picked up the script that got you interested in the project and the roles that you have? What connected with you?
HOEKS: Well I’m the middle sister of three girls, so I really felt the sister part was… I could identify so much with, you know, if you grow up with two other women so close to you, you follow them in life and you share your views with them in hard times. There’s a lot to feel when you read a script like that, where there’s obviously love between the two, but a difficult time between them as well. And I really reflected on that and could identify with that very much. And I saw Don’t Breathe and I thought that was very well done. Visually he’s so strong, in the way he tells a story, Fede is not afraid to find that rawness and find the heat. He really wants to show… he’s really not afraid of showing the rawness, the guts. And we need that, I think. I love seeing that in movies. When I go to a movie, I want to see stuff that I don’t see in my normal life, and I want to see it all. And I want to step out of the cinema and just go for ice cream. I want t have that experience without having that experience. And I think he’s great doing that, he’s wonderful doing that. So that’s why I wanted to play the character.
STANFIELD: Yeah, also there’s times where – going back to Fede, and not to stroke his ego any more – but if there’s a scene where you have a lot of people doing a lot of different things and sometimes you need to get your shot, and so the guy with the camera he has to make sure he’s doing it right. He’s just like, “Would you mind moving that over to here?” and I’m like, “Aah…” And Fede’s like, “Does it feel natural for it to be over there?” And I’m like, “Ehhh.” And he’s like, “Do the natural thing.” The natural thing always takes precedence over everything else, and that’s really great for me as an actor. My style is typically a little bit more of a natural approach, so it’s nice to just be like, “Just do what you think is right… just go and roll with the scene.” Sometimes directors might sacrifice certain things – one thing he won’t sacrifice is the rawness.
Keeping it on Fede, obviously he’s known for his horror work. Does that translate in this film at all, do you think he brings some of that with him to this mystery-based story.
HOEKS: Oh yeah, I believe so.
STANFIELD: Yeah yeah yeah, definitely.
HOEKS: I saw something today and I was like, “Oh yeah…”
GUDNASON: Good horror film directors are always really good at keeping the tension.
Would you say that this film is being made with a sequel in mind, or with a mind to continue the story afterwards?
GUDNASON: That’s something you would have to ask the filmmakers about. We’re just shooting the one movie right now.
STANFIELD: I hope they get a sequel, for me! I just want to come back
HOEKS: Yeah, me too!
Your character’s having this experience of having people above him trying to dictate the job, and having it sort of become dumb, cover celebrity gossip, which he doesn’t want to do. Can you relate to that on any level as an artist?
GUDNASON: Yeah, definitely. Yeah my whole world is just fighting to keep that integrity and get to do what you believe in and want to do. So yes, I can, and also with the character I can relate to his way of obsessing over things he gets interested in. Like, if you find an interest in something you really go into it, like the stories he writes and also Lisbeth. So yes, I can relate to him a lot.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web arrives in theaters on November 9.