Noomi Rapace on the Scene She Improvised in The Drop
Michael Roskam’s new crime drama The Drop has a lot going for it: a great lead performance by the always reliable Tom Hardy, the final appearance by the late James Gandolfini, and, of course, the presence of none other than Noomi Rapace, who has quickly proven to be one of the most interesting actresses in Hollywood. We sat down with Rapace during the just-ended Toronto International Film Festival to talk about working with acting legends, her wish list of collaborators, and how she improvised one of The Drop’s most important scenes.
ESQUIRE.COM: Do you find that being in this movie with these really great actors pushes you more?
NOOMI RAPACE: Well I always push myself, even when I did a film where it was pretty much me the whole film. That was called Daisy Diamond , where I was in for like ten weeks, and the other actors were in for one or two days, and it was just me. The whole film is just close-ups — me, me, me, me. I remember I was like, “Please, can we just write more scenes?” I want actors. I want to be with other people. I don’t wanna be alone, because of the connection when you’re in a room, in a scene with someone, and it comes to life. You feel like the moment is something magic.
ESQ: Are there any other directors you’d like to work with?
NR: Oh yeah, Darren Aronofsky. Scott Cooper. He’s the guy who did Crazy Heart  and Out of the Furnace , an amazing film!
ESQ: Do you find it makes a difference when working with a new director versus one with a long career?
NR: I don’t care. For example Ridley, he has this almost childish, naïve obsession with detail and he’s so curious. He’s still searching. I love that. Do you remember my voiceover, when I take off in Prometheus, in the end, how I’m still searching? That’s Ridley for me.
ESQ: Any actors you know you want to work with?
NR: Oh yeah. If Christian Bale is doing a film, I’m like, “Okay, I don’t need to read the script, I’m gonna do it!” Because I think he is so good. Joaquin Phoenix, if he’s in, I’m in.
ESQ: In The Drop your character is a lot more passive than some of the other, stronger roles you’ve played.
NR: Not passive, but more fragile maybe, and protecting of herself. Someone who is balancing. She lost herself into destruction before, and she doesn’t want to do it again. She wants to live. It’s almost like… you know when you break a pattern, like when you become sober, or if you move to another country, or if you come as a refugee from, like, Afghanistan.
ESQ: You see that most in the confrontation in the kitchen. That scene is key.
NR: It’s improvised.
ESQ: Wow, really, you improvised that?
NR: Yeah, that scene was not in the script, and I remember when I read the script there was something missing. I said to the director, “I think we need a scene between them.” He agreed with me, and then Matthias [Schoenaerts] came — I think I’d been shooting for three weeks or something when Matthias came. First time I met him I was like, “Okay, nice to meet you. We need to talk! There’s a missing piece!” Then we started and he was like “Yeah, I get it, I agree with you.” Then we started to talk, and we actually wrote, and I was like, “I’m gonna write the scene. You write the scene. Let’s find what we think is the missing link.”
ESQ: Do you typically contribute to the movie in that way?
NR: Yeah, I can come up sometimes with ideas for scenes that I’m not in, to make it better or add something. It’s not about me, or my ego, that I wanna show this or that. I think that I’m very passionate, and I know that if I decide to do a film, my character is going to take over my life. That’s what it’s like. I give myself to it — for good or for bad! Even in Prometheus there were like two scenes that I asked Ridley to put in, small things that I felt like would add something.
ESQ: Tell me that it was the alien abortion scene.
NR: Not that one — I wish! No, it was like when I put my boyfriend’s ring on my finger. It’s a small scene before I go out, but my boyfriend is dead. For me, that kind of made her more human. She’s not a robot, she’s not a heroine, and she’s not a badass girl. She’s just a woman, you know? It was the same with the small scene in the very end when she starts to cry in the helmet, and I’m like, “I’m sorry, I can’t do it. It’s too much.”
ESQ: And you just improvised that?
NR: I told Ridley about the idea, and he said, “Yeah, I like it, but don’t go sentimental.” I was like “No?!” And then we did the scene. I love that. Sometimes I come up with really bad ideas and that’s okay when people say, “Noomi, that’s a shitty idea,” and I’m like “Yeah, might be a shitty idea,” but sometimes I have good ideas. I love that part of our job. It’s a constant process of searching, of exploring stuff, and realizing things. You can be in the middle of the film and it’s like, “Oh my God! I think we need to do this! Maybe in this scene she should shave her head!” I tried to do that: I tried to convince Daniel [Espinosa] for Child 44 that I was gonna shave my head in a scene. He didn’t like it. That was one of my bad ideas!