Esquire (2013)
Q&A: Noomi Rapace
March 08, 2013 | Written by Anna Peele
Noomi Rapace is tough. Of course, youíd expect nothing else from the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who was so invested in the character that she considered getting the titular tattoo before deciding it would be too limiting for future roles. Or the woman who played a character that had her baby ripped out of her by a machine in Prometheus. Not to mention the role she plays in Dead Man Down, out this weekend: a woman who blackmails a contract killer played by the underrated Colin Farrell into taking revenge on the man who scarred her face in a drunk-driving accident. When I met Noomi at the Apple Store in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, she was leather-clad and decisive, preferring to wait until the team behind the new Journey documentary, also there doing interviews, had exited the room before talking so we would have more privacy. We discussed Dead Man Down, Lisbeth of Dragon Tattoo, vanity, herpes sores, and leaving a character behind.
Youíre in New York shooting Animal Rescue, which is your second movie with Tom Hardy?
NOOMI RAPACE: No, actually this is the first, and then we doChild 44 after that.
Did you know him before you signed on to two movies with him?
Yeah, I knew him, heís a friend of mine. [A phone rings.] Thatís not me. I have three phones, and they drive me crazy.
One business, one personal, and whatís the last one, drug deals?
No, actually one American, one English, and one Swedish. Iím so not technical, so I probably could have them all connected to one phone, but I donít know how to do it. So I know Tom, and weíve been trying to find something to do because I think heís such an amazing actor and I adore him as a person. Then we both read the script, and itís amazing. I love it. Itís based on a short novel by Dennis Lehane, who wrote Mystic River.
So Iím guessing this is a really light comedy.
Itís a light comedy and my character is a very cute girl-next-door. No, actually itís a drama, but I was kind of laughing out loud when I was reading the script a couple of times, because I found it funny.
Really?
Itís dark, of course. The director is great. Heís this Belgian guy, Michael Roskham, who did Bullhead. Have you seen Bullhead?
I have not.
Oh, you should watch it. Itís a really good movie. You know Matthias Schoenaerts who did Rust& Bone? Heís the lead guy, that was his breakthrough movie.
He was incredible in Rust & Bone.
Heís in Animal Rescue, too.
Dead Man Down is fantastic.
Thank you.
I wasnít surprised that it was good, but I was surprised that an action movie starring Colin Farrell had so much character development and relatively few explosions.
For me, it was never an action movie. When I read the script, it kind of reminded me a little bit of True Romance and the '90s movies that I loved; the combination of really strong characters in a quite fucked up world.
The characters are a little fucked up, too.
I love when I read a script and itís kind of unpredictable, because most scripts are like, Okay, yeah, I saw that coming, but with my character, the way she just switches from this kind of girly, almost like a doll, to her blackmailing him. Sheís kind of crazy.
Colin Farrell is a great foil for her, much calmer but easily just as nuts.
Heís amazing. And heís so hard-working, and passionate and so nice to everybody on the team. He creates an environment that is good for everybody to work in. And neither one of us could sleep, so I would step out on the balcony at four in the morning. My head was spinning around scenes. He would be out on the balcony smoking in the hotel room next to mine.
I know that youíre vocal when you think thereís something that isnít right for your character. Youíre so beautiful and your character has a pretty subtle scar, but everyone is acting like sheís this monster. Did you push to make the scar uglier at any point?
I agree with you about the scar, so I did kind of build my backstory to kind of accept the fact that you canít win all fights. She was hit by the car like a year ago, and she was in the hospital for like three months. She actually looked terrible when she woke up, and she kind of wished she would have just died instead, because her life circles around beauty. Sheís a beautician and she lives with this mother, and her mother is so pretty and petite and so French, a real woman. Then she goes through all those steps of plastic surgery, but she canít see that itís actually much better today. She still sees herself as a freak. I agree with you, she looks kind of okay, but she canít see it.
But everyone has a friend whoís like, "Oh, my eyelid is droopy," but no one would ever notice that but her.
Or they get like a herpes thing on the lip.
Herpes?
Yeah, the herpes thing. And theyíre like, "No, I canít go out like this. I canít show my face like this. Itís so disgusting. People are going to think that I have the worst disease."
Thatís when you wear a cool bandana over your mouth.
Exactly, or those things that Japanese people wear when theyíre traveling.
Your character sees an opportunity in Colin Farrellís character, Victor.
I loved how when she sees Victor kill this man in the apartment, and itís almost like a flash: Oh, thatís my answer, thatís my medicine. Heís salvation, heís going to do it.
Your characters are so animalistic and instinctive that I was a little surprised she didnít want to take revenge herself, even though she is very feminine.
She doesnít have it in her. She would never be able to do it herself. Thatís kind of the difference between, letís say, her and Lisbeth [Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo]. Lisbeth would just go and set his house on fire or kill him. But she doesnít have violence in her, even though she has very violent thoughts, so she needs a hitman, someone to do it for her.
You changed your last name to Rapace, which means "bird of prey" in French. Is that coming from something within you, like that predatory instinct that seems to run in your characters?
Good point. I grew up in Iceland, and I was always fascinated by those big birds like eagles and hawks. When I was like six or seven, I lived out in nowhere. I was out playing with ice, and there was, I think, a hawk just two meters from me, and he was looking at me with the strangest eyes. It was just like, Heís like a God. He knows everything. We were looking at each other for minutes, and ever since Iíve always been drawn to those big birds. They protect their families and they stay monogamous until one dies, and then they kind of move on. When I met my ex-husband he had the same thing for those birds, so it was kind of more the beautiful side of it actually. But I think Iím drawn to characters that are more complicated. I find it quite boring to just come in and do a romantic comedy and do a sweet girl thatís in a little bit of love trouble. Because when Iím working the character kind of takes over my life. Prometheus was like six months. I kind of need to know that itís worth it, that itís actually something that I want to invite and have in my life for a couple of months. Lisbeth was like a year and a half with all of that.
I canít imagine playing that character for a year and a half.
Yeah, I was a complete disaster in the end. Friends were asking me, "How far are you going to take this? We donít recognize you anymore. Whatís going on? Youíre acting really weird." And I was like, "Whatís wrong with you? Just leave me alone. Why are you picking on me? Do you want to start a fight?" So I was in a really weird mood, angry and asocial. When I did the last day on the third Millenium movie, I remember that the producers came with big bottles of champagne and were like, "Now weíre going to celebrate! We did it, a year later!" And I was just like, "Oh, just give me a moment," and I went into the restroom and started to vomit, and I was on the floor for forty minutes. Iím never sick. Itís like my body was just throwing Lisbeth out. Itís enough. Just leave me now.
Did you feel better after you purged her?
No, I went home, and I was completely lost for a week. I looked really horrible with this mohawk just hanging and all the piercings. I looked at myself in the mirror the next morning and was like, Who are you? What have you become? When I finished Prometheus, I was in Iceland, and we were shooting next to a big volcano out in this nowhere desert landscape. We came back to Reykjavik on a helicopter, and I was at this nice hotel. Do you remember the shooting, this guy in Norway who shot all those people on the island? That was on the news, and I was just watching that on BBC, and I thought I lost my mind. It felt like I had been on a planet out in another universe and I just came back to Earth, and it was so traumatic and so weird. I didnít understand what they were saying, and for two weeks after that I was kind of lost. It always affects me a lot when I come back.

© 2013 Esquire