Rapace Bears Scars in ‘Dead Man Down’
Noomi Rapace stars in "DEAD MAN DOWN." ©Film District. CR: John Baer.

Noomi Rapace stars in “DEAD MAN DOWN.” ©Film District. CR: John Baer.


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Swedish actress Noomi Rapace is no stranger to changing her look depending on the part. She played the pierced and tatted Lisbeth Salander in the original “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy. Only recently has ventured into more commercial fare with roles in Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” and Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus.”

Yet at the core of this dark-eyed actress remains that daring, independent artist with a fondness for offbeat and tragic characters.

Rapace, 33, currently stars opposite Colin Farrell in the gritty revenge drama “Dead Man Down,” which reunites her with her first “Tattoo” director Niels Arden Oplev. She plays Beatrice, a onetime beautician and car accident survivor intent on getting revenge against the drunken motorist who left her both physically and emotionally scarred. She recruits a hit man (played by Farrell) who lives across the way from her New York high rise, blackmailing him into helping her, but as they plot their scheme, their feelings about their mission and each other change.

She arrives for an interview at a tony Beverly Hills hotel looking business-like in a black print blouse and solid black skirt, her long wavy brown hair pulled back in a loose chignon. Candid and direct, she spoke about her career, her ambivalence toward physical beauty and leaving Sweden for Hollywood.

Q: Is your life different now that you’re a big superstar instead of living a quiet life in Sweden?

Rapace: Yes, it’s quite different, but I think I’m pretty much the same. I don’t see myself as a big star. I’m an actress and I’ve been lucky. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m afraid that it was all a big dream, like, I’ve been working with Ridley (Scott) and I’ve been working with Colin (Farrell) and all those amazing people, and I think, “Oh ****, it was just a dream. I’m back in my bed and I’m 15 again.” So, yeah, my life has changed pretty much, but I think I’m still doing the same job and I don’t really care if I’m doing small indie movies in Europe or big studio movies in the (United States). I have to do the same work and it’s more everything around me that is a little bit different.

Q: Where do you live?

Rapace: I live in London but I’m going to be in New York for two months now because I’m doing a movie there. After that, I’m doing a movie in Prague so I’m not going be home until August.

Q: Which movie?

Rapace: The movie I’m doing in New York is called “Animal Rescue.” It’s with Tom Hardy and a fantastic Belgian filmmaker called Michael Roskam, who did “Bullhead.” Fantastic movie. And it’s an amazing script by Dennis Lehane. I’m leaving L.A. to start that tomorrow.

Q: Was there a lot of discussion on the makeup in this movie because your character seems more damaged emotionally than physically?

Rapace: Yeah. I wanted more scars. (She smiles.) (My character) was hit by a car a year ago and almost died. When she woke up in the hospital, she looked absolutely horrible and she wasn’t happy that she was alive. She kind of wish that she would have died instead because the damage on her face and her soul was just too much. She’d gone through all those different steps of plastic surgery but she can’t see that (her scars) actually improved. It doesn’t look that bad today but she can only see that she looks like a freak and doesn’t think that anyone will be able to love her. The Beatrice we see is not the one she sees.

Q: Being an adult woman living with her insensitive mother doesn’t make her life any easier, does it?

Rapace: Yes. Even though her mother loves her, she doesn’t make it easy. They’ve been living in this bubble of beauty and being in a very feminine environment, where it’s very much about being attractive and sexy. Beatrice worked as a beautician so her whole life was circling around that. When this (car accident) happened, I think her mother was devastated as well. When we sit in the kitchen and Colin comes over, and the mother hides the scar (from him) and then I reveal it again, it’s to show him, “Look, look what (this careless driver) did to me. This is why you have to kill him because this is what I have to live with. This is what he did and he didn’t pay for it.” When she’s showing Colin the scars it’s also to remind him of his promise: You promised to kill him, so don’t you ever forget.

Q: What was it like working with Isabelle Huppert, who plays your mother?

Rapace: I loved working with her. She’s fantastic.

Q: What is revenge for you?

Rapace: I think revenge is when you’re not able to forgive. Forgiveness is one side and revenge is the other side and depending on who you are and what happened to you, you can fall on either side of that. I think revenge won’t cure you. It won’t heal your heart.

Q: You often play intense characters, from Lisbeth Salander in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” to this damaged woman. What characters have stayed with you?

Rapace: I think all of my characters are still with me because all of them are different versions of me. Especially with Beatrice—she’s caught up in that (quest for physical beauty). It’s her life. Women all over the world should be beautiful and people expect you to look a certain way and dress in a certain way and all that so I think it is easy for young girls today—it’s so toxic in a way. Sometimes I can feel that in my business and the film industry. It’s like, “Oh ****, it’s not about beauty. That’s very much Lisbeth. It’s not about beauty; it’s about life. I want to be a person. I’m not here to be likable and sexy. If it’s needed in a character, I can do it, but it can’t be the main goal. Lisbeth has been fighting against that her whole life. It’s like (she’s saying) “I’m a person.” She’s even fighting like a boy, in a way, and dressing like a boy. Sometimes I can feel like, “Oh God. This is so boring. It’s such a low level.” Beauty is just one aspect and if that’s everything, it’s just too stupid.

Q: Do you see difference between that in Sweden as compared to the U.S.?

Rapace: It’s quite similar but I think plastic surgery is more common in the (United States). In Sweden, maybe women 25 or 30 years old start to do it, but I’ve talked to a lot of people in this country and I think it’s more common that they start to do it earlier (in the U.S.), but it’s a big country. Sweden is such a small country. In Sweden, on the other hand, you’re not supposed to stick out. You’re not supposed to be too emotional. You’re not supposed to be angry. You’re not supposed to be too happy or too loud. It’s very narrow, and it feels like you’re supposed to be like everybody else and still have a personality and I think that it can be like an emotional prison. In this country, you’re allowed to be original, in a way. It’s a bigger country with culture and different people from different countries and it’s more mixed up. Maybe for young people to grow up here there are more opportunities and you can go in different directions. There are more sub-cultures so it’s more communities that you can identify yourself with. In Sweden, it’s smaller everything.

Q: What is the process like on a big budget Hollywood movie like “Prometheus,” and does it affect what else you do?

Rapace: Not really. I wasn’t really waiting that much at all on “Prometheus.” I’m really focused when I’m working and I’m kind of stepping into this world, this universe, and living in it so the film’s world becomes my reality. The character and Noomi—we kind of melt together and become one, so it’s never been a problem for me. But I find it really hard to step in and out. I can’t leave the character on set and go home and go to movies and hang out with people. I kind of become asocial when I’m working.

Q: Is “Prometheus 2” happening?

Rapace: I would love to work with Ridley again and I know that he would love to work with me again. I met him a couple weeks ago in London so I hope so. We’ll see. I think everybody wants to do it and I think they’re working on the script.