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Noomi Rapace on ‘Sherlock,’ ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Dragon Tattoo’

The original Girl with the Dragon tattoo talks reading tarot, wearing space suits for Ridley Scott and why she doesn't mind passing the torch to Rooney Mara.

During the press conference for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Noomi Rapace tried on Robert Downey, Jr.s glasses while someone else was answering a question. Later on when I had some private time to interview her, I paid her a sincere compliment on her look. We spoke about her first American film, the upcoming Prometheus, and this movie coming out called The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. (She was the original Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film version.)

 

I thought you looked great with Downey’s glasses on.

[Laughs] Thank you.

That was a fabulous look for you.

Maybe I should have that in my next movie, glasses.

How vital is costume to you in developing a character?

For me it’s really important because I want to know, I always do a lot of research and I want to know as much as I can about the character before I start. So for example, when I did Prometheus, I created Elizabeth Shaw’s whole backstory in my head. I went through things that happened to her when she was a child and things that kind of made her be the person she is today when the movie starts. I think you can always tell a lot about a person in the way they approach a room and how they’re dressed and how their body language is, if they wear makeup or not. For me it’s extremely important to always free myself from my own issues and kind of force away my own vanity and my own ego so I can look clearly at the character and see what the character needs, and become that person.

So you’ve had a few characters with very outrageous costumes. How would you play a more ordinary modern girl?

Yeah, actually I think the next movie I’m probably doing, I need to decide in a couple of days, but she’s low key. She’s quite neutral and she doesn’t want to be too extreme. She’s trying to be perfect and normal so that might be the one, my first in a long time person that just wants to disappear in the crowd and not stick out and not show so much of her personality in the clothes.

You really had not spoken English at all a few years ago?

No, not really. I was traveling a lot when I was 18, 19, 16, 17 with my boyfriend at the time. We went to Vietnam and Thailand and Costa Rica and Cuba, but it was always him. So no, I could understand a bit but I couldn’t really talk.

You’re very good at it now.

Soon I will.

Did you learn how to read Tarot like your character, Simza, in 'Sherlock Holmes?'

Yes, I did. I was seeing a woman in Stockholm and one in London. It’s almost like a whole religion around it so I learned about the different cards and how you can read in different ways. It’s the big reading or the small reading and it’s different ways. Every fortune teller had their own personal style and it’s so much about chemistry and karma and energies. They have those stones and those specific things they need to create the right energy in the room so the cards can tell what they need to tell. It’s a whole world to enter. I was putting her together, like three weeks I had to prep. It was really intense. Normally, when I was prepping for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I had seven months. This was three weeks of really intense [immersion.]

Speaking of the importance of costume, what does a space suit do for you in Prometheus?

Oh my God, you can’t even imagine how tricky it was sometimes. For me, it always gives you something. Even if you’re wearing something that is really hard to work in and really hard to run in, it adds something because then it makes it even more difficult for me. If I’m running as quick as I can in that, and it’s really hard to run, I was sweating like crazy and some days were just tough. It kind of makes me want to do it even better. I’m not a person who complains about things. If it’s not flattering, I don’t care if I look silly or if it’s heavy or if it’s painful if it’s right for the situation and the character.

Did you sign on for 'Prometheus' when it was still an Alien prequel?

When I signed, it was called a prequel to Alien and still I think it’s related. People will be able to see, I think you will get some puzzle pieces so it’s definitely connected to the first one.

Is this need to prep within a few weeks a new skill you’re learning in Hollywood?

Prometheus I had like seven weeks so it was a bit longer but I’ve been doing a lot of theater so I’m used to working really intensely and just use the time you have and make the best out of it. I think I’m quite flexible. My method is very personal and I kind of take the time and make the best out of it. I always need to find a way to use myself and not pretend and not fake things. So I need to run it through my own body and my own veins and my own soul and give my spirit into that character and the script.

Is it weird to you that there’s a movie coming out called 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?'

Not really. When I finished, she was living in me for one and a half year, Lisbeth. She really kind of controlled my life and took over me. She was in charge pretty much. It changed me and I think everybody around me was waiting for me to come back. It was like when is Noomi coming back? Please, how deep are you going to go into this? It was quite brutal sometimes. So when I was finished, I remember the last day, the last take. All the producers came in with champagne and they wanted to celebrate and toast. I was like, “I need to go to the ladies room.” I went to the ladies room and I started to throw up. I was vomiting for 45 minutes and I couldn’t stand. And I’m never sick so I was like, “I don’t know what’s happening. I think you need to toast without me.” Then I realized it was almost like my body was actually throwing her out of my system. I kind of felt like I was done with her completely and I never want to repeat myself, so I couldn’t see any reason of doing it again. So it’s not that weird for me. I think it’s more other people. Some people are really upset about it and people come to me and are quite angry with the remake.

I was just being funny because obviously they were going to do an American version.

Yeah, and I really respect David Fincher. I think he will do something that is really personal and special for them. I think they will probably do something that is far away from what we did.

But it looks like she only has the tattoo on her shoulder blade. You had it all over your back.

Yeah, my whole back and down on my butt. That was also something I was involved in creating, the whole tattoo. I wanted it to be really big. It’s a big statement. It’s not a sweet little thing. It’s almost like a black demon on the back protecting you.

Will you go to the premiere of the new one?

I don’t have time to because I think their premiere is when I’m doing Sherlock [promotions.] I think it’s going actually at the same time but I will definitely see it. I don’t know when I’ll have time to do it but at some point I will.

Is Noomi a common name and is it short for something?

It’s not common and it’s not short for anything. I think I’m the only one I know in Sweden. I grew up with a name that nobody could pronounce. I don’t know, my mom was a flower power girl and I think she heard it somewhere or made it up.