Actress Noomi Rapace has dealt with all kinds of movies, from blockbusters to tiny independent films. Regardless of the film, she’s proven to be an amazing foreign actress who’s star continues to rise due to her diverse roles. Once again she’s paired up with Niels Arden Oplev, director of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, but this time on his American debut Dead Man Down. The intelligent woman was able to chat a bit about dealing with such a physically and mentally wounded character.
Now why is your director [Niels Arden Oplev] always trying to hide you under something?
Noomi Rapace: I don’t know. [laughs] I’ll have to ask him. It’s kind of interesting. We were shooting and we had really long days and after eighteen hours we wrapped. After that I jumped into a car, the car took me to New York and I was so tired I slept two hours in the car, then straight into a press day. I’ve talked to Charlie Rose before with Niels and he said ‘So you’re working with Niels again? I’m going to play for you this little tape from the last time you were here.’
Niels said that I was like a hand grenade and I was like okay, really? Then someone else asked me if I was his muse. So I went to him the next day and asked am I your muse. He was like ‘Muse? I have to look up that word.’ He came to me because he was like ‘I think it’s quite sexual, isn’t it? And we don’t have a sexual thing. We’re more like brother and sister. We fight and have a very honest thing.’ Then he came to me a couple of days later and said ‘I looked it up. It doesn’t need to be sexual so maybe you are my muse.’ [laughs] He’s very funny. But I haven’t asked him about that scar thing. Yeah he’s always hiding me a little bit. I wonder why.
But even with the scars she looks really lovely.
Noomi Rapace: Thank you. For me it was a process… because I wanted more scars. I always want more. Then Niels, the producers and everybody were talking and trying different things. They said that we don’t want you to look like a freak. We want people to see her but at the same time the scar, it needs to reflect what’s going on inside of her. That she sees herself as a freak.
For me the back story that I figured out was that she was hit by the car a year ago and she almost died. When she woke up at the hospital she was completely destroyed. She was not happy that she was alive. She wished she would’ve died instead because this ruined her whole life. And then she went through all those steps of plastic surgery but she can’t see that it actually improved it. It doesn’t look that bad anymore. It was almost like her life froze at that moment when she woke up and saw what she looked like. But today when we see the movie yeah, she’s a pretty girl but she still has that thing. That’s the only thing she can see and she’s kind of convinced that nobody will ever love her, that she won’t be seen for what she is. That she’ll only be kind of judged for being something destroyed.
What’s interesting is that throughout the film Beatrice is always pulling her hair back, exposing the scars while the mother is always pulling her hair forward.
Noomi Rapace: In the scenes with Colin [Farrell] that she wants him to remind him of the promise that you’re going to kill him because look, look what he did to me. Then the mother kind of hides it. Also I think it’s a weird thing because it’s a conflict in her. In one way she kind of knows that it’s only becomes worse if she’s trying to hide it, because most people around the block knows that she has this thing. So she’s trying to find strength that she doesn’t really have. So she’s struggling with that thing.
Did you ever wear that make-up out in public? If you did, what were peoples’ reactions?
Noomi Rapace: I went out once to buy coffee and another day in Philadelphia I went out to lunch with Dominic Cooper and he wasn’t working that day. So I came in as Beatrice and it was quite shocking how people stared at me and not hiding it, just looking. I was sitting there with him and I was really uncomfortable. Should we have take-out? Should we go?
I thought of when I was Lizbeth, when I was prepping they cut my hair, they dyed my hair black and I did all those piercings. It was like from one day to another, when I was out and I was doing something in the post office or a bank, they were so rude to me. I was like my God, what’s going on? I think she thought I was just this punk girl. I have time to you when I get to you, but there was no one there. I definitely think that people judge you more than I expected from what you look like and your face.
Speaking of judging, it’s obvious that there’s a complex relationship between your character and the mother because she wants her to go out more live her life. What was it like, that dynamic and working with the actress?
Noomi Rapace: Those two women, they have a complicated relationship. It’s almost like a friendship. They live together, and she was a beautician, she worked in a spa. Her mother’s very much into beauty and being a French old school beauty, being mysterious and catching a man’s heart and all of that. I think that when this accident happened, her mother was probably more devastated about what happened to her daughter. It was almost like the mother put a spell on her in a way. It’s not helping that her mother is hiding the scar.
Her mother doesn’t say ‘It doesn’t matter, you’ll find a man for who you are’ so she’s showing the picture of Beatrice before the accident and saying look how beautiful she was. [laughs] God, how would you be able to kind of find a way to believe in life again if that’s the way your mother sees you? Even though she loves her daughter and she wants her to go out and to live her life, she at the same time she’s kind of holding her back because she’s also judging her because she probably built her life on beauty. Isabella Huppert is extremely beautiful and very petite and very charming person. So if I was her daughter I’d go and hide somewhere.
After Dragon Tattoo you got to make some studio movies and now you get to make a Hollywood movie with Niels [Arden Oplev]. What was that hybrid experience like?
Noomi Rapace: Good. It’s weird. People ask me the difference between European movies, independent movies and American studio movies, and to be honest I don’t really think about it that much because I have to do the same work. For me, the way I kind of prepare for the movie when I’m inside the character, the way I work, I don’t really care about how big the circus around me is. Maybe I have a bigger trailer and it’s more people on the crew and you have a PA and a lot of people working for you in a big studio movie, but it doesn’t really change the real work.
With Niels, it was fantastic to get the opportunity to work with him again, and on this project, but I don’t think I thought about it so much that this was an American movie. I thought this is the script, this is the story, this is the characters in it, and I love working with him again and with Colin [Farrell] and Terrence Howard and I love the script so it was the perfect ingredients for me.
Dead Man Down is out in theaters now.