With The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo sequel The Girl In The Spider’s Web headed into cinemas this month (it’s released on 21 November), Yahoo Movies UK travelled to Rome to sit down with the film’s director Fede Alvarez.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web definitely fits in with Alvarez’s body of work so far – it has the intensity of Evil Dead, mixed with the intrigue of Don’t Breathe. But one upcoming anomaly (at least on paper) is the Labyrinth sequel Fede’s developing with The Henson Company.
But Fede’s dedication to practical effects will pay off in a film that absolutely has to involve puppets. “Oh yeah, for sure,” Fede agrees. “You know my approach with those things, it’s all about making it as real as I can. So something like Labyrinth, making it a CG-fest would be the most disgusting thing ever (laughs). “
It sounds like the Labyrinth sequel is in the right hands. “I’m a huge fan of that film, it’s one of the films that made me want to be a filmmaker,” Alvarez told Yahoo Movies UK. “it’s all about trying to find exactly how we’re going to make it. It’s not even about the story, we have the story and we love it, and I think the fans will love it.
“It’s a continuation, but even if you haven’t seen the first one, it works as backstory to the story we want to tell. It’s written by Jay Basu who wrote this with me, so we’re really excited about it.”
But before that, The Girl In The Spider’s Web, which sees Alvarez replacing David Fincher as the director in charge of the Dragon Tattoo franchise.
Fede’s own Don’t Breathe was compared to Fincher’s Panic Room, but what does Alvarez think of the director he’s replacing?
Yahoo Movies UK: You’re stepping into David Fincher’s shoes to a certain extent, what does he mean to you as a director?
Fede Alvarez: I watched his movies in high school, and now he’s my executive producer, it’s actually incredible. A lot of people ask about the pressure of comparing yourself [to him], but when I was doing Evil Dead, just the fact that people were using my name in the same sentence as Sam Raimi made my year, it was the best thing ever.
This is the same for me, it’s just a thrill – to be compared at all. I was watching Fincher’s stuff in high school and college, to get to work on something that he’s involved with, it’s a thrill.
And it feels like there are other influences here – at times it feels like Bond meets Bourne, were spy thrillers an influence?
Yeah, they were. But a lot of that’s from the books, the books got crazier as they advanced. As they evolved, the stories got bigger. So it was the fun part making this film, that we knew it was going to be completely different from the other ones.
The first American movie is more of an Agatha Christie mystery – this has nothing to that. It has a mystery in it, but it’s more of a thriller, she’s more on the run, and the stakes are bigger. It’s still a super personal story, but it was fun to show an aspect of these books that have never been done in movies before.
I talked to Claire Foy about the male gaze and how it would be disastrous if Lisbeth was overly sexualised, and she said that she had some very open and honest conversations with you about that, can you talk about that part of the process?
In a way, she took that responsibility. We both did, but her more than anybody, really being the guardian of not just Lisbeth, but of this female lead, particularly in the times we’re living in.
While we were making the film Me Too was really hitting hard, so it was something that I really needed to listen to her about in a way, and I think I did.
It was very interesting for me to see and her and understand how she feels playing that role and being portrayed in certain ways. To never force her to wear more make-up, or wear tighter clothes, things like that, which are pretty common in any Hollywood movie where there’s a female lead.
But, you know my other movies, it’s always been something that I do. None of them are over-sexualised, Jane Levy in my films has never been in super tight clothes, or being super sexy or anything like that, it’s never what I go for.
I try to be more fair with the character and not oppress the actor or the audience with a character that’s perfect and bigger than life that you can never achieve that as a human being, so I always try to avoid that.
You mention your other films, I love them all, and each of them ends with a tease for a sequel, will you make sequels to Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe, and potentially this one?
I don’t know man, I’m happy that’s a possibility. It makes me happy that every time I’m done with a film, people are excited about that idea – it’s a privilege, really. I want to make all of those, I really would like to make all of them.
I’d love to go and do Evil Dead 2 and Don’t Breathe 2 and even another chapter of this. It’s just that life’s too short. I always want to travel to different places and tell different stories, and it takes so long to make these movies.
If I wasn’t a writer on them, it would be easier – give me a script and I’ll shoot it, so I can have a new movie by the end of next year. But I write my movies, I devote a year – at least – to writing them. So I can say ‘I’m just going to do this thing’ and do it, it takes two years.
So I always try to keep moving forward and find other stories. All that being said, I’ll be surprised if I don’t go back to one of those worlds at one point because I really love them.
Speaking of building worlds, you’ve been attached to the Labyrinth sequel for a while now, I would love to see you play in that world. Where is that in terms of the process?
Thank you. I actually had lunch with Lisa Henson last week at the Henson studios and we’re very excited about it. I’m a huge fan of that film, it’s one of the films that made me want to be a filmmaker, it’s all about trying to find exactly how we’re going to make it. It’s not even about the story, we have the story and we love it, and I think the fans will love it.
It’s a continuation, but even if you haven’t seen the first one, it works as backstory to the story we want to tell. It’s written by Jay Basu who wrote this with me, so we’re really excited about it. But really, honestly, I never really think or consider or make decisions about what to do next before I’m done with a movie, because we’re still promoting this one and making sure everybody goes to see it. After that, I’ll take a little break and try to decide what’s the best next movie to tell.
And it has to be puppets, right?
Oh yeah, for sure. You know my approach with those things, it’s all about making it as real as I can. So something like Labyrinth, making it a CG-fest would be the most disgusting thing ever (laughs).
Speaking of doing stuff for real, we’ll need to talk around this because of spoilers, but there’s a moment in this where you do something very dangerous for real – what was that like to shoot? It must have been an intense day, with health and safety involved…
A nightmare. I tend to do that a lot in my movies, I get in situations that sounds great on paper, but when it comes to shooting it, you say ‘Why did I write this?’ There’s two elements to that, one is the perversion of the scene, which I’m proud of. Every time I’ve done that in a film, the audience don’t like to admit it but they love to see those things, to explore the dark side of film.
Then obviously the physicality of that. I’m not the one who suffers, it’s the actors – and it was really, really tough for Claire on the day – because of many of those things, the perversion part of it, which makes you feel bad that you’re in that situation, but it’s the way it should be. If it was great and a walk in the park, then the audience wouldn’t get the real experience. What you get out of her performance in that scene is reality, she’s not faking a lot of those emotions.
And that’s what I always try to do, it’s why my actors have intense shoots because I put them through the wringer. At the end of the day, if you make a good film that’s the best thing you can do for an actor so they don’t have to be embarrassed they were involved. That’s what I give them in return for all of that work.
There’s some many imaginative shots in this film – which is your favourite?
It’s actually the opening shot after the main credits. That guy doing dishes…
It’s a very beautifully constructed shot, very simple as well, and faithful to the way I’ve done things in the past.
Don’t Breathe had one of my favourites, where they enter the house and the camera travels around, and shows you every element that’s going to be part of the story, that was something we came up with during lunch and I did it with my phone, then we pitched it to everybody and we did it.
That wasn’t planned, it was something that organically came to the story and really defined the movie, almost.
That shot [in The Spider’s Web] was the same, we figured it out on the day. ‘How do we do this with just one shot that says what’s really happening here?’ We did a very simple one, but it’s very special – particularly for that part of the movie, and the times we live in.
It’s this very emotionally open guy, who’s really being nice [laughs] and wants to have an open conversation and is being honest about his own insecurity [laughs], I’m laughing now, but on the day it was really hard. It was hard to watch, because it was so dark, it was painful.
Hopefully what that shot does is it tells the audience that they’re in good hands. The technical aspect means they’ll be on for a good ride. It’s always the right way to start the movie.
The music, the way it’s shot does feel Bond-esque, would you like to make a Bond film and would Claire Foy make a good Bond if they gender-switched the role?
She would make a fantastic Bond, actually. We should do a movie where Bond and Lisbeth meet, that would be great. In 10 years maybe they’ll do that, when Hollywood runs out of ideas they will start combining movies.
I love those movies and they’re definitely an influence on this one, but I would say the Roger Moore films are more of an influence than the latest ones. Roger Moore’s my Bond because of the age that I was, I know a lot of people might say ‘He’s not the best one!’ but who cares? My Bond is Roger Moore.
So there was a lot of that over the topness, everything’s a bit too much and a bit more operatic. The character of Camilla dressing in red all the time, what the f**k is that? It’s obvious that we’re making it bigger and more operatic.
It’s something Hollywood films can do – not every other kind of film can do it, to really be a little bit insane and a bit over-the-top and the music be super-dramatic, I like that poppiness of it. To inject it into a series that has been more serious and moody, it was good – without betraying that – to add that to it.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web is out in the UK on 21 November.