As the mantle of playing Lisbeth Salander shifts from Noomi Rapace, who wowed the world in the role through the three Scandinavian movies that were made and shown globally in the last decade, to the “new” Lisbeth—Rooney Mara—who debuts in the David Fincher/Sony/Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opening December 21, the New York Times caught up with Noomi and profiled what she’s doing these days. Excerpts follow:
The Girl Past the Dragon Tattoo
By Kathryn Shattuck
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.
IT was dusk on the Sunset Strip here when Noomi Rapace swooped into an oak-paneled bar, looking nothing like herself. Swathed in crepe the color of orange sherbet, her skin luscious, her hair tousled, she could have been any starlet making the rounds. But she might have been Someone. Eavesdroppers craned their necks, not quite sure.
Then, a murmur of recognition from a banquette just beyond. “It’s her,” a man whispered furiously to his companions. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo!”
These days Rooney Mara’s pale, pierced visage looms on billboards for David Fincher’s take on the Stieg Larsson novel, the first of the Millennium trilogy best sellers. But for fans of the original Swedish films, Ms. Rapace (pronounced Ra-PAHSS) will forever embody Lisbeth Salander, Larsson’s avenging angel: razor sharp and tough as tungsten, a tiny freak of nature able to bring a man twice her size to his knees.
That might have been her face up on the billboards. But Ms. Rapace didn’t even consider auditioning; she wasn’t interested in dwelling on a character that had consumed her for a year and a half, transforming her from a well-regarded Swedish actress into an international sensation.
“I was done with her,” Ms. Rapace, 31, said, sipping peppermint tea at the Sunset Tower Hotel and looking remarkably normal for someone specializing in the psychically ravaged. On the last day of shooting the trilogy’s concluding film, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” when producers arrived with Champagne, Ms. Rapace ran to the bathroom and vomited. “I was throwing up for 45 minutes,” she said. “I couldn’t stand. It was so clearly my body throwing Lisbeth out.”
On Friday, five days ahead of the release of Mr. Fincher’s film, Ms. Rapace will make her English-language debut alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” directed by Guy Ritchie. As Sim, a Gypsy fortuneteller, the chameleonic Ms. Rapace assumes a less brazen disguise — a flowing mane, kaleidoscopic petticoats and knife-throwing skills — in a commercial calling card.
“I thought she felt fresh and strong and different,” Mr. Ritchie said of Ms. Rapace. “She’s creative. She has ideas, some good and some not so good. She’s full of energy and aggressive, and born to be an actress, really. Given her own way, she was fully enthusiastic about stabbing as many people as she could, so I had to quell her passion a bit.”
The role fits with Ms. Rapace’s image of herself as a citizen of the world. “I never felt like a typical Swedish girl,” she said. “I always felt like I was on the move, that I was going towards something.”
Most recently Ms. Rapace has pointed her compass at the United States, which she described as a country of possibilities where nothing is too big or too complicated, at least not in the film industry. At least not for her.
“I didn’t tell her but decided she would be the female lead in ‘Prometheus,’ ” he wrote in an e-mail. “My first impression was how different she was from the person in ‘Dragon.’ I realized here was a great actress. The real thing.” Directing her, he added, was one of the best experiences he has had.