I'm not going to salander Rooney Mara or anything, but I would have preferred for original Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace, to come out to America to reprise the role in David Fincher's English-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and sequels). But rather than do as Penelope Cruz did for Vanilla Sky, Rapace declined to be considered for the remake and instead is looking for other ways to break into Hollywood.
Will she be successful? Throughout the 20th century we saw so many foreign actresses rocket to stardom in Hollywood, but in the past decade there have been a number of surprising disappointments. Occasional industry conquerors like Cruz and maybe Marion Cotillard (we'll see) break the modern mold, but for the most part Hollywood miscasts and undervalues imported starlets. So, I don't foresee Rapace being the next Lena Olin let alone the next Ingrid Bergman. More likely she'll join the group of women below, for better or worse:
Foreign breakthrough: Amelie (2001)
Hollywood movie: The Da Vinci Code (2006)
She was allegedly warned against doing the Hollywood thing by Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who had his own failure with Alien: Resurrection) and even seemed to obey him for a while there. But five years after winning the hearts of film geeks the world over, she cashed in big time by starring opposite none other than Tom Hanks in one of the most anticipated films of the decade, The Da Vinci Code (kind of the Dragon Tattoo of its time, only bigger). The mainstream audiences didn't fall as hard for her in that, but she doesn't seem to mind, preferring to maintain permanent residence in Paris while at least being a member of the Academy. And she's done well enough in the international spotlight with films like Priceless and Coco Before Chanel, as well as appearing in Chanel ads, to keep her face circulating in the U.S. for whenever another studio comes calling for some other paycheck role that's beneath her.
Carice van Houten
Foreign breakthrough: Black Book (2006)
Hollywood movies: Valkyrie (2008); Repo Men (2010)
After becoming smitten with Van Houten in Paul Verhoeven's terrific Black Book, I was excited to see her rise as a star, though I confessed to having fears that she'd be wasted and underused in Hollywood movies, just like Tautou before her. At the time of my worrying, she was already on a role, landing gigs opposite heavyweights like Tom Cruise, Jude Law, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, the latter two in the same film. But her role as DiCaprio's wife in Body of Lies was so small and insignificant that it was completely left on the cutting room floor. Certainly not worthy of the actress who carried and shined so brightly in a WWII flick like Black Book.
Foreign breakthroughs: Malena (2000); Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001); Irreversible (2002)
Hollywood movies: Tears of the Sun (2003); The Matrix sequels (2003); The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)
To be fair, Bellucci starred in -- and even adorned the poster of -- Under Suspicion prior to appearing in those three foreign breakthroughs, but they were what shot her to prominence more than playing Gene Hackman's wife in the 1999 thriller. Since then, she's been fairly prolific and been able to mix studio fare with continued work in Europe. Still, her Hollywood resume is kind of embarrassing and oftentimes disturbing due to the industry's inability to understand what to do with a woman so talented yet so voluptuous and accepting of sexual roles when she deserves sexy ones. A lactating prostitute in Shoot 'Em Up? Even Gapar Noe wouldn't subject her to something so terrible.
Catalina Sandino Moreno
Foreign breakthrough: Maria Full of Grace (2004)
Hollywood movies: Fast Food Nation (2006); Love in the Time of Cholera (2007); The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
Defend it all you want, Twihards, but a role in Eclipse playing a minor character barely represented in the books is not the proper part for an actress who garnered an Oscar nomination for her first film. I'd rather you call me out for including someone who technically never really broke through with work from her native land. Maria isn't quite a foreign film, and you might even argue that while co-produced by South American companies it's also partially a Hollywood production. The point remains that she is foreign-born and that she deserves better. That said, if you want to see her give a great performance in an under-seen American indie, rent Ethan Hawke's The Hottest State.
Foreign breakthrough: Run Lola Run (1998)
Hollywood movies: Blow (2001); The Bourne Identity (2002); Shanghai (2010)
She was doing pretty good there at the start of her Hollywood career, starring dramatically opposite Johnny Depp in Blow and even more prominently as Matt Damon's love interest in the first Bourne movie. Hopefully she at least collected well for her disappointingly brief return in The Bourne Supremacy. Outside of roles in indies like Che (which also features Sandino) and Romulus, My Father, she's done some TV work but nothing has been as substantial as her early work for Tom Tykwer (including The Princess and the Warrior) or the Bourne. And thinking about this list has me almost suspecting The Weinstein Company's hold on Shanghai is because it fits with Hollywood's disservice to foreign actresses. It's high time they release that movie, which also features Gong Li, whose appearances in Miami Vice and Hannibal Rising probably qualify her for this list, too.