The Wall Street Journal (2010)
The Girl Who Played Salander
October 28, 2010 | Written by Marshall HeymanWhen the Swedish-born actress Noomi Rapace took the role of Lisbeth Salander, a.k.a. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, in the Swedish film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, "it felt like some sort of suicide mission," she said in an interview. "Everybody seems to love Lisbeth, but it’s impossible to satisfy everybody. I had to ignore that and create some kind of protective bubble around me. I went into my own universe." Ms. Rapace was in New York this week to promote the third and final film in the saga, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest," which will hit theaters on Friday. David Fincher is at work in Stockholm on the American version – starring Daniel Craig as journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara of "The Social Network," in the role of Ms. Salander – but things are just heating up for Ms. Rapace. She now has a whole Hollywood team working in her interests. She’s filming a role in London opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the sequel to "Sherlock Holmes." And Music Box Films, the U.S. distributor of the three Swedish "Dragon Tattoo" films, is reportedly rolling out an Oscar campaign for its star."It’s amazing how the audience has embraced the movies and my performance," Ms. Rapace said. "I know that people in this country are not so used to subtitles, so that’s far enough for me. I’m so happy for that." Ms. Rapace, who invented her last name to evoke the birds of prey that have always fascinated her, said she prepared for seven months for the role of the sullen and mohawked computer hacker. She studied for her motorcycle license, got her own piercings – "You can see small scars," she said, fingering her eyebrow – and worked out with a Serbian kickboxer five days a week. "He was really hard on me," she recalled. "But I wanted to wake up to my aggressive side. I always try to prepare so much when we shoot a movie so I don’t have to think, I don’t have to analyze. I can just let go of control. It’s like I sacrifice myself."
One of her managers visited Ms. Rapace after she shot "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" to see if she wanted to seek opportunities in America. "I said, ‘I don’t want to go to Hollywood. It’s not for me,’" Ms. Rapace recalled. "I was like, ‘What do you want from me? Leave me alone.’ I was not really ready for it. When I look back, I see that was Lisbeth." The manager started sending scripts, "and I was, like, ‘Wow, some of those scripts are amazing.’" Meetings in Los Angeles in August led to "Sherlock Holmes 2," in which she’ll play a gypsy. "I’m going to visit the gypsy camps outside of Paris, and I’m going to Transylvania to spend some time with gypsies," Ms. Rapace said, of her research plans. (Warner Bros., she said, will be footing that bill.) "I’m listening to a lot of gypsy music. With all of this information, you can pick some puzzle pieces from your childhood and then you can use something from somebody else’s and then your character can have many layers." Lately, Ms. Rapace has been fielding questions about whether there’s a fourth or even a fifth book in the series of the late Mr. Larsson.
"Nobody knows," she said. "I think his girlfriend is the only one who knows. I’ve never met her but she sent me a rose. She has dignity and she’s not a golddigger and I think she is trying to live through the circus around her." The overscheduled 24 hours Ms. Rapace had in New York this week marked only her second trip to the city. In February, she spent four days sitting in a hotel doing interviews. "I love a designer called Rick Owens and I wanted to go to his store. I was begging them, ‘Give me an hour, please,’ and it was not possible," Ms. Rapace said. "I wanted to go out by myself for five minutes, so I went out to Starbucks and bought a coffee. It was pouring down rain and there were two old ladies with big sunglasses in the middle of the rain and I was like ‘that would never happen in Sweden.’ Here there are crazy people, fancy, beautiful people and next to them are people who are really far out."
© 2010 The Wall Street Journal