Fede Alvarez Directed ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ Because He Wanted to Make the Film Previous Directors Didn’t

The filmmaker tells IndieWire he was inspired to join the franchise by a simple, but radical idea: to finally make a film centered on "feminine icon" Lisbeth Salander.
Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) in Columbia Pictures' THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB.
"The Girl in the Spider's Web"
Reiner Bajo

Fede Alvarez isn’t afraid of franchises — the Uruguayan filmmaker made his feature directorial debut with the 2013 reboot of the beloved “Evil Dead” series — but he is wary of them. That’s why it’s a bit of a surprise that for his third feature, Alvarez opted to again plunge himself into a well-known franchise that’s been through two iterations. The latest film in the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” franchise, the Alvarez-directed “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” is a wholly recast take on the English-language version of the series’ first book.

Starring Claire Foy as misanthropic hacker Lisbeth Salander, the film jumps years ahead of the ending of David Fincher’s Rooney Mara-starring “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” picking up the twisted story after the events of the third book in Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Alvarez’s film not only tells the story through Lisbeth’s eyes, but also builds in a wrenching emotional subplot that does wonders for building the tattooed antiheroine’s back story. Alvarez said that was his intention.

“One of the things that I feel that need to be done, and was kind of strange that they hadn’t, was to really make a movie about her,” he said. “The other movies are really not about her. They are told from the point of view of a man, of the journalist Mikael Blomkvist. He is really the connection with the audience and the one that has more screentime, and she kind of tags along into his story.”

The film’s script, written by Steven Knight, Jay Basu, and Alvarez, moves the series’ traditional focus on Blomkvist (now played by Sverrir Gudnason) to Lisbeth. For the first time in five films, it’s Blomkvist who takes a backseat to Lisbeth.

“For such a feminine icon like she is, it was kind of unfair that she was there to service the man’s story in the first one and then the second and third one,” he said. “I was like, ‘We need to make a movie about her.’ She is the center of it. We started the story with her and we end the story with her. And, yeah, Blomkvist is there, but to serve her story. … That’s what I felt wasn’t done, and it was exciting for me to go and make a movie which is going to be all about Lisbeth Salander.”

Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) in Columbia Pictures' THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB.
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web”Nadja Klier

That said, Alvarez said he was wary about potentially returning to the franchise. “Just to make it just for the sake of it, or because they work or because people like it, I think that’s not a good reason,” he said. “Every time something is rebooted or remade, people complain, but people forget that if you don’t do that, the characters will die, they literally will die. You have to really keep telling the stories of the characters, otherwise, a generation goes by and people forget about them. If I’ll do it, it really depends on if the next story has something really to say about her that hasn’t been said before.”

Alvarez’s franchise aversion has even extended to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As he admitted during a set visit for his second film, “Don’t Breathe,” he passed on an MCU opportunity because he was afraid it wouldn’t allow creative freedom. He’s starting to come around on that idea, though.

“When I said that, I was coming off of ‘Evil Dead,’ and back then I thought the system would destroy me,” he said. “I was just coming out with my first movie, [and I thought], ‘Now I gotta take some big studio movie, I’ll never get away with what I want to do.’ If you don’t have enough movies under your belt, [when you need] to prove that you’re right when you come up with the craziest idea — which usually what happens with a movie’s director — it’s pretty lonely a lot of times.”

He’s heartened by the recent uptick in MCU films from filmmakers allowed to inject their own sensibilities. “I think these days, it has changed,” he said. “And from friends that [worked on] some of those movies, it depends which ones, but it’s true that some of the Marvel movies, they actually went for directors and they allowed them to get their voice [in the films]. Like ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ you can definitely see [Taika Waititi’s] voice all over the movie, literally in one of the characters.”

He continued, “It’s true that they have changed and they have a good reputation when it comes to working with filmmakers. Then there’s other sagas that they don’t. There’s other movies that you still have to abide by a template. That was something great about this one, there was no template really. The only thing I need to do right was to get the character right. To get the character right, then you can change everything else and you’ll be fine. The only thing you cannot do is betray the character and do a bad adaptation of it. That would be the biggest sin.”

Sony Pictures will release “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” in theaters on Friday, November 9.

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