While Noomi Rapace had been acting in Sweden for a number of years, she wasn’t well known Stateside until she landed the role of Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish/Danish film adaptations of the Millennium series by author Stieg Larsson. However, after her breakthrough role, Rapace took meetings all over Hollywood and landed two big roles: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus.
While on set earlier this year, I got to participate in a group interview with Rapace and she talked about how she landed the role, who she plays (a gypsy named Sim), how a big budget Hollywood movie compares to her previous work in the indie world, how she prepared for the role, how she dealt with the action, working with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, and a lot more. Hit the jump for more.
Before going any further, if you missed the recent trailer, I’d watch that first.
Here’s a few of the highlights from the interview:
- When meeting for the role, she first met with producers at Warner Bros., then had a meeting with Robert and Susan Downey, then she flew to London to meet Guy Ritchie.
- She says her character’s a strong woman. She meets Holmes in London, then they meet again alter in France.
- Compared with the independent films that she’s used to, she said that she was surprised by the creativity allowed on the set of the big-budget studio film. It’s much more flexible than she imagined it would be.
- She did a lot of research on gypsies and their culture. She learned to speak some Romany, and learned some dances.
- Her character isn’t a big fighter, but she’s a street-fighter. They wanted to make it credible and realistic, so her fighting mode is more one of survival.
- She judges her acting from the inside instead of the outside. She decides if she needs to do another take based on how the previous one felt on the inside to other, rather than how it looks on the monitor.
Here’s the full on set interview. You can also click here to listen to the audio.
Question: How did you get involved in this in the first place?
Noomi Rapace: First, I went to Warner Brothers in August and I met some of the producers there. Then the next day Susan [Downey] and Robert [Downey Jr.] wanted to meet me, and then I went to their office in Venice in LA. I had 10 or 15 minutes with them and we talked about dreams and what kind of movies we want to make. We didn’t talk about this at all. I kind of felt from the first moment that I shared some kind of vision with Robert and also with Susan – how we want to work and what kind of direction we want to go. Then they called my people, my manager and my agent after a couple of weeks and wanted me to go to London to meet Guy Ritchie. And I did and I liked him very much, and I think he liked me. So it happened quite quickly.
You’re a newcomer to the series. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have great chemistry. How intimidating was that for you to join this film?
Rapace: It’s kind of being the new girl in the class or something. No, it’s really nice. You can feel that the whole team and everybody has something really good, so it’s like stepping into something where somebody else has made the hard work so you can just fly, in a way. So it’s been a great, fantastic journey. We have so much fun and every day’s – this day is not, maybe, so fun [laughs] – but otherwise, we’ve been working on the characters and the scenes and trying to find the best way of telling the story every day. So it’s very searching, exploring work.
How does your character fit in?
Rapace: She meets Holmes for the first time in London and then they meet later on in France. She has a personal reason to actually go with him on this journey.
Rapace: We did a couple of videos a week ago and when I came in, all of the journalists said, “Oh, the guys, they talk about you as one of the guys.” And I was like, “Yeah? Is that bad or is that good?” I feel like she’s quite tough. She’s a strong woman, I think.
What has the experience of working on a Hollywood film been like compared to what you thought it would be?
Rapace: I’m quite surprised that it’s so flexible. That we are searching and exploring and there’s curiosity and passion that are the things that everybody is going back to all the time. I thought it would be much more that the head of the studio would say, “We need to do this exactly, this script and this scene and you have to be this character.” It’s much more creative than I expected. But I’ve been in Hollywood a few times so it’s really from an outsider point-of-view, but I thought it would be much more controlled in a way. It feels like an independent film, in a way, because it really feels like we are a team and we’re working to do something together and to tell this story in the most exciting and entertaining way.
Rapace: Oh yes. I’ve done a lot of research on gypsies and their culture, so, for example, I’ve added in that I actually talk some Romany, their language. So we’ve added in some lines based on how they actually talk. So they will probably need to do subtitles in some scenes. I’m learning to do some dances and stuff like that. That’s something that I like. And Guy – he loves gypsies.
Is she an action girl? Do you get to fight with the boys? Did you do training for that?
Rapace: Yes, but she’s not a… I think it’s really important to find a way to do things realistic and credible so that it’s possible. She’s not a fighter. She’s a street-fighter, so she can use a fork or a knife or she can throw a stone or bite somebody. I think she’s a survivor – she’s used to being…I think most gypsies all over the world are used to being not really welcome and always on the run, expecting people to not like them and to be critical. So, I think she is used to taking care of herself and fighting back. We have many explosive situations.
Rapace: I think it’s always been, and I think it will always be, about the people. The actors, the director and the script. That’s everything. I don’t care if it’s a big studio production or a small independent movie, it’s all about… I think I’m obsessed with the human psyche. I want to understand. I want to ask myself if I have it inside me, is it possible? I want to explore humanity and human kind. I think that what’s common for all of the things that I’ve done and all the things that I want to do is that they are all connected to some deeper things in our souls.
Can you tell us about your acting process?
Rapace: I don’t look at myself on the outside. Sometimes you feel like you’re not really there and need one more [take], because I feel like something is coming out. I don’t really know what but I need to get it out. It’s not that I go to the monitor and say that I want to do one more because it’s not really good enough. It’s more about how it feels inside. I don’t want to step in and out. I try to stay in this protective bubble in a way. But I think it’s pretty much about trust – trusting your director when he says, “I have it.” Because I’m never satisfied. I can always find things that I can do better and go further on, so I force myself to accept when someone says, “We have it, it’s good and we can move on.”
What’s it like to work with Robert and Jude?
Rapace: Fantastic. They are amazing actors, both of them. But also very brave. I think they are, everyday, trying to find the best solution. And it doesn’t matter if it comes from me or Robert or Jude or Guy or one of the producers – it’s like everybody is working together for the same goal, and that’s the best team you can be part of. So it’s been fantastic.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows opens December 16th.
Here’s more from our Sherlock Holmes set visit:
- 20 Things to Know About SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS From Our Set Visit; Plus Video Blog Recap and Director Guy Ritchie Interview
- Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS On Set Interview
- Producers Susan Downey and Lionel Wigram On Set Interview SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS
- Jared Harris Talks About Playing Moriarty on the Set of SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS