The Swedish star of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and former Lisbeth Salander on purging The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, blowing stuff up, and breaking in America
Noomi Rapace is not Lisbeth Salander, the inked, taser-torturing heroine of the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Though it’s possible that Rapace—who pierced every part of her face that can be pierced and shaved her head for the role—played her too well. Grown men still call her Lisbeth. Then they cry. “Just last night in Rome two 25-year-old guys approached with tears in their eyes and asked, ‘Can we get a picture, Lisbeth?’ She still means a lot to people,” she says.
The Swedish actress made her American debut in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows as a man-trouncing lady with a personal vendetta. The movie arrives, oddly enough, at the same time as David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, starring Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, hits theaters. But no hard feelings here. Rapace has already purged herself of Lisbeth. Literally.
First off, your name. It’s fun.
Noomi Rapace: Thank you! When I was growing up it was like I was an alien. No one had a name that was remotely similar. It’s not common. At all.
Were you nervous about doing an English language film?
Noomi Rapace: It all happened too fast for me to really think about it. My first meeting with Guy Ritchie we talked about a scene that neither one of us liked. I told him, “Oh my, this is quite bad, ” and he responded, ” Yes, it is quite bad. So what should we do about it?” I was very straightforward with them from the beginning. A couple of days later they made an offer. I never really had time to go, “OK, wow. Now I’m going to do this big studio movie,” and get nervous. I kind of just rushed into the work.
You do a lot of stunts in this movie. Was it fun to film?
Noomi Rapace: It was really amazing. Robert [Downey Jr.] and Jude [Law] and Guy Ritchie all embraced me right away. I became one of the guys in their little group. So filming was really fun and playful. There was one scene though that was quite embarrassing. We were supposed to be running over a train yard, and one of the stunt guys came up to me before the scene and said, “There’s going to be a really loud explosion, I think you should use earplugs.” And I said, “No, I never use them.” He insisted, “Really, you should, you can harm your ears.” So I put the ear plugs in. I saw the sign for action and took off running and firing my rifle and screaming like a lunatic. I couldn’t hear anything. Then I looked back and no one else was doing anything. I was so embarrassed. I yelled, “Where’s the guy who gave me these plugs?! I can’t hear shit!” and Robert just came up to me laughing, hugged me, and goes, “I love your temperament, I love the way you are.”
You have a lot of fight scenes in this, and even more in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. How do you get yourself prepared for a fight scene?
Noomi Rapace: I always try to tune my body into the character. So for Lisbeth, I wanted to wake up some kind of frightening spirit, some kind of aggressive anger in my body, because then it’s quite easy to explode and be quite violent. I felt like an angry animal in a way. You just have to not think and rock and roll. Though you still have to be in control so you don’t knock someone out or hurt someone bad. But most of the time the guys I’m fighting are stunt guys and they are quite used to it. They aren’t too sensitive. But I was so bruised after! I looked like shit.
David Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo is coming out at the same time as Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Is it going to be weird to see Rooney Mara playing Lisbeth?
Noomi Rapace: I don’t think so. I don’t feel like Lisbeth is mine. I don’t own her. When I heard they were making another remake everybody asked me if I was interested and I always said, “No, I’m finished.” And then when it came out David Fincher was making it everybody came back again and asked, “Are you sure?” and I said, “Yes, I think David Fincher is amazing, but it doesn’t change anything in me.” It was never an option. So it doesn’t bother me at all. I never want to repeat myself.
I imagine after being Lisbeth for three movies in a row it was hard to give up that character, though.
Noomi Rapace: Actually it was not! I felt very strongly I was done with her. She had been living in me for a year and a half, so when I was finished I was so finished. It was weird—the last day after the last scene when the producers came out with champagne there was this celebration energy and everyone was happy and all of a sudden I felt, “Oh my gosh, I need to go to the restroom.” I actually started to vomit. I vomited for 40 minutes straight. It was like my body was literally throwing Lisbeth out of my system. In a way it was a relief because it was quite hard to carry her in me for so long and she really took a lot of space in my life. I think everyone around me was quite happy when I was done with her.