Noomi Rapace - It Girl
Noomi Rapace is finished with her role as prickly computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium film trilogy – and she’s caustic about plans for a remake. By Helen Barlow.
Certainly Hollywood has taken notice as Rapace is currently filming Sherlock Holmes II with Robert Downey Jnr. in London. “I always felt like I was going to leave Sweden one day and when I was a kid I was lying to everyone how I was leaving soon,” recalls Rapace. “Probably I always felt a bit on my way. But I don’t have a dream of being a Hollywood superstar. I want to be an actress, that’s all. “I don’t care if I work on a studio production or a small independent film from Ukraine. All I care about are the characters and the stories.”
Rapace has also signed on to appear in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s vampire drama The Last Voyage of Demeter, alongside Ben Kingsley. If Ridley Scott has his way, she will also star in his Alien prequel. She is certainly a fan of the director’s movies and his iconic female characters have influenced her greatly. “When I saw Aliens with Sigourney Weaver years ago it opened up a new reality, a female hero,” he notes. “I was inspired too by Thelma and Louise, those two women fighting against the police and going straight to hell or up to heaven or whatever you want to call it!”
Certainly Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium novels, which have sold more than 30 million copies in 40 countries, have brought Rapace a once-in-a-lifetime role. Her warrior princess, replete with tattoos, piercings and, in this third movie one hell of an outfit in court, is already ingrained as a cinema icon. Yet playing Lisbeth was never an easy task as Rapace takes her Method way of inhabiting a role very seriously. “I always think acting’s more interesting if it gets personal,” she says. “You have to be on the edge, you have to risk something, to put yourself in emotional danger.”
Living in a kind of cocoon while filming the series, she struggled to relate to her husband, Swedish actor Ola Rapace (from whom she recently filed for divorce). Coming home to her 6-year-old son, Lev, wasn’t easy after playing Lisbeth, either. “Luckily, he’s very direct and very sharp. He said to me, ‘Mum, stop acting like you’re a teenage boy!’ Then when I was reading him a bedtime story he said, ‘Mummy can you use your own voice?’ So he knows pretty much about what we’re doing, even if I don’t tell him what it’s about, because sometimes it’s too difficult.” The first film in the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has had the most impact, in part because the Lisbeth Salander character was so new and exciting. While the second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire, ended too suddenly to be truly satisfying, the third instalment, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, ties up all the loose ends.
As she sits in a hospital bed recovering after being shot by her father and semi-mutant half-brother, Lisbeth awaits trial for her earlier murder attempt on her father and plans her revenge for all the abuse she’s suffered, naturally with the help of her loyal friend Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and Millennium magazine. Towards the end of the film there’s a climactic action sequence between Lisbeth and her hulking half-brother, in which Rapace again shows her physical prowess. She admits to enjoying the physical side of the role, especially learning kickboxing, even if her work-out was strenuous, as she was desperate to do all her own stunts. While she has regained the weight she lost, her abs are still taut and impressive today.
“Ah, it’s just doing your homework,” Rapace says dismissively. “It’s supposed to be like that. I’m an actress. If a character’s athletic I have to run every day for half a year so I can understand how to think like her in certain situations. Playing Lisbeth I had to be able to fight and to find a way to be more aggressive or explosive.” Still, she was careful to keep the violence real. “I don’t like when violence is entertaining. I don’t like it when you can jump on someone’s head 10 times and the person will stand up and continue to fight, because that wouldn’t happen in real life. “When I saw Natural Born Killers when I was a teenager I was completely obsessed with that film because it takes the violence up on another level, yet it still tells something about humanity.”
As one might imagine, letting Lisbeth go wasn’t easy. “It was funny; I’m never sick,” Rapace explains, “but on the last day when we finished shooting the third film I began to throw up and I couldn’t stop for an hour and a half. I was lying in the bathroom at the set and everyone came in wanting to drink champagne and to have a party but I couldn’t even stand on my feet. “I think my body was expelling her in a way. Then a week later I jumped into another project, to play Medea on stage. I started to rehearse and I didn’t have to think about her so much. So I just left her.” Rapace was never going to be part of David Fincher’s US remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which stars Daniel Craig and the relatively unknown Rooney Mara, who reportedly now has nipple piercings and tattoos to inhabit the character. She certainly has huge shoes to fill.
“I think I was very clear from the beginning that I didn’t want to do it again,” Rapace admits. “I can’t see any reason for doing a remake. Nobody asked me and I didn’t want to do it. I respect David Fincher; he’s done amazing films. It will be interesting to see what he does with it but I don’t think about it so much.”
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is out in cinemas December 26. The first film in the trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, will debut on Rialto channel January 29.