Claire Foy is smack in the middle of one of the most common movie climaxes: the mad dash to the airport. But instead of chasing the soulmate she nearly let slip away, the British-born actress is simply getting out of Tinseltown. It’s the day after the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, where Foy won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work on Season 2 of Netflix’s The Crown. She’s calling from a car, and she’s deeply apologetic — for the turn-signal sounds, the chatter of her team, and even her acceptance speech. “It was a disaster!” says Foy, who hours before seemed like the lone soul in the Microsoft Theater shocked by her win for brilliantly portraying Queen Elizabeth II. (And, unless you define disaster as only name-dropping one of your fellow nominees — Sandra Oh — Foy’s speech was hardly that.)
“It was such a singular experience,” she goes on to say of the role itself, which saw her embody young Elizabeth and nabbed her a Golden Globe and two SAG awards. “It’s difficult to replicate.” Perhaps, but as Foy departs The Crown, relinquishing her throne to actress Olivia Colman (who’ll play the queen in middle age as the series continues), she isn’t short on new options to attain glory. If Margot Robbie is the new Charlize Theron (an underestimated blonde bombshell with stealth Oscar clout), then Foy just might be the new Jessica Chastain — an actress who seems to have achieved ubiquity in a snap, and, most important, has the range and chops to validate it. Foy isn’t just the next big thing; she’s the next real deal.
“Every day is absolutely different,” says the 34-year-old, who honed her craft early on at Liverpool John Moores University and the Oxford School of Drama before making her Royal National Theatre debut in 2008. Foy’s 2018 may not be as prolific as Chastain’s 2011 (in which the Oscar nominee starred in a whopping seven films), but Foy’s personal daily variety matches her current professional output. And moreover, without any prior endorsement from ticket buyers, she’s that rare female newcomer whom Hollywood has suddenly decreed a marquee name.
In March, Foy ditched her English accent and peered into Steven Soderbergh’s fish-eye lens, playing the lead in the auteur’s mental-asylum mindfuck Unsane. Last month, she played Janet Shearon, the hard-nosed wife of Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle’s fact-based First Man, a film that saw her share top billing with Ryan Gosling. And this month, she rocks a roughhewn mohawk and piercings in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the next adventure of bisexual vigilante Lisbeth Salander, and a spin-off, of sorts, of David Fincher’s remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ( 2011 ).
“The story has moved beyond the first three books,” says Foy, noting that Spider’s Web is based on the 2015 novel by David Lagercrantz, who continued Salander’s saga after Stieg Larsson, author of the original Millennium trilogy, died in 2004. “She’s such a complex character, and there’s so much more of her to discover.” That includes her pivotal rivalry with her estranged and unhinged sister, but one thing fans already know about Salander is her proclivity to sleep with both men and women, a detail Foy describes as an inherent part of the rule-defying heroine. “She doesn’t associate herself with hardly anything but work,” says the actress, whose own work involved fight choreography and motorcycle chases. “She doesn’t want to be defined or even respected. Her sexuality is not the topic of this movie, but that’s who she is, so that’s the role I play.”
From Femme Fatale to Atomic Blonde, sexual fluidity among female ass-kickers like Salander has become common, but her unique agenda as a feminist avenger helps clear up skepticism over whom that detail is actually serving. “I made sure that I constantly had that conversation,” Foy says. “I was adamant that nothing could be in there that was titillating, or could be seen as being for the male gaze. It had to be entirely from her.”
Lisbeth Salander has now been played by Noomi Rapace, Rooney Mara, and Foy, and it’s safe to assume a fourth actress may sport her dragon tattoo in the future. Like Catwoman, she’s become a theatrical icon of female rebellion, too wild to be owned by a single performer, even one with Foy’s talent. “The work is there to be reinvented and reinterpreted by anyone who wants to have a go at it,” Foy says. “The lovely thing about being an actress is that you don’t own the part–especially this one. Nobody does.”
The Girl in the Spider's Web hits theaters on November 9.
Photography by Simon Emmett
Styling by Nicky Yates
Hair by Carlos Ferraz
Makeup by Kelly Cornwell
Nails by Lee Moore
Intro Image: Dress by Stella McCartney