At the center of all this galactic weirdness is the film's big, beating heart, mostly supplied by the performance of former -- and some would argue, reigning -- girl with the dragon tattoo, Noomi Rapace. Here Rapace plays archeologist Elizabeth Shaw, a strong-willed scientist who leads a team of researchers and corporate goons to a distant planet to look for the origins of life on earth.
Moviefone spoke with Noomi from London, where she filled us in on getting the highly coveted role, working with Ridley Scott, what it was like taking over for Sigourney Weaver, and having another actress (Rooney Mara) portray Lisbeth Salander in the updated "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
What initially brought you to the project? I was in L.A. a year and a half ago for some meetings and I was approached to meet with Ridley's producer. And then I hear, a couple minutes before the meeting, that Ridley was going to come and that he wanted to see me. I was really shocked and nervous and he stepped into the room and kissed me and said, "I've seen 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' three times and I think you're fantastic, I want to work with you." I thought I was going to die. I had this Helmut Lang light blue dress [on] and I started to sweat and thought, This is the worst dress to wear in this kind of situation because he can see me panicking. And I didn't really believe it -- it was hard to really realize that it was true and he meant it. Then he came back to me a couple of weeks later and said he was going to do a sci-fi movie, some kind of prequel to "Alien," and that he wanted me to play the lead. We talked for many weeks and then I realized it was true.
[But, while filming] you have to ignore all that -- you have to ignore that he's Sir Ridley Scott and one of the biggest, greatest directors in the world. You have to push that aside to be able to work. It's impossible to work if you're paralyzed by respect and awe. You have to forget about everything else outside of this project. And Ridley is very good about that -- he's never pretentious and he never talks about himself as an icon.
Were you a fan of the original movies? Absolutely! I saw "Alien" when I was thirteen and I was completely blown away by Sigourney's character, Ripley. I remember that I had never seen anything like it. At that time, I was desperately looking for some kind of role model or people to look up to, and for me, what she did there was so stunning -- she was so fearless and strong and sexy at the same time but not posing, not trying to be sexy. She was so modern and such a rebel. I was obsessed.
Later on I saw "Thelma & Louise" and "Gladiator" and "American Gangster"... [Ridley] manages to create big movies that feel like they are groundbreaking and make a mark in history. But at the same time, there's an intimacy and something very heartbreaking in them. For me, Ridley is truly a hero.
You're in an interesting position as an actress because you're harkening back to Sigourney's Ripley character in "Prometheus" and just saw another actress assume your role for "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." What is that experience like? I didn't really think about Ripley so much when I was preparing and trying to find Elizabeth Shaw, and Ridley was very clear that she was not Ripley, she's a new character. I would say she steps into this mission with an open heart -- she's full of hopes and dreams. She's a beautiful combination of being a scientist and religious and it's a contradiction -- it's almost like a battle inside her, between these two sides. And she has a vulnerability.
In the second part of the movie I would say she becomes more like Ripley -- she's stronger and a trooper and more of a survivor. So for me, I didn't really think about Ripley and other things around me, I tried to go into myself and find my focus and let this character run through my veins and my body. I'm always looking for ways to translate things from my life into the person I'm playing because I don't want to pretend, I don't want to fake. And it becomes really personal.
The same thing was true of Lisbeth Salender in "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" -- I gave her my heart and my soul and my life for a year and a half. Then I let her go. When I finished with the third movie, I was really done with her. And I haven't watched Fincher's movie yet, so I am not really sure what they did and what kind of life Rooney Mara gave her. But it was like a combination of Noomi and Stieg Larsson's heroine. I always meld with the character I'm playing, so it's always 50 percent Noomi, 50 percent the character I'm playing.
From one great director to the next, you've just worked with Brian De Palma on "Passion," a remake of last year's French thriller "Love Crime." What was that like? Wow, yeah, that was a very different experience. I had never done anything like that. And stepping into his world, we had discussions and conversations about the script and the relationship between my character and Rachel McAdams' character. It was really interesting because it started off and we were on two different islands, me and De Palma, and when I finished, I felt we had moved into the same country and we were sharing the vision and sharing the same dream... I became really influenced and colored by my character, and she has a weird emotional life.
It seems like you're kind of a lucky charm for these filmmakers returning to their favorite genres, with Ridley going back to sci-fi and De Palma returning to an erotic thriller. [Laughs] Maybe!
"Prometheus" opens in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D formats, this Friday. (And yes, the 3D is worth the extra scrap.)