Claire Foy has the sort of CV that you might expect from an actor who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and made her debut at the Royal National Theatre. She is, of course, best known for her portrayal of a young Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown, for which she won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. (She later won a Guest Actress Emmy for her appearance in season 4.)
Her royal roles did not begin or end at The Crown, however, previously playing the ill-fated queen Anne Boleyn in the 2015 BBC miniseries Wolf Hall, and later Duchess Margaret Campbell in 2021's A Very British Scandal. But Foy's career is far more unruly than just regent fare, having also starred in a Steven Soderbergh psychological thriller, a studio adaptation of a Stieg Larsson novel, and a biopic about an artist of psychedelic cat paintings.
Of note, her biggest movie roles since The Crown have been decidedly American: In 2018's First Man, she played Janet Shearon, wife of astronaut Neil Armstrong. In this year's Women Talking, from filmmaker Sarah Polley, Foy plays a Mennonite woman whose community must act in the wake of ongoing sexual violence. "When this came to me, it was a really, really exciting and unique story," says the actress. "Sarah, as a filmmaker, is both those things."
When you consider Foy's favorite films, it gives shape to a career, not restricted by genre or highbrowness, but by filmmakers who inspire her and characters she won't soon forget. But for someone so bold on the screen, actually choosing those five favorite films proved rather daunting. "I was scared s—tless about it," Foy laughs. "I was like, 'Everyone, what's your favorite films?' But I've thought of my own now."
Written and directed by: Michael Haneke
I'll start cerebral. I saw The Piano Teacher at university, and it was not something I ever would have watched at the time, in my capacity of what I had been exposed to as film. I remember the feeling of watching it. The feeling was like a pressure or something. I found it so challenging, but also, I was so fascinated by it. There was some weird sort of obsession with it. I thought Isabelle Huppert was amazing in it. I'd never seen such a quiet, unlikable, but just charismatic performer. I could not understand how she could hold all those things in that space. I thought the subject matter it explored was amazing. There was something sort of erotic and also really perverse and difficult about it. I loved everything about it, and it opened my eyes to a whole different genre of cinema, which was amazing for me.
Directed by: Terry Jones | Written by: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin
I watched that film very, very young. Whatever the rating was, I was probably at least eight years below it. I remember being with all my family watching it, and having that experience of everybody laughing at it — and everyone laughing at different moments, people finding different things funny. Then that amazing thing where you watch a film when you're younger and then again when you're older and you actually understand what they're saying. So many things I just did not understand at the time, that now when I watch it, I'm like, 'Oh, I see!'
There was something incredible about all the performers in it. They really acted in it. Michael Palin does some of the most amazing character acting in that film. It's incredibly comedic, but there's something about the intention. They all commit entirely to the character they're playing. I don't know how they got through it. I'd love to see the outtakes. But they fully commit to those people that they're playing, even though a lot of them are completely ridiculous.
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann | Written by: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
I've got two by the same director, which is slightly controversial. Strictly Ballroom was, for me, pure unadulterated magic from beginning to end. It was everything I love: I love dancing and watching people dance beautifully. And there was the color, the imagination, the music! The flamenco element and the passion. But also the idea that he was going against the grain and bucking tradition, and she was turned into a beautiful swan. The dad in it is one of the most heartbreaking things, when he dances alone on the rooftop. It was about performance as well, which I really loved. I just think it's full of heart and magic and oh, I could eat it. I love it.
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann | Written by: Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann
I'm a big Baz fan. And obviously, I was madly and deeply in love with Leonardo DiCaprio, but let's put that to one side. Let's appreciate the film. It was at a point in my life where I had seen a certain type of film by a certain type of filmmaker for a long time, and I was seeing a movie — an adaptation of something as well — which was about my age bracket, and with these visuals bringing together religion and the iconography of religion with these young kids and their attraction for one another. And it's just cannonballing towards tragedy.
I thought it was incredible what he did with the Shakespearean text. He's very good in those early films of making something commercial, I suppose, and I know that sounds weird, but making it a brand almost. As soon as you watch it, you're like, 'Oh, this is the world I'm in.' It was so clear. The music is amazing. That album I must have played a thousand times. And I just remember thinking, 'God, imagine living in that film.' I loved it. I still love it. I think it's one of the best of all time.
Written and directed by: Jane Campion
I only watched The Piano for the first time in the last couple of years. Now, I've seen it many times since. I could play the music from the score before actually seeing the film, which is really, really ridiculous. I don't know why I'd never watched it. From beginning to end, it's incredibly beautiful. The cinematography is extraordinary. I think the way that she composes a shot is incredibly poetic. She's able to combine different elements together which make a frame really tell a story, which I really admire in a filmmaker. All the performances are extraordinary. The way it explored attraction and desire and female desire was really amazing. And the mud! It was a very tactile film. You can sort of feel it. You can feel everything. I just love it very much. If I could have been in The Piano, oh! I want to do The Piano 2. Imagine that? That would be the dream.