The Wall Street Journal (2013)
The Original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Strikes Again
March 01, 2013 | Written by Rachel Dodes
Actress Noomi Rapace is best known for her role as the punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" adaptation. More recently, she performed an unforgettable self-administered intergalactic abortion playing Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in Ridley Scottís "Prometheus."

For her latest role, as a French-born beautician named Beatrice, Rapaceís face was partially disfigured using fake scarsóthe result of a car accident with a drunk driver. "Long ago, I made a decision to not make any choice out of vanity," she says. "Dead Man Down," to be released March 8, brings Rapace back together with "Dragon Tattoo" director Niels Arden Oplev, for his first-ever English-language movie. (Itís her fourth.) The film centers on the relationship between Beatrice and Victor (Colin Farrell) a gangland infiltrator who has problems of his own. The March 8 release comes as Scandinavians are finding themselves increasingly in demand in Hollywood, driven by audiencesí positive response to films like "Dragon Tattoo" and television shows like "The Killing." "I think people are starting to get sick of the traditional crap that normally gets served out," says "Dead Man Down" producer/screenwriter J.H. Wyman.

With "Dead Man Down," Wyman says he was trying to strike a rare balance between Hollywood action films and European-style character-driven stories, on a mid-sized budget of $30 million. The story is complicated, starting as a gangster thriller and morphing into a bizarre romance of sorts, with plenty of action sequences in between. The filmís moody tone is encapsulated in the song "Eblouie Par La Nuit" ("Dazzled by the Night"), which plays at both the beginning and the end of the movie. Like the film, which is dark at first but ends with the promise of redemption, it "makes you feel like it can be a sad song or a happy song," says Wyman. The song was Rapaceís idea of the type of thing that her character would enjoy. Rapace talked to Speakeasy about the film, the popularity of Scandinavian stories, and her character, Beatrice:
This is sort of an interesting hybrid, an American movie with a Swedish star and a Danish director making his first film in English? Why do you think Scandinavia is so popular right now with American audiences?
I am not really sure, actually. Maybe itís because we arenít afraid of going into things that are not charming and that are complicated. If you look at Danish cinema and Swedish as well with Bergman and Lars von Trier and other great filmmakers, they all have in common that they have been digging into things that have been uncomfortable. At the same time I think itís weird because the Swedish society, for me, is quite emotionally repressed. You are not supposed to show whatís going on. You are not supposed to be too angry or too happy. If someone asks you how youíre doing and you say "Todayís a really bad day" people get really nervous. So I think that those people who have the need and desire to create art, itís like a reaction, like "I need to free myself from this emotional prison."
I am sure that you have your pick of scriptsówhat was it about this one? Was it the story itself or that Niels was directing?
It was a combination of things. When I read the script it reminded me of "True Romance" a little bit. And I love that movie. This is that combination of that crazy world with violence and action and mad people. And in the heart of the movie are these characters struggling with life, trying to find a way to live and to become something they want to become, but they are cursed. Their hearts are stained by darkness or something is broken in them. I love that combinationóI find it really attractive and appealing. And it was a great honor to be asked to work with Niels again on his first American movie.
Do you think Scandinavian films have better, more complicated roles available for women?
I donít know. Iíve been extremely lucky. Since I was 19, Iíve been playing characters and playing girls and women who are complicated with many layers to work on and to discover. But I also think it has to do with what you do with the material. You have a lot of power as an actor. Most directors like to have input and likes to work with actors who bring something personal into it. I think I make my characters sometimes more complicated than they are in the script. And for me I know that the character is going to take over my life become my reality, my world for a couple of months, sometimes more.
Your face in this movie has a lot of scars and kids make fun of your character and call her a monster. Did you go out in full makeup to see peopleís reactions?
Yes. I did a couple of times. I went out one day and had lunch with Dominic Cooper [who plays Farrellís characterís friend]. He wasnít working that day. I had the scars on. It was shocking to realize how much people were staring at me. I think we judge people really quickly depending on what they look like.
Did you have input into how the makeup looked on your face?
We worked together on it, me and Niels and the producers. We all talked about the scar. For me, I really wanted the scar to be strong enough to show the audience how she sees herself. Niels had the opinion that she sees herself as the monster. Maybe she looked much worse after the accident, but sheís done a bunch of plastic surgery and looks better, but she canít see it. I wanted more scars.
Tell me about Beatrice. What kind of research did you do into this character?
I dug into myself for this one. I am never driven by vanity. I never go to the monitor and say "I donít look good enough." I donít like to look at myself. I can be fat. I can gain weight. I can shave my head, do piercings. But I tried to imagine if I was in a car accident and my face got completely destroyed. I know it would destroy my career.
The film is set in New York, but it doesnít really look like New Yorkóit has a very moody aesthetic. What was your reaction when you first saw how it looked?
It was what I expected. Niels wanted to make it stylized, to create a world that is reflecting what the two main characters are feeling emotionally. Itís a world without light, almost like the sun hurts. If Victor [Farrellís character] goes out into the sun, then he will feel the loss of his daughter and wife, and Beatrice canít hide her scars.

© 2013 The Wall Street Journal