Back in March, ComingSoon.net spoke to a Swedish actress named Noomi Rapace, who had become a sensation in Europe for her portrayal of cyberpunk hacker Lisbeth Salander in the films based on the late Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy.”
This interview was just before the first movie of the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was about to open in the United States. Little did we know what a huge phenomenon the movie would become as millions of Americans began devouring Larsson’s books and checking out the movies. In that time, director David Fincher quickly signed on to direct an English language re-adaptation of Larsson’s first book.
So now it’s seventh months later and ComingSoon.net had a chance to catch up with Ms. Rapace to talk about the last chapter in the “Millennium Trilogy,” The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, which ties up all of the storylines from the first movie as well as introducing a powerful secret agency known as “The Section,” who try to kill Lisbeth and her former lover, Millennium publisher Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who is planning an issue exposing the connections between “The Section” and Lisbeth’s father.
In the time since our last interview, Rapace has become a hugely in-demand actress, having recently scored the female lead in Guy Ritchie’s sequel Sherlock Holmes 2 opposite Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, and whose name has been mentioned for other high-profile projects, some of which we also discussed in the interview below.
(Note: There are some spoilers for the first two movies in the interview, but we do label the one spoiler for the third movie, in case you have yet to read the books.)
ComingSoon.net: I remember you mentioning you were a fan of the books, so had you read all three before making the movies?
Noomi Rapace: Yup, mm-hm.
CS: So what were you looking forward to doing the most when you started making the third movie?
Rapace: The court scenes, because it’s like its own universe. Everything is open. I think that it’s so dramatic in a room like that. The demons are sitting over there and I’m fighting for my freedom and I have so much against me, and the whole situation is so complex and so many layers, and I just love those scenes in the book when she decides to finally talk. She knows, “I have to trust Mikael, I have to trust his sister, I have to accept that I need help or otherwise I will never become free.” I think that’s so dramatic, the whole story in there.
CS: I was amazed, having not read the books, whether or not they’d be able to pull it all together, because it starts going into all these different things like secret societies. You’ve been working on the other movies for many months so was it nice to shoot the first third of this movie lying in bed?
Rapace: No, it was kind of frustrating. I felt like an animal in a cage because I couldn’t move and she doesn’t talk, she doesn’t move, she doesn’t do anything. She’s stuck in this bed!
CS: I thought it would be relaxing after all the running around and fighting.
Rapace: I can’t relax, that’s my thing! (laughs) So I had to find a way to communicate without words and just with eyes and energy, and also when I was done at the hospital, we went straight to the cells, to the police house in Stockholm, so I was actually locked in with the movie. She doesn’t talk to anyone, and she’s so in her own universe, so it was quite challenging, and some days I just wanted to scream, because I felt that somebody had tied me up.
CS: I know when Niels directed the first movie, they were still working on the scripts for the other two movies, so when you saw the script and saw that you literally had no lines for a good two thirds of the movie, did you wonder how you were going to be able to keep the audience interested?
Rapace: Yeah, but at the same time, I like the fact that she’s not a talker, that she’s quiet, and also in the first movie–actually the first draft of the first film–I was sitting with a big black pen with Niels because she talked to much, so I wanted to clean up. “She doesn’t have to say anything, I can show you with my eyes.” I think most of the time, you want to take out a lot of lines because they talk too much. We don’t need to say everything. We need to give the audience all the information. They will understand, they will follow.
CS: I know Niels wasn’t comfortable directing the second movie because there wasn’t a script ready at that point, but Daniel did direct the next two movies, so were you able to shoot scenes in some sort of order and back-to-back or at the same time?
Rapace: Yeah, back-to-back, and also because they actually cut my hair, so for me, that was a good thing, because we had to finish the second movie because when her father shot her in the head, when I arrive at the hospital, they shaved (my head) totally, so there was a point of no return in a way, so we had to do it like that and they had to plan them in a certain way.
CS: At the end of the first movie, didn’t you have longer hair again?
Rapace: In the second movie, yeah.
CS: In the first movie you had a different hairstyle as well.
Rapace: Yeah, I had long on one side and very short on the other side.
CS: But they actually had you cut your hair that way and didn’t use wigs?
Rapace: No, no, no, I did everything, and in the last movie, I shaved the Mohawk and then it was point of no return, there’s no way back.
CS: Wow. How did Daniel approach the movies when he came on board? Did Niels even have the first movie done at that point?
Rapace: He was working on it but nobody had seen it, but Daniel is a very nice, very low-key. He was very humble. He listened to us very much and he pretty much just let me work and do my work. He didn’t say much to me, and I think that he pretty much felt like, “Okay, you have the character so it’s more that I have to coordinate it.”
CS: Since you and Michael had already been cast, he did have that set, but then there are some other characters like Niedermann… I’m not sure if he’s as scary in person as he is in the movie.
Rapace: No… (laughs)
CS: When he brought these people in and you and Michael already had a good relationship going, how hard was it getting everyone else into what you had established?
Rapace: It was quite good in a way to get new people in, but I think that I don’t have so many scenes. She’s pretty lonely in the second movie, because she comes home and shortly after she arrives home, she’s accused of those three murders, so she has to hide, so I was, “Okay, I’m lonely again, I’m sitting in this huge apartment alone,” so actually I didn’t have so many scenes with Michael or anybody else.
CS: Do you know if Daniel was trying to give the third movie a very different look?
Rapace: Yeah, he wanted to do it a bit more… Not dirty but a bit more suburban with a bit more movement… yeah, that was his will.
CS: Was that something he decided while you were shooting or was that something that was always going to be the case with the two movies looking very different?
Rapace: I don’t know. I’m trying not to think so much about the team and how they shoot it, if it’s a close-up or not, because I’m doing the same thing. I think sometimes people really want to know, “Is this my close-up or are you on the other actor now?” because people think that if the camera’s not on you, then you relax and can take it easy. I’m always doing the same scene, it doesn’t matter for me where the camera is, so I don’t really know actually.
CS: Does that come from your stage background where you try to give the same performance every night?
Rapace: Yeah, maybe, and you also want to be loyal to the other actors. You want to do the same scene even if I’m not in the frame, it doesn’t matter, because then he must have the same energy and the same things to work on, to react on.
(SPOILER: The next couple questions and answers gives away a little bit about the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael and how it progresses in the third movie.)
CS: One of the things I loved about the first movie was the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael and there’s a little bit of a tease for that, and I think everyone who sees the movie wants to see them back together again. Because Stieg already had written all the books and you want to be faithful to them, you can’t really change what happens to bring them back together.
Rapace: Yeah, we all, especially Daniel, wanted to be very close to the books and yeah, he didn’t want to change he had to change some stuff because the books are so heavy and so think, so we had to actually cook it down, but he wanted to be as true as possible.
CS: As a fan of the book, did you hope they’d get back together? (Seriously, MAJOR SPOILER IN THE NEXT RESPONSE!)
Rapace: Yeah, I think everybody hopes that they (will), they’re like “Come on, give him something!” At the end of the third movie, when she closes the door, the last scene, you’re like, “Come on, talk to each other!” But they don’t.
CS: When you’re a fan of the books and have a chance to make the movies, it must be tempting to make suggestions about which way you hoped the story might go.
Rapace: No.. no… (laughs)
CS: When we spoke in March, none of the movies had come out here in the States. I think the third movie was just coming out in Europe.
Rapace: Yeah, probably.
CS: Now with the two movies out here, are you finding that more people recognize you here and that it’s very different or do you look different enough that not many people make the connection?
Rapace: I was in L.A. the other day and then people were screaming my name. “Noomi, Noomi, Noomi!” When I arrived at the airport, when I came from London to L.A., there were some fans that wanted me to sign my autograph in their books, so I suppose that people are beginning to recognize me, but it’s not like everybody does it.
CS: It must be different because when you speak in English, not many people would realize it’s you. You’d have to dress in leather and have the Mohawk to really have people make the connection.
Rapace: Yeah, probably, and I don’t really look like this so.
CS: Have you started shooting “Sherlock Holmes 2″ yet?
CS: I’m guessing they don’t have you wearing leather and a Mohawk.
Rapace: I’m playing a gypsy.
CS: Were you deliberately looking for something very different from Lisbeth? I’m sure everyone would be sending you with similar characters.
Rapace: No, actually not. People send me a lot of scripts but it’s not so many characters that are similar to Lisbeth actually. I think I probably thought it would be more, that people would consider me as kick-ass, cool, hardcore girls, but I get all different kinds of stuff sent to me, so it’s not so much in the same…
CS: That’s always great, ’cause you don’t want to be playing the same character again. What’s it like working with Guy Ritchie? Were you a fan of his work beforehand?
Rapace: Yeah, I think he’s a great… I love many of his movies. I think he’s really cool, and I think “Snatch” is really cool and he has gypsies in it, so we’re having a great time. It’s really fun to be working with those guys, and Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor and Jude Law, and we’re having a really good time, it’s really fun.
CS: I know you’ve been attached to “Last Voyage of the Demeter” which is a different take on the Dracula story, so are you a fan of genre in general?
Rapace: I loved Gary Oldman in “Dracula,” I’ve seen it many times. I think he is one of my favorite actors. I think he’s fantastic, so no, not really, but it’s all about the script and the people. When I read the script, it doesn’t matter if it’s like a science fiction movie, a drama or a family drama or if it’s a Western movie. I don’t really care what kind of genre it is. It’s all about if it’s good, then it’s good, then it doesn’t matter.
CS: Are you looking for specific types of sized projects or roles?
Rapace: I think it’s much more interesting to do characters that are more complicated with many layers, so you have something to work on.
CS: You’re doing more Hollywood movies so are you focused on that now or do you want to continue working in Sweden as well?
Rapace: Not really Sweden. I always felt like I was going to leave Sweden one day, but I would love more in the U.S. but it doesn’t really matter if it’s a big studio U.S. movie or a small independent production from Italy or wherever, it doesn’t matter for me. I do the same work anyway, and I don’t see Robert Downey Jr. as a big movie star. I see him as a good, fantastic actor and we’re trying to make a great movie, that’s all.
CS: I know he’s very spontaneous and sticking to the script is not really his thing, so is that something you’ve found interesting to do?
Rapace: Yeah, you have to be really open and really there 100%.
CS: Have you ever had a chance at doing improvisation on that level?
Rapace: Yeah, I did for example in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” do you remember the scene after the rape where she arrives home and she looks at the video? That scene was completely improvised, so I’ve been working like that before, so he’d come in and say, “This scene is not so good, what should we do? Let’s do something better,” and then we do something better.
CS: When you were shooting the three “Millennium” movies, were they fairly big productions? Even though they are big movies, they did seem fairly low-key until they started becoming so hugely successful, so were they done fairly independently?
Rapace: No, they were big movies, in Sweden, though probably independent movies in the U.S. I think they were probably the most expensive movies made in Sweden.
CS: It’s kind of exciting to think that you might play the lead in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” prequel.
Rapace: Yeah, I’ve met Ridley a couple times, and he’s a fantastic director and person, and he’s a fan of my work… and I can carry that in my heart for the rest of my life. But we had some meetings, and I’d love to work with him, but I think they have a couple of names on a list and nobody knows but I would be happy to be working with him someday.
CS: How much time do you have for shooting on “Sherlock Holmes”?
Rapace: I think I’m done in mid-February, quite a while.
CS: Anything lined up after that?
Rapace: I have a couple things, some offers and some things going on but I haven’t really made up my mind yet.
The final chapter of the “Millennium Trilogy,” The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest opens in select cities on Friday, October 29.