Interview: Claire Foy talks #MeToo, Lisbeth Salander and Stockholm

The Local's Sophie Miskiw sat down with Claire Foy, who is starring as hacker heroine Lisbeth Salander in the new Millennium movie.

Interview: Claire Foy talks #MeToo, Lisbeth Salander and Stockholm
Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander in Columbia Pictures' The Girl in the Spider's Web. Photo: Nadja Klier/CTMG

You've had quite a varied career so far! You've played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall, Queen Elizabeth in The Crown, and now Lisbeth Salander – three very different roles. Which have you enjoyed playing most?

I've loved them all. I'd feel incredibly duplicitous if I picked one that I love more than another. And they're all for different reasons you know. Wolf Hall I loved in the sense that it was my favourite book I'd ever read and I thought I'd never get to play that part. I felt a lot of pride about getting myself to the point where I could walk on set and feel like I was that character because I had to overcome a lot of internal bullshit to get to that point. 

Playing Elizabeth was a huge experience, a life experience. I made friends for life and I was part of something that has been really special that I don't ever expect to repeat again. Having something so warmly received by so many people of so many different backgrounds from so many different countries is something that I don't ever expect to repeat ever again.

And Lisbeth was just sort of like a pinnacle of putting myself in a position where I was asking myself to do something that I didn't know if I could do and whether anyone would accept me doing it and just sort of forcing myself into a position of pure challenge and kind of trying to be free within something that could have been seen as very, very restrictive.

Claire Foy in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

In The Girl in the Spider's Web, Mikael Blomkvist is going through something of a career crisis. Do you think he's become dependent on Lisbeth? How would you describe the dynamic between the two?

That's definitely part of the story, they have a very odd relationship. They are sort of soulmates; she was his muse really, he was incredibly inspired and excited by her. But Mikael has his own problems, he's always been mixed up when it comes to work, about the magazine and where that's going and what the future of journalism is. He's a journalist to his absolute bones and journalism is in crisis and I think that's what his story is. He doesn't know what his job represents or means anymore. And that's very tied in with him and Lisbeth and their dynamic.

READ ALSO: Sweden's most watched movie in 2017: Star Wars beaten by film you've never heard of

Swedish-Icelandic actor Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist. Photo: Reiner Bajo/CTMG

The 2011 film wasn't the franchise starter it set out to be. In the wake of #MeToo, is this a more auspicious time to relaunch a character like Lisbeth Salander?

I'm very nervous of using #MeToo as a convenient thing for this film. #MeToo is an incredibly significant thing that has happened and it's very hard fought for and hard won. It's an incredibly important movement in the history of women. Not only in the workplace but everywhere else. This film is this film regardless of whether that movement is happening or not.

The producers of this movie, Amy Pascal and Elizabeth Cantillon, came up with the idea of reinvestigating the character many years ago. It's to their credit that they felt there was more in this character they wanted to explore and that she could be as the centre of the story as opposed to being the interest of the story; that she could lead the action as opposed to something that is there to be looked at and fascinated by and thought over by someone else.

READ ALSO: What does #MeToo reveal about Swedish feminism?

Lisbeth Salander is the invention of Swedish author Stieg Larsson, who wrote the first Millennium trilogy. Photo: Reiner Bajo/CTMG

There are some amazing shots of Stockholm in the film, for example, when Lisbeth drives her motorcycle off the end of a dock and onto a frozen lake…

The stunt driver, to get that scene to happen, had to just drive off the dock into water on the bike! In freezing cold waters and she did it more than once! I was like 'Surely there is an easier way?! Surely she doesn't have to just drive off the dock and plunge into ice cold Baltic Sea?!'. But she did it! She's incredible, she did it twice! I was like 'You are mental that you've done that!'.

That's just one of many beautiful scenes showing off the city. What was your impression of Stockholm?

Just beautiful. To be on the sea like that and to have the sea so present and to hear people say that in the winter it entirely freezes over and you can walk across. I just found there's something incredibly poetic about that, about the sea and being so close, and so involved in the city.

I think the parks are amazing, I went to Skansen and loved that, I spent a long time there. And the Pippi Longstocking museum (official name: Junibacken)! And I just loved walking around, you don't feel the pressure to see things or go to museums or do things, just walk around and eat a lot of cardamom buns and I just absolutely loved being here.

The light is extraordinary, I think I've been very lucky because I came in April and now I've come in October and at those particular times of year the light just looks extraordinary.

The Girl in the Spider's Web premieres in Sweden on October 25th

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IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

IndiskFika are a group of Indians in Sweden with a shared passion: dance. Two of the group's leaders tell The Local how they came to be finalists in Talang, one of Sweden's top TV talent shows.

IndiskFika: The Indian dance group taking Sweden by storm

“We’ve been very passionate about dance from childhood,” says co-founder Ranjithkumar Govindan, who shortens his name to Ranjith. “I’ve been dancing from childhood, like first grade. So once we got into our professional lives and career, I wanted to continue my passion.”

“Like Ranjith, I have been dancing since the age of three, ” adds Aradhana Varma, who joined the group in 2020. She’s been competing in and winning dance competitions back in her hometown of Mumbai ever since. 

With just a handful of members back in 2019, the group now numbers over 50, including dancers, videographers, choreographers, editors, and production crew, and they are still growing.

Listen to Aradhana Varna from IndiskFika on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

Govindan says started by dancing at various events in Stockholm alongside fellow Indian dance enthusiasts before the idea came to form the troupe. “Then, one fine day, me and one of my friends, Vijay [Veeramanivanna], said ‘why don’t we do a cover song?'” he remembers. 

“He’s very passionate about camera work, cinematography. I’m very passionate about dance,” Govindan says of the collaboration. 

Their initial idea was to take advantage of their location in to shoot dance routines out in Swedish nature, in the same way that Bollywood movies sometimes shoot routines against European scenes such as Swiss mountainsides or Italian plazas. 

“Indians are very famous for movies, like Bollywood, so we wanted to do a cover video of a particular song from a movie which was going to be released. Since we are living in Sweden, we have plenty of opportunities to cover good locations and nature, so that was an idea,” he explains.

The name ‘IndiskFika’, (“Indian fika”, a fika being a Swedish term for a coffee break in the middle of the day) came from Govindan and Veeramanivanna’s wish to combine Swedish and Indian cultures. 

IndiskFika performing in the Talang talent show. Photo: TV4

“We started with five to seven people in 2019, that was the first thing we did, and we did a shoot and edited everything, then we realised that if we wanted to release it, we should have a name,” Govindan says.

“So we started thinking ‘what name should we pick for this team?’. We came up with the idea IndiskFika. Everyone knows about fika in Swedish, right?” 

Their videos, some of which have over a million views, became popular both among Indians at home and among members of the Indian community in Sweden, whose interest helped the group grow further.

More and more Indians living in Stockholm started asking to join, and soon they were doing live performances:  one at the Chalmers University in Gothenburg, and another at the Diwali celebrations held by the Västerås Indian Association. 

When the pandemic hit, IndiskFika didn’t let it stop them. They started planning a digital one-year anniversary for the group, and began looking for other groups to collaborate with. 

That was how Govindan began collaborating with Varma, who had been performing with a different dance team. “I had been performing at various events like Namaste Stockholm with a different dance team based in Stockholm since 2017, but during pandemic, everything had come to a halt since it was a tough time for all of us,” she explains.

When new people joined IndiskFika, it gave the group a new impetus. “That’s when the boost started,” Govindan remembers. “We became stronger and stronger. So, so many things happened.”

IndiskFika first came to the attention of ordinary Swedes with an article in Ingenjörenthe members’ magazine for engineering union Sveriges Ingenjörer. Many of the group’s members are IT engineers or students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. “They did an article about us, about the engineers continuing their passion for dance, so that reached a more Swedish audience,” Govindan says. 

This led to more in-person performances, which in turn caught the eye of the producers responsible for Talang at Sweden’s broadcaster TV4.

“The Talang people said ‘we read about you and we’ve gone through all your YouTube videos, why don’t you come and participate in Talang 2022?’. The rest of the story you know. We participated in Talang, and we got a golden buzzer from David Batra in the prelims, so we went direct to the finals.”

David Batra, a Swedish comedian with an Indian father, is known for comedy series such as Kvarteret Skatan and Räkfrossa, as well as Världens sämsta indier (“World’s Worst Indian”), a series where he visits India, alongside public broadcaster SVT’s India correspondent Malin Mendel, and tries his hand at living and working in the country.

Batra is also one of four judges on Talang, whose golden buzzer meant that the dance team were awarded one of eight places in the final – four are chosen by votes and four are chosen by the Talang judges.

The group were among the top eight teams in the finals on March 18th, but for Indians in Sweden, reaching the final was a win in itself. They were invited for a fika with India’s ambassador to Sweden, where they were treated to both traditional Indian and Swedish treats.

The IndiskFika troupe on stage at TV4’s studios. Photo: TV4

Many of the group’s members work full-time alongside dancing, which can be difficult at times.

“It’s not easy to be so dedicated by spending extra effort after office hours, with hectic weekend schedules for rehearsals especially when everyone in the team has a full-time job,” Varma says. “There’s a lot of things that take place in the background from logistics to costumes, hall bookings, co-ordinating everyone’s availability, social media activities and so on.”

Like many foreigners, though, Govindan and Varma have taken their time adapting to life in Sweden. 

“All I knew about Sweden was that it was one of the cold and dark countries,” Varma says. “Eventually you start liking it, and you know, everything is worth it for the summers that you get here. The fika tradition, the amazing work/life balance, the nature, that’s the best part that we have here.”

“I didn’t have much of an idea about Sweden,” Govindan agrees. “The temperature, where I come from, throughout the year is between 25 to 40 degrees. In terms of temperature, nature, the people, everything is different.”

“India is very rich in culture, right?” Varma says when asked about the differences between Swedish and Indian culture. “We have a lot of colours and a lot of different flavours and you know, that’s the kind of performance we gave. That was the plan: to give a very energetic, powerful, and colourful performance.”