Noomi Rapace rose to international stardom as Lisbeth Salander in the original adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, success she parlayed into roles in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and Ridley Scott’s hit Alien prequel, Prometheus. With a sequel to the latter in the works and two movies opposite Tom Hardy on the horizon, Rapace is balancing a burgeoning Hollywood career with acclaimed roles in her native Sweden. This week, she stars opposite Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard and Isabelle Huppert in the action thriller Dead Man Down, which reunites her with Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev for his English-language debut. We spoke with the actress recently and got the scoop on her all-time favorite films.
True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993; 91% Tomatometer)
I love True Romance. When I read the script for Dead Man Down, it kind of reminded me a little bit of that one. It’s like some kind of thing similar to that crazy world around them: the violence, the criminals, the macho culture, and those two main characters with very complicated souls. So that one is one of my favorites.
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980; 98% Tomatometer)
Of course, I love Raging Bull. And I love The Godfather. [Laughs] Maybe I need to find something a little fresher. But Raging Bull, you can always feel when an actor kind of goes into — I don’t know Robert De Niro, but I kind of get this feeling that he went really deep into it, and that the character and he melded together. I can feel like he’s not pretending. He’s actually living it. That’s always something that hits me, and I forget about the outside world; it’s almost like the movie I’m watching takes over and becomes my reality. I’ve seen Raging Bull so many times and it feels so pure and real. It’s beautiful and sexy and rough, and there’s so much pain in it at the same time. I think it always attracts me, you know, with people struggling and people fighting and people wanting to become something, wanting to change their lives or change who they are; people fighting with their own demons. For me, that’s such a beautiful example of that — someone who was really focused on being something, and becoming something, and how hard it is and how much you need to fight.
When we interviewed Ray Winstone recently, he picked Raging Bull as one of his favorites, too.
I love him, by the way, in Gary Oldman’s movie Nil by Mouth.
That’s one of my favorites. That one is on my list, too. When I saw it, it just blew me away completely. I saw it when I was quite young, and I remember thinking, “My god, are these really actors? Could a movie be done this way?” It was something I’d never seen before, and it was so brutal and so real; just like watching a documentary. Those kinds of filmmakers and actors kind of opened up things in me that gave me hope and inspired me. I felt less lonely in a way, because I thought, “Okay, there’s people out there exploring things that I would like to do.” People who were not afraid of darkness; people who were not afraid of going into things that were not charming and easy and, you know, sweet and cute. That one made a very strong impression on me.
And then Frances — do you remember the movie Frances, with Jessica Lange? I love that movie, too. It’s such an amazing portrait of a woman losing herself into a different reality. I did a movie called Babycall and it’s also about a woman with two realities, in a way, and she’s kind of drifting in and out. She knows that she should stay in this world and that she should be focused; she needs to pull herself together and sort out her brain, but at the same time she can’t control it. I think that Jessica did it beautiful and so strong. It just broke my heart, that movie. So when I did Babycall, I revisited Frances. So that one is a movie that I love. It always inspires me.
I love the movie Bullhead. I’m working with the director now. He’s kind of putting the light into a business, a very dirty business — it’s not the cool gangsters, it’s not the kind of sexy gangster world; it’s the gritty, very uncharming world of criminals working in the meat industry in Belgium. And the whole backstory to this lead guy is so incredible. I was in tears a couple of times when I saw it. And now I’m gonna work with Matthias [Schoenaerts] and with Michaël R. Roskam, who directed it.
Dead Man Down opens in theaters this week.