Having learned to speak English only three years ago, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace is making quite a splash in Hollywood. After well-earned global acclaim for her riveting portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the original film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium Trilogy (which includes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), her first English-speaking role is as a mysterious Gypsy named Sim, in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
At the press junket for Sherlock 2, Collider got the opportunity to chat with the actress who is clearly very passionate about her craft and, while we will run the portion of the interview about that film, closer to its December 16th release, we did want to share what she had to say about her transition to American movies. She talked about working with Ridley Scott, who is one of her heroes, on the 2012 summer blockbuster Prometheus, which she recently gotten to see some of while doing ADR in London a couple weeks ago, re-teaming with her Dragon Tattoo director, Niels Arden Oplev, for Dead Man Down, starring Colin Farrell, possibly working with Brian DePalma, and that it’s looking like The Last Voyage of Demeter is not going to work out. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
NOOMI RAPACE: I grew up watching American movies. My favorite movies have always been American, since as long as I can remember. I loved Dog Day Afternoon, The Godfather, Carlito’s Way, Scarface, Raging Bull, True Romance, Thelma and Louise, Alien and all of those movies. I always had this huge respect for American filmmakers and American actors. Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn are my favorites, and the ones I always go back to. I watch their work, over and over. So, I always had this very strong love and respect for the American cinema. I always knew that I was going to leave Sweden. My mom said to me, just a couple days ago, that when I was nine, I said, “I’m moving soon.” I knew that I wanted to fly away. I always felt like, “I’m not typical Swedish. I don’t really fit in. This is not my country.” When I was a teenager, I was like, “Something is wrong with me. I don’t fit in. I’m not like everybody else.” So, I always knew that I wanted to explore and move on, but it was completely unexpected, the way it happened.
Today, I’m still so surprised and happy and lucky and proud that people loved and embraced the Millennium movies we did, so much. When I stepped into Lisbeth [Salander], and when she grew in me, I was prepping for seven months, I changed my body a lot and I was training a lot, and I took the license for a motorcycle, and I did all those piercings and cut my hair. She slowly came to me, when I was prepping, and then, we were filming for one year, so she occupied me for one and a half years. And then, when I came out of that bubble, I was like, “Oh, my god, people are going to hate me. They’re going to hate what I did.”
Everybody loved the books so much, and the books were really big in Europe, so I expected people to just be furious. I felt like it was impossible to satisfy people, especially when they have such a strong inner picture and feelings about a character in a book. So, I was really surprised, when I started to realize that people really liked what I did and believed in my performance. And then, when I met Ridley Scott and he said to me that he’d seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo three times and that he wanted to work with me, it felt completely unreal, but also fantastic.
The weird thing is that, with actors, filmmakers and directors, it doesn’t really matter if it’s Robert Downey, Jr., who’s one of the biggest stars in the world, when you start to work, he’s a hardworking actor. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who’s a big star and who’s an unknown actor from wherever. It’s all about the work you do. With people that are really working hard, that’s what we always have in common. You can always meet each other and connect, in that way. It was the same with Ridley [Scott]. He’s one of my heroes. After a couple of days, we became really close and it felt like we were really working together as a team, searching for and discovering things. He’s so humble, so down-to-earth, so loving and just incredible. Then, the whole stardom and the circus around it disappears.
Is it exciting for you to be a part of a big 3D summer blockbuster with Prometheus?
RAPACE: It’s kind of crazy. I was doing ADR two weeks ago, in London, and it looks fantastic. I remember when I came into some of the sets, it just blew me away. It took my breath away, with the way they created it. We didn’t have green screen. I think we had it twice. They built everything. It felt like magic. It’s stunning. What’s so fantastic, with Ridley [Scott], is that he’s such an artist and he creates really big, amazing shots, but it’s still brutally beautiful, at the same time. I can’t wait to see it!
I feel like my character is the heart in the movie. You follow her, and she changes. In the beginning, she’s a believer. She believes in God and she has a very strong faith. She is a scientist and an archaeologist. She’s on this mission, and she’s full of hope. In the middle of the movie, things happen and she changes into more of a warrior. And in the end, she’s such a survivor. It was really a quite intense and dramatic journey for me to go through, and to do with Ridley and the other actors. But, when we were finished and we wrapped in Iceland, I remember that it was almost like I came back to Earth because I’d been on this spaceship and I’d been out on this weird planet. It’s always quite fascinating, when I look back at things and I realize how deep into it I actually was. It’s almost like I’m occupied by something.
What’s it like to be part of films that are so secretive, while there’s so much interest in them? Is it difficult to make sure things don’t get out about the roles that you’re playing?
RAPACE: Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes you just want to go out and tell everybody everything because you’re just so full of happiness. It’s almost like you’re high on it and you just want to tell everybody about your experience, but you’re not allowed to say anything. You need to hold it back and force yourself to be quiet because you can’t share it with anyone. At the same time, I’m quite used to it. When I was doing the Millennium movies, I was hiding because they didn’t want anyone to see what I looked like. In the books, what she looks like is not really so specifically described, so I created the look of her and I was hiding for a year. Every time I went to something where I expected photographers or journalists, I wore hats and I was disguised, in a way. So, it was not only that I couldn’t say things, but I was hiding and staying away, as well.
RAPACE: I don’t know if it’s next, but in March, I will start this movie with Colin Farrell, called Dead Man Down. It’s a fantastic script. I might do a movie with Brian DePalma before that. I’m talking to him, and he wants to do this movie with me that’s a really, really cool script. It’s called Passion. I love Scarface and Carlito’s Way. He’s done fantastic films, and it’s been really interesting, talking to him. So, I might do that before, and then go do the movie with Colin. And then, after that, I have a couple of things, but I can’t really talk about them yet.
Are you still doing The Last Voyage of Demeter, or is that not happening anymore?
RAPACE: No, that’s not really happening now. I remember, when they wanted to do it, I was starting Prometheus, and Jude [Law] was doing something else. And then, they pushed it, and I don’t really know when it’s going to happen.
How do you feel about re-teaming with your director for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Niels Arden Oplev, for Dead Man Down?
RAPACE: I’m actually seeing him tomorrow night. We’re going to sit and work on the script. I can’t wait! He’s fantastic! He’s a very brave director. I love working with him because we’re quite similar. We’re very passionate about what we do. Sometimes we were fighting about things, but we always came back to each other and we respect each other a lot. He knows me very well. It’s almost like he’s seen into my soul, and the darkest sides of me. But, I can’t wait to work with him again.
He has this very rare thing, where he can tell stories that are complicated and with many layers, but he can open them up and make them visible and accessible. I think he has a gift where he can make them understandable for a lot of people. Some directors can tell stories and it becomes very intimate and small, and it’s almost like a secret. Some directors have the gift of finding a way to show it and tell the story, in a way that brings in the audience, and I think he has that gift. I can’t wait to start that with him again.
We’ve been seeing each other at different press junkets and premieres and stuff, and we were always like, “Okay, we want to do something again. What should we do? It needs to be something specific and personal.” The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo changed things for me, a lot, so it feels like it’s really important, what you choose to do next, with that person. This came to me and I read the script, and I was like, “Oh, my god, this is so cool!”