She wasn’t playing Scarface, but as sexy actress Noomi Rapace got ready for her role as a car-accident victim in “Dead Man Down,” she figured the bigger the disfigurement, the better.
“I wanted an aggressive, big scar on my face,” the 33-year-old actress says.
But director Niels Adren Oplev said it was crucial that Rapace’s character “not look too destroyed. We had to meet halfway.”
In “Dead Man Down,” opening Friday, Rapace plays Beatrice, a near shut-in since undergoing facial surgery after being slammed into by a drunk driver. To get revenge on the man who hit her, Beatrice blackmails her neighbor, a hoodlum named Victor (Colin Farrell) who works for a crime boss (Terrence Howard). Soon she’s caught up in the hood’s own revenge plot.
It’s the Swedish actress’ fourth English-language film since she burst onto the international scene with films made in her native country based on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels. Before Rooney Mara, Rapace was Lisbeth Salander, the pierced, tattooed, butt-kicking bisexual hacker heroine of Stieg Larsson’s book.
“People tend to offer only hard-ass movies, these aggressive, angry, fighting parts,” she says. “But for me, it’s about the combination of the script, the director and the other actors.”
Her transition away from Lisbeth and onto hot lists had a cool start.
She grew up in Stockholm, then moved with her family to Iceland when she was 5. She got her first film role at 7 (“I was an extra in a Viking movie”) and loved it. She moved back to Stockholm at 15 to act in a soap opera, and has worked as an actor ever since.
But going to the center of the moviemaking world was a slippery slope, she felt. “I was very judgmental about Hollywood — I thought the movies were superficial, that they were only interested in blockbusters. I said, ‘I don’t want to go — it’s not for me.’ Then [they] started sending me scripts.
“As I was reading them, I thought, wow, there are actually some amazing movies being made. I was wrong.”
Since then, she’s played a gypsy fortune-teller in Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes” sequel; a scientist on a harrowing trip into outer space in “Prometheus” and a corporate exec who figures out the perfect way to murder her boss (Rachel McAdams) in Brian De Palma’s “Passion,” which played the 2012 New York Film Festival but has yet to be released in the U.S.
“Dead Man Down” continues a streak of high-profile roles that could make her the most famous Swedish export to Hollywood since Ingrid Bergman learned English.
But she doesn’t approach her career as some sort of campaign designed to build popularity and success.
“I can’t do things because it’s the right move for me — like, ‘I need to do a romantic comedy now so I can be funny and cute!’” she says.
“I can’t be strategic like that. If I step into a character, it takes over everything. I lose myself in her.”
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