Claire Foy: My anxiety was a tool to survive

She has just won an Emmy for her role in The Crown and now takes the lead in two Oscar-tipped films. So why doesnt the British actor believe her own hype?

Entertainment Weekly

Claire Foy has the heebie-jeebies. The actor, who until last year played a young Elizabeth II in the Netflix drama The Crown, has spent the last few hours being photographed in a studio in London. Its a nondescript building that sits between a janitorial supply store and a tinned tomato factory, but the place carries very distinct memories. Its where I did my main audition for The Crown, Foy says, shuddering. I was five months pregnant. They put me in a wig and oh God a wedding dress. I had really bad carpal tunnel, and a swollen nose, and my lips were just massive. I had to flirt with Winston Churchill. I remember thinking, Im not sure this is gonna go my way…

We flee the weird associations to a pub not far away, where Foy, whos been off caffeine for a couple of months, makes do with a long, pained sniff of my coffee and orders a soda water. She landed the main part in The Crown in 2014, and went on to appear in its first two series, winning a Golden Globe last year, and an Emmy this year. By arrangement, Foy and all her co-stars have surrendered their roles (Olivia Colman and others are currently on set as the Windsors, a little older) and this has freed up Foy to turn to movies. She has a couple of huge ones due: a moody, Oscar-y biopic about Neil Armstrong, First Man, in which Foy plays opposite Ryan Gosling as the spacemans wife; and then a noisier blockbuster, with Foy shorn and dragon-tattooed as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl In The Spiders Web. She shot both films consecutively, Christmas through to spring, and hasnt taken another job since, in order to spend the summer with her daughter.

Recommended For You

IM Affiliate Funnel 2.0 FULL ACCESS (OTO IM Product Launching 2.0)

IM Product Launching 2.0. Kevin Fahey's Product Creation Secrets

WP ShieldMate Security Plugin v2

Easy to use WP security plugin makes it IMPOSSIBLE for hackers to LOGIN to your money site.. Add more security layers in 60 seconds!

A N I M A T I O - Main ( Single Site License )

Animatio is a unique visual Impact App which enables users to fix eyeballs to the page instantly…

Claire
In The Crown. Photograph: Netflix

We settle at a garden table. Foy wears a denim jumpsuit, collar wide on the throat that was so famously menaced when she played Anne Boleyn in the BBCs Wolf Hall. The dark hair is short, upthrust, much toyed with a grown-out version of Salanders punky undercut, which suits her but which the actor isnt so enamoured of: Ive just got to patiently wait it out. She has distinctive freckles on her face and arms that must have been determinedly suppressed by the makeup teams on The Crown and Wolf Hall, and a ridiculous accent that will veer from East Midlander to north Londoner to senior Windsor in the space of a phrase. And shes funny: Matt Smith, her Crown co-star, told a story on Desert Island Discs about how the two of them would ramp up their royal tics and posh-isms until one or the other couldnt act for laughing.

The day we meet is the last of the summer holidays, so Foy has the slightly wild alertness of someone who has spent six weeks distracting and entertaining a child. Once she establishes that we both have young daughters, she poses one of the great questions of modern parenting: Who would you be, Elsa or Anna? In both our homes there has been a lot of Disneys Frozen, a lot of introspection brought on by the ruthless 24-hour scrutiny of four-year-olds. In the garden, Foy marvels at it how parenthood holds up a mirror, and an unflattering one. It makes you realise, looking after a child, the holes you have in yourself. And why not, she goes on. You become someones parent and suddenly youre supposed to be capable? Have all the answers? Know what to do every day? Thats never really been her way.

Claire
As Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall. Photograph: BBC

Foy grew up in Buckinghamshire, the youngest of three, her mother in pharmaceuticals and her father in sales. They separated when she was eight and Foy, speaking delicately so as not to hurt their feelings, says the following years were slightly chaotic. Her response was to try to make everybody happy. Never be angry. Be really sweet and well-behaved. I didnt want to upset people.

She had a couple of serious illnesses in her teens a benign tumour behind one eye, juvenile arthritis that put her on crutches for a while. As a teenager youre supposed to distance yourself from your parents, arent you, and test the boundaries? See who you are as a person by saying, Fuck you! But I didnt want to upset or hurt them, in the endeavour of making life easy and calm. It all helped cook up a whopping case of anxiety, one that grew worse as she got older. Foy pulls a funny face to demonstrate what she was like: eager-to-please eyes, a slightly demonic grin. She tells a few jokey, belittling anecdotes about this difficult period (My sister went to Leeds University to do broadcast journalism, and when it came to my turn, I applied to Leeds to do broadcast journalism) but the anxiety was and is a serious issue in her life. Foy has never really spoken in depth about it; now, everything comes out.

When you have anxiety, you have anxiety about I dont know crossing the road, she says. The thing about it is, its not related to anything that would seem logical. Its purely about that feeling in the pit of your stomach, and the feeling that you cant, because youre this or youre that. Its my mind working at a thousand beats a second, and running away with a thought.

What thoughts? Foy answers briskly, brushing her hand in the air: Its lots of thoughts about how shit I am.

Looking back, shes come to think it started as a form of self-protection. It was a tool to survive, definitely. To try to hold on to everything. To try to feel safe. She describes an endless series of anticipations and second-guesses. If this happens, what then? And what then? And what then? If I knew a day was going to be ruined by anxiety, that was good in a way, because it meant I knew what was going to happen.

I ask whether a career in acting has made this worse or better. Oh, God. She laughs. It definitely magnified when I started doing this. Exploded. Yeah.

She didnt study journalism at Leeds (they said no). Instead she went to Liverpool John Moores University, to do drama and film studies, before enrolling for a postgraduate year at the Oxford School of Drama. I started to learn that the most important thing to do as an actor was not to try to pre-empt everything to stay in the moment. After graduation she came out of the blocks fast, landing a small part in a play at the National Theatre, and then the title role in a big mainstream Dickens adaptation, Little Dorrit, on the BBC in 2008.

With
With Ryan Gosling in First Man. Photograph: Universal Pictures

It was then that audiences first got a glimpse of Foys peculiar skill a near-genius for the silent response to others. So often her dilating eyes, the flinching muscles in her jaw and neck, do more thorough emotional work than the dialogue going on around her. Its become Foys thing, a very powerful ability to do very little and speak volumes, as The Crowns director Stephen Daldry put it. In First Man, Foy appears in a devastating early sequence about the terminal illness of a child. Filmed closer and closer, Foy says hardly 10 words, and shows us a whole universe of grief via a few smoked cigarettes. The actor credits guidance she got at the start, from Little Dorrits director Dearbhla Walsh. Dearbhla told me: Everyone around you will be swinging off the chandeliers thats what Dickens requires. But youre in the centre of it. Dont do anything. Dont try to act. No chandeliers.

For the next six or seven years Foy had no public profile, and although she was never long out of work (a Nicolas Cage action movie, a Peter Kosminsky drama, Shakespeare and Caryl Churchill on the London stage), there were many near-misses for big parts. This year the casting director Nina Gold, who has known Foy for a decade, told the Guardian that she was put in audition after audition, and she was always really good, but she was never quite exactly, totally right. Or somebody else was a bit more right. She was always the second choice. Foy says she was never too gutted the opposite. I didnt mind missing out, because it seemed safer. Id think: Give that job to that person. Then I dont have to think about my life changing in any massive way.

In 2014, after championing Foy for years, Gold put her up for the Anne Boleyn gig. Foy had worked with Wolf Halls director, Kosminsky, before but she still needed to convince him. She was on a shoot in Puerto Rico at the time, playing a pirates moll in a short-lived series for US television called Crossbones. Hair extensions. Fake tan. Those were the days. Off set, she filmed herself in character as Henry VIIIs fierce, prickly, doomed young bride. She could hardly convince herself at first.

Claire
I dont have any answers. Im learning like everyone else. Photograph: Brendan Freeman for the Guardian

Id read Hilary Mantels novel. And I just thought: Im not her. Not in any way, shape or form. Anne was so intelligent, so alluring, so able to be mysterious and have people be fascinated with her. Anne knew she was special. She spoke five languages. I just didnt see it.

But Kosminsky and Gold did, and Foys performance made the show her Anne coming at the other Tudors sideways, sardonic and hungry, her ambition outpacing them all until the young queen is herself outpaced and sentenced to death. Annes arrival at her execution, played by Foy with a sort of terse disbelief, even anger, made for unforgettable drama. Kosminsky has called that scene the proudest in his long career. Foy says: I was weirdly angry at the time, I remember. My hormones were going absolutely crazy. I was definitely loosening my corset that day.

It was only after Wolf Hall had wrapped that she figured out she had been pregnant throughout. At the time, she was married to the actor Stephen Campbell Moore. The pair announced their separation in the spring, and Foy has said she would rather not speak about it today. Instead she talks about her memories of that pregnancy, which upped things, she recalls. I felt like the game was on in life. I had to get my shit together. Gold felt shed be right for The Crown, immediately after Wolf Hall, so Foy waddled along to the audition. I was reticent Ive always been reticent about bigness. And I was scared, I didnt know how Id be after coming out the other end of having a child. You just dont know something could happen, I could get postnatal depression, I could, I dont know, develop a limp? So many variables! But I said yes to it. I knew it would be financially stable. We needed to buy a house.

Claire
In The Girl In The Spiders Web. Photograph: Nadja Klier

By now, she was seeing a therapist about her anxiety. It got to a point where everyone I knew said go. Im glad I did. Sitting in the pub garden, I attempt an amateur read of the weird psychological situation she found herself in. So the anxiety, I say: thats always told you to think about every possible consequence of everything.

Yeah.

While the acting insists the opposite dont think ahead, react.

Yeah, she says, exactly, its very confusing. Youve solved the puzzle. I took me 34 years to get to this point.

By the time The Crown began to shoot, pregnancy and a challenging labour had forced her to be pragmatic. As soon as I had the baby, I didnt have too much time to think, to second-guess myself. I didnt put myself through the wringer as much.

Claire
With the Emmy she won for The Crown. Photograph: EPA

She downplays the work she did over two brilliant series as a lot of sitting. And its true that other cast members had the better lines, providing much of the shows chandelier-swinging energy, Matt Smith as Prince Philip and Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, especially. Foys Elizabeth was stiller, more watchful, half-submerged. But the show worked only because of her; she was its landscape and its weather. When she was called on stage to collect the Emmy this month, Foys understatement was fitting. Bloody hell, she said, dedicating it to Matt Smith and to the new actors whod assumed their roles.

The new Armstrong movie has been directed by La La Land Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle, and will inevitably be a part of the coming awards shuffle. Theres a moment in the film when Foys character, Janet Armstrong, abruptly becomes world famous. Her husband has just landed on the moon. There are reporters on her lawn, wanting a quote. The way Foy plays it, a mask of simulated enthusiasm comes over Janet, who is now a public figure required to improvise public quips. If there have been parallels in Foys life Vague things Ive had where Ive felt slightly intruded on she says shes learned how to deal with them on the fly, usually by failing in the first instance.

When an argument brewed this year over pay disparity on the set of The Crown (it emerged that Smith had been paid more) her instinct was to equivocate. But her gentle quotes on the subject (Im not surprised that people saw [the story] and went, Oh, thats a bit odd), given to Entertainment Weekly, were ultimately mushed into blunter, world-weary headlines about how she was unshocked by any pay gap. A story was later circulated that she received substantial back pay, but Foy has since denied this. What I find really weird, she says now, is that people expect you to be an expert, and ask you questions about entire movements, huge things that are happening in the world, current affairs. And, I mean, I dont have any answers. I dont know. Im as confused as everyone else. Im learning like everyone else… It cant just be me spouting crap.

I never thought Id be in something as successful as The Crown, she says. And when you realise what success brings, and what people think about success… We laud success so much, and think that if youre successful youre special. When no, ultimately. Maybe it changes some people. But what I found really disconcerting was that it hadnt changed me at all. Ultimately, all the same old crap is going on.

Foy receives a text reminding her that today is school uniform pickup day. One more day of the summer holidays to go. One more screening of Frozen, tops. I think again about what she said about the two cartoon princesses how Foy would prefer to be the less anxious Anna, while her daughter, along with just about every four-year-old girl including my own, aches to be Elsa, who is the cursed, more troubled sister. Why would you want to be Elsa? Foy wondered. Elsas deeply miserable. Shes got a power she doesnt know how to deal with. Elsa doesnt want to be Elsa.

Before she leaves, I ask her how the anxiety is today. Its plateaued, she says. All your shit and everybody has shit it doesnt go away. Its still there, but I guess I dont believe it so much any more. I used to think that this was my lot in life, to be anxious. And that I would struggle and struggle and struggle with it, and that it would make me quite miserable, and that Id always be restricted.

But now Im able to disassociate myself from it more. I know that its just something I have and that I can take care of myself.

First Man is released in the UK on 12 October; The Girl In The Spiders Web is out on 21 November.

Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair: Sven Bayerbach at Carol Hayes Management. Makeup: Kelly Cornwell at Agency Artists. Dresses: Erdem (top) from harrods.com and FRS For Restless Sleepers (above) from matchesfashion.com.

Commenting on this piece? If you would like your comment to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazines letters page in print, please email weekend@theguardian.com, including your name and address (not for publication).

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.
The links are powered by Skimlinks. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that Skimlinks cookies will be set. More information.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

Recommended Products

eCom Cache Thrive

Get More Power out of eCom Cache

MailElite

MailElite is a cloud based autoresponder that lets you mail unlimited subscribers with the push of a button

Commission Sniper 20 DFY Videos

The All In One Video Launch Jacking App

Comments are closed.