There’s a formula for celebrity interviews – they chat about the film, the process of filming, and they tell an anecdote. A more recent addition to the chat is the somewhat obligated and surface-level comment on #MeToo, to show they are standing in solidarity with those speaking out. Magazine profiles have become so paint-by-numbers – and, in some cases, contrived to a point beyond journalism – that, in September, The New York Times declared them dead. That’s why Claire Foy’s recent press tour has been an absolute joy.
She told Rolling Stone that she “kneed a lot of bollocks!”, and enjoyed it, on the set of her new movie, The Girl In The Spider’s Web, in which she plays Lisbeth Salander, a hacker who seeks revenge on men who have sexually abused women. “I’d like to continually shock people. Maybe I’ll just keep doing more and more mental parts and people will go, ‘What is wrong with her?’” she explained of the role. She referred to the Washington Monument and Donald Trump as “the giant penis of America” to The Hollywood Reporter (THR). Conversely, in an interview with The Guardian back in September, she asked the journalist whether she’d be an “Anna or an Elsa”. In short, she’s just one of us.
They’re not exactly the kind of comments you expect from Queen Elizabeth II, but Foy is the first to admit she’s nothing like the posh, subtly expressive star of Netflix’s The Crown. As she notes in the THR interview, she speaks with a “common” accent, recognised on this side of the pond as Mancunian. Like those from her home city, she doesn’t really have a filter – even when the words she says will be read, and dissected, by thousands. Perhaps she doesn’t care. It certainly doesn’t seem like it, when she passes a Trump supporter on the road – “I want to key his truck”, she tells the THR reporter, Anna Peele.
That makes me want to violently hurt him. Which is obviously bad. I can't. Because he's a lot stronger than I am
She’s not all Trump jokes and Northern wit, though; Foy’s recent interviews have revealed her to be a conscientious public figure, with true clout thrust behind her opinions. “I have absolutely no interest in portraying what other people think of as strong. It's a way of making women more acceptable in a male world, and I am just not on board with that,” she rebutted in The Sydney Morning Herald, saying that people should stop using the phrase “strong women”. “I don't think women are crying out to see strong women; I think we know we are all strong but we're just crying out to see women on screen at all!” It’s clear that when Claire Foy makes a statement, she has thought about it and – crucially – she believes in it.
This is most clear in the THR interview, where it’s not what she says, but what she does that becomes the focal point. Rather than the standard sit-down in a stale hotel room, Foy’s interview happened via a walking tour of Washington D.C., where her latest film, First Man, premiered. As Foy and Peele approach the US Supreme Court, where Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation got the go-ahead just hours before, they spot a man holding a sign reading “#MeToo Fraud”. Foy says she wants to “rip it up” and, before you know it, she’s over there confronting the man, who she notices is wearing a media badge. She questions his authority, his beliefs, his journalistic ability, to which he replies, “I'm not a journalist. I'm an editorialist. I'm an opinions journalist.” The only thing missing from Foy’s response is a snort and an eye roll. “Oh, right. He’s got his opinion.” She’s still seething about him later: “That makes me want to violently hurt him.” Obviously, she doesn’t, but even as a third-party reader, the sentiment feels palpable. “Which is obviously bad. I can't. Because he's a lot stronger than I am.”
She’s also spoken out about the gender pay gap. Earlier this year, it was revealed her co-star Matt Smith was paid more for his role in The Crown, despite Foy literally playing the title role of the Queen. Now, looking back at the controversy, she says the experience “opened my eyes about what I am allowed to have an opinion about, and what I’m allowed to stand up for myself about.” “I certainly won’t be naïve about those things,” she added. The Crown’s production company, Left Bank Pictures, won’t reveal whether Foy was back-paid for her work, as has been rumoured.
At a time like this, with Kanye West pining after Trump; with Johnny Depp and his unwarranted, unwanted opinions on the cover of GQ; and with Cristiano Ronaldo fighting a rape allegation with claims of fraud, it’s hard to remember why we offer celebrities so much air time, so much money, so much weight. But with Claire Foy, it’s justified – she’s a breath of fresh air in one of the most choreographed industries in the world.