Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, after two weeks playing the title role in the big screen version of author Stieg Larssons’ phenomenal best-selling thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, recalls the night she returned to her Stockholm home after an arduous day on the set. Her 6-year-old son Lev turned to her and asked, “Mummy, why do you want to look like a teenage boy?”

The beautiful actress, who turns 30 in December, says, “That was the moment of truth.  I had changed from his mother, Noomi, to this scarred boy-woman. It was then I knew I’d nailed the part.”

And she did. The offspring of a Swedish mother and a Spanish father has suddenly become the hottest property in the movie world as the disturbed but brilliant computer hacker and sleuth, with a photographic memory and a violent past.
More than 20 million readers have devoured the literary thrillers by the journalist/author who died of a heart attack at age 50 in 2004, leaving an extremely valuable legacy in the shape of his three violent but mesmerizing novels. Sales of his three books continue to go through the roof posthumously.

The  petite, gamin-like actress  met with VCReporter and discussed why she felt such kinship for her wild woman alter ego. Rapace speaks fluent English and has nary a tattoo in sight.

The Girl With the
Dragon Tattoo
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace.  Not rated — contains sex, nudity, strong and graphic violence including rape, and gore. 152 min.

VCReporter: Were you upset when your director said you were too beautiful to play the dark, brooding Lisbeth?
Noomi Rapace: That made me more determined to get her just right. I don’t like to pretend things, and so coming to work and stepping into the character’s clothes, I needed to use myself and let the character climb out from within me.

VCReporter: How were you able to transform yourself into a punker who can’t bear human contact and despises her fellow man?
I exercised four days a week for months with kick and Thai boxing with a tough Serbian guy. I was on a certain diet to make myself look skinny. I cut my hair, pierced myself and took motorcycle lessons. There was a lot of work to be done to find her and then to let her grow from me. I wanted to find the aggression in my body, dig for myself and uncover that explosive energy.

VCR: As an actress, you have to make an emotional connection, but the point of this girl is that she has killed all emotion in herself. That must have been quite difficult?
She’s a toughie. She doesn’t react like you or I. She’s been hurt. She’s a wounded animal and has shut out the world and has built this hard shell around her to protect herself and to survive.

VCR: That facade is vital, but how do you show what’s going on inside when, emotionally, she’s virtually autistic?
I worked as an actress for 10 years and tried to use myself and my own experience and pieces from my own childhood.

VCR: Can you talk about your own childhood?
I did my first movie role in a bizarre film that was shot in Iceland. I was 7 years old at the time. My father abandoned us when I was very young. My mother remarried and her second husband was Icelandic and he moved us to a remote town in Iceland when I was a child. At 9, we all moved back to Sweden.

VCR: How did that affect you?
I always felt like I was an outsider and didn’t really fit in society. When I was 13 and 14, I quit everything and became a kind of punk rocker. A real troublemaker. I was drunk every day and I couldn’t see that anybody was happy. It was the hardest time of my life. When I was 15, I became sober and decided to move out of the house and went to acting high school. My mother always said, “Noomi is strong, she’ll survive everything.”

VCR: So you did have something in common with Lisbeth?
I also survived on my own, so I could connect to her surviving spirit. I don’t think I ever felt sorry for myself, although I was left by my father when I was so young. Then a lot of things have at times been pretty hard. But I always find the light and how to be strong although there was a time when I had the monster inside of me. To play Lisbeth, I had to wake up my own demons and find these dark things in me.