How Noomi Rapace is challenging the mould of the Hollywood woman
<b>If you haven’t heard of Noomi Rapace, that’s because she does such a pretty good job of dodging the spotlight, but the likelihood is you’ll have watched more than a few of her films.</b>
After making a name for herself in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rapace has gone on to star in other Hollywood blockbusters including, both Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Alien, as well as Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. Now, the actress is taking on her most challenging role yet, playing seven different characters in Netflix’s new science-fiction thriller, What Happened To Monday? In the film, Rapace plays seven identical sisters, who live in a dystopian future, which, after a population crisis, has a one-child-per-family policy. The women have to live in hiding, publicly pretending to be just one person, but they are of course, seven different women with seven different personalities. “I had to build the backstories of the characters really solidly,” she told me. “I had to work really closely with the make-up designer and the costume designer to find these certain looks for each sister. The audience had to be able to separate them so they couldn’t look too similar, but we also didn’t want them to become clichés, so creating the characters was all about navigating that.” To be forced to play so many different characters in such quick succession is not commonplace in the acting world and therefore, Rapace had to develop her own method. “I had to create a ritual for each of the sisters. So when I was switching between characters, I went into my room, I showered, I de-rigged myself, I had to be quiet and no one could talk to me. I had a different perfume for each one of them. I had a different playlist for each sister. And then when they were putting on the wig, I put my brain and my focus into the next sister.” “I have no interest in the old, boring, typical stereotype, sidekick girl in the movie”
Not only was Rapace playing seven different characters, but she was also mostly acting to an empty room that she had to pretend was full: “I had to be technically precise and perfect. I had to put down the glass at exactly the same point in every take. I had an ear-pierce with pre-recorded dialogue which I had to speak to and time perfectly otherwise it wouldn’t fit.” The role was both exhausting and technically demanding, but Rapace doesn’t seem like an actor who would accept a straightforward role. In every film she has ever undertaken, there is a recurring theme – she almost exclusively will play a strong, powerful woman: “I have no interest in the old, boring, typical stereotype, sidekick girl in the movie.” One of the biggest ways she fights against society’s typical depiction of women is to never make any acting decisions based on her vanity and to never give in to how the industry expects her to look. This, she says, allows her to fully immerse herself into her character – and this dedication to her work has inspired others. “It’s time we came together. We need to be our own bitches, be our own queens” “I had a conversation with Maisie Williams recently and she said that she had read an article about me a couple of years ago when I was talking about shaving my head, gaining weight and losing weight for different roles. She said she felt really inspired and so decided to cut off her hair for a project – and that made me so happy.”
Women rallying together is clearly something Rapace feels hugely passionate about, especially in Hollywood. “Men have been so good at supporting each other publicly,” she says. “You’ve got Brad Pitt and George Clooney and then Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and they’re all always embracing each other and supporting each other. They’re almost like a gang and then for women, we are all really separated – it’s much more solo. I think it’s time that we changed that and came together. We need to be our own bitches, be our own queens.” On the female-led film movement that finally seems to be really happening though, she says we must be careful not separate the genders too much: “I think it’s dangerous if we talk too much about men and women. It should just be equal. That should just be it.”
What Happened to Monday will premiere on Netflix on Friday 18 August.