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Friday, May 25, 2012
Noomi Rapace is the cover story of this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, in anticipation of the release of the upcoming Ridley Scott film Prometheus. For the article inside, Karen Olsson visited Rapace in Berlin while the actress was filming Passion, and the article ends with some very intriguing happenings on the set of the film, where Rapace was working on a post-sex scene with Paul Anderson. Here are the Passion-related excerpts:

When I met Rapace in Berlin this spring, the 32-year-old actress was filming “Passion” with the director Brian De Palma, and her focus on the tasks at hand seemed to distract her from the approach of the tidal wave that is “Prometheus,” a big summer movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Rapace. The film, Scott and 20th Century Fox insist, is not so much a prequel to Scott’s 1979 landmark film “Alien” as it is one that “shares DNA” with “Alien” — make what you will of that distinction. Regardless, Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, as the lead of an “Alien”-type film, will assume the place of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. The significance, on-screen and off, is slowly sinking in for her. “Some people in London came up to me on the street and said: ‘You’re Noomi Rapace? Oh, my God, you’re the new Ripley, is it true?’ ” she says. “I started to realize this can actually be quite big in a way that I hadn’t really expected.”

During my visit to Berlin, the weather was improbably balmy, and a youngish, well-turned-out set found its way to the rooftop pool and bar at the Soho House Berlin, a hotel and club in a restored Bauhaus building that at one time was the headquarters of the Hitler Youth and before that a Jewish-owned department store. There among the sunbathers, paddling around the small pool, was a cheerful, toothy boy wearing a mask and a snorkel: this was Rapace’s son, Lev, age 8. In February he came with his mother to Berlin, where he attended a Swedish school. He would spend the latter part of the spring in Turkey to be with his father, Noomi’s ex-husband, Ola Rapace. (An actor himself, Ola had gone to Turkey to play a villain in the next James Bond movie, “Skyfall.”) Noomi joined Lev in the water for a while, and later she warned him not to splash too much, for the sake of the people in the poolside loungers, though privately she grumbled that people who can’t abide a splash or two shouldn’t sit next to the pool.

She was a restless, willful girl — “I was always running and climbing and building things” — and her parents, fearing she wouldn’t be well served by the local public school in Iceland, moved back to Sweden, to a small town in the south. At 11, she started taking judo lessons, and for a while she was devoted to that sport. She was also bewitched by Hollywood movies with violence in them — “True Romance,” “Thelma and Louise,” “Alien,” “The Terminator,” “Scarface,” “Rambo” — as well as “La Femme Nikita” and kung fu movies...

In anticipation of each part she plays, Rapace chooses a training regimen (or, sometimes, a lack thereof) not simply to get in shape but to adjust her relationship with her body. To become Lisbeth Salander, she Thai-boxed and kickboxed, because she wanted to awaken her fighting spirit. Before appearing in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” Rapace’s first Hollywood movie, she stayed away from the gym, which she said would have been wrong for her Victorian-era-gypsy role, but she studied with a gypsy-dance expert. And for “Passion,” the film she came to Berlin to do, she decided on Bikram yoga, because she felt that its regimented sequence of poses would appeal to her character, Isabelle — “a control freak,” she called her.

Regarding her future projects, “she’s very filmmaker-driven,” [Rapace's manager Shelley] Browning says. “And she laments the same thing that all female actresses lament, that there are rarely great roles for women.” Rapace is at low risk for being typecast, because she conforms to no recognizable type. Her face is arresting, with large, alert eyes and cheekbones that seem poised to burst, “Alien”-style, out from beneath her pale skin. She won’t show up in a romantic comedy any time soon, Browning says — “I just don’t know that she responds to those kinds of characters” — but she is not ruling anything out. After I spoke with her in Berlin, Rapace was reunited with [Niels Arden] Oplev, the director of the first “Millennium” movie, to shoot a thriller in Philadelphia co-starring Colin Farrell, in which she portrays a woman who was disfigured in an accident. She also plans to play opposite her ex-husband in a biopic directed by Catherine Hardwicke, about the romance between the boxer Bo Hogberg and the singer Anita Lindblom.

On my last morning in Berlin, I accompanied Rapace to the “Passion” set, inside an apartment building in a fashionable neighborhood. The set itself was a Euro-creepy bedroom, with scaly black curtains, a round, black bed in the middle, a stuffed bird on a dresser and an open bathroom. Because of the room’s small size, most of the crew huddled in the hall, while De Palma and the cinematographer José Luis Alcaine sat in chairs in the back of the room, near the camera and monitor. It was a post-sex scene that Rapace was performing, with the actor Paul Anderson, and after she changed into her costume — a man’s dress shirt — and her hair and makeup were adjusted to look tousled and slightly sweat-dampened, they read through the dialogue.

In the film, based on a French thriller, Rapace’s Isabelle suffers at the hands of Christine, her manipulative boss, played by Rachel McAdams, then seeks revenge. During this scene, Isabelle, who has just slept with Christine’s lover (played by Anderson) at his apartment, discovers a trove of sex toys. These include a ghostly mask of Christine herself, with white skin and long blond hair, which Isabelle holds up to the light and then addresses.

During the read-through, Rapace questioned De Palma about a couple of lines in which Isabelle talks to the mask, suggesting they weren’t consistent with how she played an earlier scene. She substituted another line, mimicking something Christine has already said: “I used to want to be admired, now I want to be loved.”

As they started filming, Rapace adjusted her performance slightly with each take — more smiling in one, more solemn in the next. And when it came time to shoot her close-up, Rapace and De Palma started analyzing the line again. “Maybe I should just do it more simply,” she said. It was a strange declaration — “I used to want to be admired, now I want to be loved” — to hear Rapace-as-Isabelle make, over and over, after having listened to Rapace-as-Rapace tell me how much she hoped not to fall prey to those desires. She went on to try a few different phrasings, cooing each one to the mask of Rachel McAdams, and finally pared it down to this: “I wanted to be admired, but now I want to be loved.”

Posted by Geoff at 9:30 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 26, 2012 9:39 AM CDT
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