Interview: Noomi Rapace Returns to New York for Crime-Drama The Drop

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Swedish actress Noomi Rapace has come a long way in a very short period of time, jumping from playing Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo trilogy to working with a number of legendary filmmakers like Ridley Scott and Brian De Palma.

Her new movie, the crime-drama The Drop, adapted by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River) from his own short story “Animal Rescue,” is the English-language debut by Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead) and it returns Rapace to the New York setting of her 2013 film Dead Man Down. She plays Nadia, a woman who helps Tom Hardy’s bartender Bob rescue a badly beaten dog he finds in her trashcan and get it back to full health, before her ex-boyfriend Eric (Matthias Schoenarts, also from Bullhead) returns to claim the dog as his own.

ComingSoon.net has spoken to Ms. Rapace a number of times in the past, and we sat down with her once again in Toronto where The Drop had its world premiere. Besides talking about her role in the movie, we also asked the actress if she had any idea whether we’d ever see a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, which would presumably star her and Michael Fassbender.

ComingSoon.net: I’m sure you’ve been to Toronto many times before.
Noomi Rapace:
No, it’s my first time.

CS: That’s crazy because I thought you must have brought at least one of the “Girl” movies here…
Rapace:
No, no, my first time. I love this festival, it’s great.

CS: It’s a wealth of riches where you literally have a choice of five good movies at any given time. Now this is Michael’s first American movie, and you also starred in “Dead Man Down” which was Niels Arden Oplev’s English-language debut and both of those movies were set in New York. How did that come about?
Rapace:
This is what I do. I find European directors and star in their first American films. No, I’ve been extremely lucky. It’s still a bit unreal that I’m blessed that I get to work with those fantastic filmmakers. I remember when I saw “Bullhead,” and I was completely blown away. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and it kept coming back to me. I remember asking someone to get me a copy, like a DVD, and I started handing it out to people. “You’ve got to see this film.” It was like, “Who made this? I have to work with this person.” And then Claudia Lewis at Fox Searchlight, she gave me the script before Michael was attached to it. I read it and I loved it from the very first time. It was an amazing story with amazing characters. Dennis Lehane, his writing, it just stayed with me, and it felt kind of timeless, like one of those old school New York films. Then when I heard they were going to send it to Michael Roskam, I was like, “Is that the ‘Bullhead’ guy?” I couldn’t imagine anyone better for this. Then he wanted to do it and we met and it was like immediate love – we talked for eight hours when I met him. For me to be chosen by him, to be on his first American journey, feels like a great honor. I adore him, I love working with him because he’s an auteur. Some directors–like Ridley Scott has the same thing–they have their own universe, a landscape that you’re invited into and I’m like a citizen in his world, and I love that.

CS: I didn’t know much about the short story, but I know it’s mainly about the Tom Hardy character finding the dog, but was Nadia in that short story?
Rapace:
I don’t know, I didn’t read it.

CS: Did you have access to Denis to talk about her and her backstory?
Rapace:
Yeah, but we really didn’t talk that much, because I felt like I knew what I needed to do. I needed to find the love to act it, because that was the thing. If I can find that, if I can build in my head the backstory – what happened? why did she go with him? Why did she live in a relationship with him? I knew that there were a lot of clues that would give me a lot of information. So when Matthias came, I said to him, “Let’s build their backstory together. Let’s talk about their backstory, what did they do?” And we started to build situations like when was the last time they saw each other? We built this whole story like what they did. They were on a road trip and they started to fight and he got violent and he pushed her out of the car. If you have that, then it makes everything easier and then pieces will then fall into the right place. I knew that I needed to find what she really liked about him. I love that with the way Dennis Lehane writes. They’re all stained. It’s not good or bad, it’s just people, and there’s a beauty in Eric Deeds and I needed to find the beauty to understand Nadia.

CS: So that’s something you wanted to work out with Matthias rather than with the writer or director?
Rapace:
Yeah and it’s funny because Dennis said something funny yesterday while we were doing interviews, because he wrote the book after the film. He did a short novel, then it became a script, a film and now a book. When they asked him if he was influenced by the characters in the film and he said, “No, it’s different things. It came to life with this group of actors and that is what they did.” When I work, I need to make it mine and use myself and translate things for me so I can understand them rather than asking the writer. Sometimes I do that. For example, I thought there was a scene missing in the script – the scene between me and Matthias/Eric in my kitchen. And that was a scene we improvised. I came to Michael and said, “I think we need a scene between them to see them alone,” and he and Matthias agreed with me, and then we decided to run it.

CS: That’s a great scene because otherwise, you two would have just shown up at the bar…
Rapace:
Yeah, it was written that way. I knew that I wanted to see them and see his power over her and also the vulnerability. You can see that he’s in love with her and he wasn’t just destruction and violent and f*cked up, there’s a vulnerability to it.

CS: Both Thomas and Matthias are pretty intense actors and when you watch their movies, you wonder what they must be like in person. I’ve met Tom and I know he’s a little closer to Bob than some of the other characters he’s played.
Rapace:
He’s a sweetheart and we had so much fun. I was laughing so much on the set, like doing funny faces. We were playing games, like being ridiculous, being stupid, and it’s the best thing. If you work, you can do a scene that’s really dark and heavy and you can go out and laugh and have the best time. I can honestly say that I love them both with my whole heart, and that’s quite rare to feel that. It’s about trust as well, I think, because if you trust each other… Like with Tom, I feel completely protected and free with him. I know that he has my back and then I can go and I can allow myself to take creative risks. I can allow myself to search and to explore things that I don’t really where it’s going to end up, and it might be really bad. I might do a sh*tty take that’s really embarrassing, but I know I’m onto something. I’m on a journey and I know that he’s in it with me.

CS: What about shooting in New York? You’ve done it a few times now.
Rapace:
Yeah, I love it.

CS: Is it a very different vibe from other places you’ve filmed?
Rapace:
I love it and it gives so much back to you. I think because we were out in real locations, it gives you so much more, because you go out in between takes and you can sit in real cafes with real people and you can look at people living their lives. I love that. Sometimes, when you’re in a studio, far away from reality, you have to imagine more. You have to be more creative and you have to build the world.

CS: It’s interesting to look at the upcoming films that you’re making or have just wrapped. You would think that you’re starting a collection of Scandinavian filmmakers to work with.
Rapace:
I haven’t really thought about it, maybe. I also think that Scandinavian cinema is really coming now. It’s been an explosion of good films from Scandinavia – Danish, Norwegian, Swedish.

CS: I feel that’s always been the case but more directors are doing movies here.
Rapace:
True, yeah.

CS: You ended up doing another movie with Tom, too.
Rapace:
“Child 44” – we have a lot together in that one, much more than this one. You’ll see. It’s very different from “The Drop.” I love that film. I think it turned out good, and it’s coming out early next year.

CS: Do you think we’ll ever see “Prometheus 2”? I spoke to Michael recently and it’s obvious your two characters would go on but it seems like it’s being pushed back as Ridley works on other movies. I guess it’s really up to Ridley when it happens.
Rapace:
Yeah, they’re working on the script. I just know there’s a lot of things they need to figure out, but the plan is to do it.

The Drop opens nationwide on Friday, September 12. Look for our interview with author and screenwriters Dennis Lehane very soon.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)