'Prometheus' star thrilled to embark on mission with legendary director

Noomi Rapace plays lead role in Ridley Scott's sci-fi thriller

Published On: Jun 05 2012 09:26:03 AM CDT
Noomi Rapace in 'Prometheus'

If the way her role in "Prometheus" materialized is any indication, then it's pretty safe to say that Swedish actress Noomi Rapace's career Hollywood is already rocketing toward the stratosphere.

At this point, American audiences only have seen one of Rapace's English-language films, the 2011 smash hit "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." But it's Rapace's mesmerizing turn as tortured soul Lisbeth Salander in the 2009 Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" that got her recognized by fans and filmmakers internationally -- and in particular famed director Sir Ridley Scott.

In a recent interview, Rapace told me that she was in Hollywood a couple years back to meet to another studio about a different film when Scott's producer called her for a meeting.

"I came to the office and a couple minutes before the meeting I heard that Ridley was going to join us and wanted to meet me," Rapace recalled. "I started to sweat and got really nervous, and there aren't too many people who make me nervous. But he's one of my heroes, so just getting the chance to talk with him was quite shocking for me."

But what happened next had Rapace questioning whether she was living in reality or not.

"When Ridley stepped into the room, he kissed me and said, 'I've seen "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" three times and I want to work with you.' I thought I was going to die, I thought, 'Oh, holy s---. I hope this is not a dream,'" Rapace recalled, laughing. "It came to me without having to fight for it."

Rapace said she found comfort in Scott's "strong intuition."

"He knows what he wants. He told me after that meeting that I was his girl," Rapace said. "He wanted to meet me to see if I was an actress, or that I was like Lisbeth as a person. After that meeting, he knew I was an actress."

Scott wasn't the only one spellbound by Rapace's acting skills -- "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" also had "Prometheus" screenwriter Damon Lindelof transfixed.

"There are movie stars and there are actors, and Noomi is an actor. She loses herself in every role she plays to almost a chameleon-esque effect," Lindelof told me in a separate interview.

The funny thing is, much in the way Rapace was nervous to meet Scott, Lindelof admits that he was sweating it before he met Rapace.

"When I first met her I was really nervous," Lindelof said with a laugh. "I thought to myself, 'Who is this going to be?' and she's just Noomi. She's awesome."

"Prometheus" stars Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, one of a team of scientists who discovers on Earth clues to the origins of mankind. Getting funds for the trillion-dollar mission from private conglomerate Weyland Corp., the crew treks to the darkest corners of the universe, only to discover a terrifying threat the future of the human race.

Opening in 2D and 3D and on IMAX screens Friday, the film also stars Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron.

In its developmental stages, "Prometheus" was written as more of a prequel to Scott 1979's sci-fi horror classic "Alien." That film, of course, launched the career of the story's butt-kicking female heroine Sigourney Weaver (as Ellen Ripley), and spawned three direct sequels and two other movie mash-ups involving the creatures from the sci-fi hit "Predator."

Feeling there was no sense in trying to further play out the "Alien" storyline -- even as a prequel -- acclaimed "Lost" co-creator Lindelof came on board the project to work on Jon Spaihts' original script. When all was said and done, a new mythology was created, yet there were strands of "Alien's" DNA layered within.

With a similar environment, there's no question that some of Ripley's traits appear in Shaw in "Prometheus" -- but Rapace said Shaw is very much also her own character.

"I would say Elizabeth Shaw at the start has a naïve and almost child-like dream at the beginning, and she steps into this mission with an open heart," Rapace explained. "This is everything she's ever wanted to do. She's been fighting to convince Peter Weyland (Pearce) to put his money on the mission. So to go out and looking to find our creators is her personal dream."

"She's very personally connected to this whole mission, so I think you get to know a little bit more about Elizabeth, the person that you did about Ripley in 'Alien,'" Rapace added. "In the first part of that movie she's more of a crew member, and in only the second part does she become the lead and slowly we find out she's the only one left standing."

It's in the second half of "Prometheus" where Rapace said you'll definitely see more similarities between the Ripley and Shaw.

"It's there where we realized they were wrong. They're not who we thought they would be. They are actually creating disaster," Rapace said. "It's then where we see this transformation of Elizabeth and the similarities to Ripley. We see that fighting instinct and strong will to survive kicks in."

Similarities to Ripley or not, Rapace wanted to make Elizabeth a character that you cared about no matter how tough she was.

"I think there's a vulnerability to her that I find very interesting," Rapace said. "I wanted to make her human and I wanted her to be real. So there are moments when you see her crack when it's just too much. Those moments of not being able to keep it up and not being strong were extremely important to me. It makes her human. It makes her real."

Just as exciting for Rapace was the fact that she had a realistic environment to work in. Scott tried to avoid to using green screen and computer-generated sets as much as possible in "Prometheus," so a lot of massive sets you see in the film -- from the crew's ship to the alien lands were built to scale.

"It definitely felt like I left Earth and went on a space trip with Ridley Scott and company," Rapace enthused. "I think Ridley is a master of creating atmospheres like that. It's almost like there's a cruel, savage beauty in it. It's frightening and dangerous, yet attractive. You can't stop looking at it. You can't help but be drawn to it -- and that really helps you as an actress. You don't have to pretend. You don't have to fake it. It's there."