Meeting The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

by Melissa Silverstein on October 29, 2010

in Actresses

In the last year all three of the Swedish movies based on Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy have been released here in the US. Since the first movie was released last spring, the books have exploded here in the US and in turn the films have done very well for foreign films.

The most amazing outcome of the success of the films is the embrace of the actress who embodied Lisbeth Salander — Noomi Rapace. In a period of six months she has gone from unknown to a woman being pursued by every male action director in Hollywood.

I was able to meet her this week (as part of a group of people) as The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest opens this weekend.

Here are some of my questions to her:

Women and Hollywood: Why do you think so much of the conversation over the last couple of weeks as this movie has rolled out been dominated by the fact that you are nothing like the expectation of Lisbeth would be like.

Noomi Rapace: I totally agree and thank you for that question because it surprises me over and over when people say oh you are not like her at all. No, it was a role. I was playing her. I was in LA at the end of August for 4 crazy days and all the people I met with were so surprised.

WaH: Was it mostly men you met with?

NR: Yes. And actually people don’t really recognize me. I was in the lobby of a hotel a couple of months ago and Niels Arden Oplev the director of the first movie didn’t recognize me. I was standing next to my manager and he was talking to her asking when I was coming to town and I was standing there. Five minutes later he was like oh my god, it’s you.

WaH: Lisbeth has become a feminist heroine. So many of us have been writing about her because she is a strong female role model and there are so few of them in Hollywood. How do you feel about embodying a character that is so rarely seen in the movies?

NR: I liked her so much. I read the books a couple of years before and immediately felt a kind of connection with her and her fight.

WaH: Why do you think women connect with her?

NR: She does not complain and she doesn’t accept being a victim. Almost everybody has treated her so badly and has done horrible things to her but she doesn’t accept it and won’t become the victim they have tried to force her to be. She wants to live and will never give up. I find that so liberating. Her battle is for a better life and to be free and I think everybody experiences that at some point in their life. They say OK, I’m not going to take this anymore. This is the point of no return. I’m going to stand up and say no.  I’m going to be true to myself and even if you don’t like me that’s fine. I don’t want to play the game of the charming nice sexy girl anymore, I’m me. I think everybody can relate to that.

WaH: You are going to be able to escape the “girl box.”  You have entered the US psyche as a woman who has played a strong kick ass role. No one is going to type cast you for a romantic comey. All the movies you are mentioned for like the Alien prequel are strong women. How do you feel about that?

NR: Good. I think it’s much easier to come into a room when you have done something you are proud of that you can stand behind and support. Lisbeth is complicated. She is very wounded inside, her soul is broken and she does stuff that is over the top sometimes and she crosses the line. Even though she is loved by many people she is very dark. For me, I have done something and I have done it all the way so when I enter a room and I meet producers and directors in this country I think people know that I want to do things that have many layers.

WaH: There are not that many roles like that for women.

NR: I think it is changing. I think that our industry has realized that something is wrong because the whole world has embraced these movies about a screwed up crazy girl that is so far out, unsexy and so uncharming. The film has made a lot of money and all the big bosses think about money as well, so I think that the world is ready to see more complicated female characters that are more like the male characters. I talked to Guy Ritchie the other day and he said I don’t think about her as a woman- she’s like a man, she’s like a whole person. (Melissa comment: This quote from Guy Ritchie makes me bonkers and illuminates everything that is wrong with Hollywood.) And I said good. If that’s what it takes. I can read a book about a male character and I can fully go into his universe and I don’t make a big difference.

Some of the other observations from the questions of my colleagues in the meeting:

On becoming a celebrity:

  • It’s extremely dangerous if you become too famous and people know too much about you. Then they don’t see your work. They will go into the theatre and see this famous person.

On whether she wants to do the supposed 4th book or the American version of the film:

  • No. I was done with her. After the last scene in the 3rd movie I felt I could let her go. She was in me for 1 and a half years. I prepared for 7 months and it took a year to shoot all three movies and then I was done. I felt very strongly that this was over. it’s time to move on.
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris October 29, 2010 at 11:12 AM

” I talked to Guy Ritchie the other day and he said I don’t think about her as a woman- she’s like a man, she’s like a whole person”

…..I have…no words.

Becky October 29, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Very cool! :)

Ewa October 29, 2010 at 4:42 PM

I have to ask this… The comment in the parentheses is from you or from Rapace? The “(This quote from Guy Ritchie makes me bonkers and illuminates everything that is wrong with Hollywood.)”?

Melissa Silverstein October 29, 2010 at 4:44 PM

That is me- I will clarify

Jennifer October 29, 2010 at 8:42 PM

I don’t see a problem with what Guy Ritchie said, he is right. All these “kick ass” women roles are accepted because the characters are more like men; except sexier. Facts are, this drive toward revenge seeking women in movies like this are as far removed from real women as possible. Pure fantasy that can be embrace by men because the character traits are closely associated with what we have come to believe (right or wrong) are male attributes. Great acting, riveting stories continue to be told and sold but they are not fully representative of strong women with very female attributes. It is sometimes worth the dollars spent but it is what it is, very male.

scribbles October 30, 2010 at 1:38 PM

Melissa, thanks for adding your editors’ note. You stopped me from throwing my laptop out the door.

I’m confused by Jennifer’s comment. Her point seems to be that Ritchie is “right” because men like action heroes, and decisive, driven characters are associated with men (rightly or wrongly).

But Ritchie’s remark that “she’s like a man, she’s like a whole person” is not about which gender is associated with which traits. He said that the character, in being more like a man, was more *human.* That’s all sorts of fucked up.

I don’t see that Lisbeth Salander is a big pathbreaker of a character, anyway. OK, so she’s the one woman in the boys’ treehouse because she kicks ass just like a man. Wasn’t that Lara Croft’s gig, too? And la Femme Nikita’s?

Bel October 31, 2010 at 1:40 AM

Guy Ritchie!! What a MUPPET!

Jennifer October 31, 2010 at 7:15 PM

Though I would way in again, thanks scribbles for pointing out the confusion in my statement, always hard to translate in this manner.
Here’s my thoughts, Ritchie’s quote (if it is in full context) is representative of the kick-ass female characters acceptance and yes, he may well be an idiot if he can’t see past what he said. However, there are men and women who truly believe these characters are “whole” or better because they embrace qualities that were normally associated with men on film. (violence, revenge, calculated killer, strength etc)
In my mind these female characters which you thankfully pointed out – Lisbeth, Lara Croft and Nikita are bankable not because they are strong “female” characters (like in past films Norma Rae or others) but because they are females playing “men.”

Melissa great blog/site as always, glad you got the opportunity to do the interview.

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