As far as foreign actresses making the leap to American projects, Noomi Rapace, who made a splash worldwide in the Swedish “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (and its two subsequent films), has done quite well for herself. After introducing herself to domestic audiences with a supporting turn in Guy Ritchie‘s “Sherlock Homes: Game of Shadows,” she went on to a high profile turn last summer in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” prequel/sequel/whatever “Prometheus,” and will again be courting mainstream American super-stardom this weekend in “Dead Man Down,” a surprisingly solid revenge movie from her “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” director Niels Arden Oplev. We talked to her about what drew her to “Dead Man Down,” what it was like working with Isabelle Huppert, and the violent ’90s movies inspired her performance.
In “Dead Man Down,” Rapace plays a young woman who is horribly disfigured after a drunk driver crashes into her car. She forms an uneasy alliance with Colin Farrell‘s mysterious character, a shady figure who lives across the street in an equally crummy apartment building. Rapace knows that Farrell is a very bad dude and threatens to rat on him unless he promises to kill the man who scarred her (inside and out). One of the many joys of “Dead Man Down” is how surprising it is, so we will say no more, but let’s just say – she’s got a rich character to work with, one whose mother is played by none other than European screen legend Isabelle Huppert!
What drew you to this project?
In the first place, it was the script actually. I read the script and I remember that I thought in the first ten pages, “Oh I know what kind of story this is going to be.” And on page fifteen I was like, “Maybe not…” And on page twenty I was like, “Whoa!” And with my character, she has so many layers and she’s not at all what you expect. I fell in love with the whole story between her and Colin’s character. It reminded me of “True Romance” and those nineties movies that I still love. So it was that, and then when I heard Niels was attached I called him and asked him if it was true. And I’ve been wanting to work with him again, because he always gives the actors freedom to discover things and to create the character. He works in a way that invites the actors to come with their own ides and bring themselves into it. And I love that. And he told me he wanted to bring in Colin Farrell and so I met with him and I feel like we connected the first time we sat down.
So Niels signed on completely independently?
No, I actually think that he asked them to send it to me. I think so. And I know that JH Wyman wrote the script and he wanted Niels to do it. So it wasn’t one of those things that had been sent around to everybody and everybody had read it. So it felt special in a way – it didn’t feel like everything else I read. There are movies like “Natural Born Killers,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Killing Zoe” – I love the combination of crazy fucked-up world of mad violence and criminals but inside it is, actually, a beautiful love story. It’s a lot of ingredients that spoke to me.
What was it like working with Isabelle Huppert?
I adore her. I think she’s fantastic. I remember when I saw “The Piano Teacher” and I was so blown away. And actually when they sent the script to her, I think it was a scheduling issue and tricky to get her and I wrote her a long email and I said how much I respect her and what a great honor it would be to work with her and I so hope it would work out and it would be so great if she could do this. When I met her, she was like, “Thank you for that email, it really meant a lot.” She’s so sweet and such a passionate person – and very honest and very strong. She was only in for a couple of days but I love working with her and hope I have the opportunity to work with her more. She’s such a force of nature.
Can you talk about the make-up process? Was it more or less than what you had to do for ‘Dragon Tattoo?’
Oh much more. I was in make-up for 2/3 hours everyday. I’m a restless person and I find it really hard to sit still. But I wanted more scars! But what’s interesting about Beatrice is that she was hit by this car a year ago by a drunk driver and she almost died and when she woke up, she saw what she looked like and wishes she had died. Because she had built her whole life around beauty – she worked in the beauty industry and for her, to lose her face, even though it looks better after several surgery sessions, she can’t see that it’s improved. It’s almost like her life froze that moment when she got up and saw what she looks like. She’s not living in the world – like it’s on hold and she’s trapped in this anger and rage. The driver wasn’t punished and nothing changed in his life and she lost her life. She’s obsessed with this thought that if she could delete him from this world, she could live again.
So it was really important to get the scars right. Niels said to me, many times, “I don’t want the audience thinking she’s a freak.” And I said, “Well, I want it to reflect how she feels about herself.” And he said, “Well, that’s one side of it. It’s more that she’s so wounded and destroyed inside that she can’t see what she actually looks like. That it’s not that bad.” There were so many things for me to work on and I love that – what she looks like, if she wears make-up or not… And I’m always very involved in that. I remember I said to the make-up team, “When she’s at home with her mother, I don’t want her to wear any make-up.” She doesn’t expect anyone to come and she doesn’t put on make-up for her mother and she doesn’t go out. And when she starts to get to know Colin, she starts to take small steps into life – she goes back to work and thinks she’s found a solution for this whole emotional prison.
“Dead Man Down” opens on March 8th.