Cookies notification

This website uses cookies to provide you with a better experience

You can adjust your cookie settings through your browser. If you do not adjust your settings, you are consenting to us issuing all cookies to you.

The Girl in the Spider's Web and the evolution of Lisbeth Salander


Lisbeth Salander is a phenomenon. Since first gracing our cinema screens in 2009, she has become a member of a very exclusive group of on-screen characters to be played by more than one actor, with each performance bringing to the table an equally impressive new interpretation.

November sees the release of The Girl in the Spider's Web, adapted from the fourth novel in the bestselling Millennium series. It's one of two novels in the series not authored by series creator, Stieg Larsson, who passed away in 2004.

The movie adaptation follows on the heels of David Fincher's 2011 remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and marks the third iteration of Lisbeth Salander – played this time by recent Emmy award-winner Claire Foy.

It's directed by Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Álvarez, whose previous outings include the 2013 remake of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead and 2016's Don't Breathe – an underrated, clever twist on the home invasion horror trope. The Girl in the Spider's Web will once again reunite Lisbeth with journalist Mikael Blomkvist (here played by Sverrir Gudnason) as the pair are entangled in a net of lies, spies and conspiracy.

But just why has a punk computer whizz become one of the most iconic movie characters of our time? Scroll down as we take you through the evolution of Lisbeth Salander.

The Girl from the Millennium series

Beginning life on the page, Salander first appeared in 2005 as the titular character in Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson's international bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. According to Larsson – in the only interview he ever gave about his three-book series – the character was born from what he imagined Pippi Longstocking (an equally iconic Scandinavian literary creation by another esteemed Swedish author in Astrid Lindgren) would be like as an adult.

A brilliant but troubled computer hacker, Salander's life consists primarily of delving into the private lives of public figures and corporate bigwigs. However, her own existence is one shrouded in darkness, from her shadowy past to her introverted, asocial tendencies to the black clothing she wears. But it's her appearance, coupled with a fierce intelligence and uncompromising nature, moulded together by an unconventional moral righteousness, that makes Lisbeth Salander truly compelling, and the subject of fascinating study, debate and interpretation among theorists and readers alike.

It is testament to Larsson's characterisation that, in a series of novels laden with damning comment on the climate of contemporary Sweden, not to mention the lurking spectre of misogny (the first book's original Swedish title literally translates as 'Men Who Hate Women'), Lisbeth Salander remains his most dynamic and celebrated creation.

The Girl on the Big Screen

Lisbeth was such an ideal fit for the screen, in fact, that just four years after the first book hit shelves, the Swedish film production company Yellow Bird released film versions of Larsson's original trilogy in rapid succession. Also starring the late, great Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist, the Swedish-language films finally put a face to the mysterious Lisbeth Salander in the form of native actress Noomi Rapace.

Across three films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest), the series' brooding narrative aligned perfectly with Rapace's convincing and intricate portrayal.

This in turn paved the way for meaningful explorations into Salander's complex character and gave birth to an entirely new breed of modern cinematic hero: a darkly enigmatic, tech-savvy vigilante who doesn't play by the rules and far from fits the conventional anti-hero or femme fatale criteria. Instead, Lisbeth rocks piercings, tattoos, studded belts and the occasional mohawk.

It was only a matter of time before Hollywood came to get a piece of the action, wasn't it?

The Girl Who made it in Hollywood

If Lisbeth Salander wasn't immediately a household name outside Sweden, she certainly was by the time David Fincher's remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was released in 2011.

Despite thrusting Salander into the mainstream via the casting of a more recognisable actor in Rooney Mara (with 007 himself, Daniel Craig, also starring), Fincher and writer Steven Zaillian's take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo refreshingly preserves the striking appearance of the series' leading lady (Mara's performance earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars, too). It also remains faithful to the unnerving, disconcerting themes and graphic events of the source material.

And now, after a seven-year absence from the limelight (or darkness, rather), Lisbeth Salander is back. And, despite the change in personnel, she looks to also be bringing back the same distinctive get-up, and the same moral code that's governed her since the beginning.

Equally fascinating is the casting of Claire Foy, one of our most dynamic performers who can leap from historical drama (Netflix hit The Crown) to inspirational awards contenders (this month's Neil Armstrong drama First Man) to overwrought thrills (Unsane) with ease. Even so, this is far different to anything she's done before: ferocious, driven and, if the trailer's anything to go by, uncompromisingly brutal.

Given she's working with suspense master Alvarez, from a critically acclaimed source by author David Lagercrantz, who picked up Larsson's mantle after his death, there are plenty of reasons to be excited.

Needless to say, we can't wait to get all tangled up in The Girl in the Spider's Web and the world of Lisbeth Salander once more. The movie is released on 21st November, so tweet us @Cineworld if it's on your must-see list.

George Nash is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.