Noomi Rapace talks about working with Sir Ridley Scott on Prometheus, embodying the character of Elizabeth Shaw and why she represents a unique mix of science and faith. She also discusses what her casting means for her career. She was speaking at a Q&A in London that followed a world first presentation of footage from the film.
Let's talk about Elizabeth Shaw. This film is about faith versus science and she represents the faith side, doesn't she?
Noomi Rapace: Yes, she is a scientist and she grew up in Africa and her father was a priest, so she has been raised close to God, seeing different cultures and different people living under different conditions from a very early age. She has been travelling around, seeing different life forms since she was quite young. But her father died when she was young so she has been on her own and she has been able to turn and to use God and things that have happened to her in a constructive way. So she became a scientist but she still has a great gift of believing. It's an interesting conflict that we [points to Ridley Scott] were talking about a lot, being a scientist but still believing in God. What she's looking for out there and this whole mission is very personal to her; it's like something she has been living with and waiting for and wanting to do her whole life, in a way.
And is it about retaining faith in the middle of horrible things happening to you? Visiting hell, essentially?
Noomi Rapace: Yes. She goes through a lot of things in the movie and she transforms. You know in the beginning she is not maybe na´ve, but she is full of hope and a true believer and then things happen and she becomes a survivor and a fighter and a warrior in a way. I'm not sure that she is so convinced at the end of the movie. I think she realises that it wasn't really what she expected.
How does it feel for you to take on this big part? Is it a big pressure for your career?
Noomi Rapace: Well, you know, the first time I met Ridley it was in August, almost two years ago, in LA. He'd seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo a couple of times and he said to me that he loved my performance and that he wanted to work with me and I thought I was going to just pass out! I don't really get nervous; it's not that I have many people in the world that I really admire and don't really know how to behave around, but I thought I was going to die. And my English was really bad, so I kind of felt like I was dreaming. And then he actually meant it! So he came back to me a couple of months later and said to me that he wanted me to play this character in his...it was called 'the prequel to Alien' at that time...but then Prometheus. And the magic kind of is that as soon as you step in and start to work, I don't feel nervous, I don't look at it from the outside, it's almost like you're stepping into another universe and then you don't really reflect, you don't judge it, you don't think about doing a lead with Ridley Scott, how other people see it around you. You melt into that world; it's only when you're done and you step out that you realise there was a lot of pressure and that you probably wouldn't be able to do it if you started to think about the fact that many people are going to judge it.
Did you feel you had anything to prove in terms of potentially being compared to Sigourney Weaver?
Noomi Rapace: No, we talked a lot and it's not Ripley. The amazing thing with working with Ridley is, it feels like you are so much inside the characters and every character in the story and I never felt alone in there. We were doing quite disturbed things some days and it was quite tough and you came home and your mind and your soul and your body were a mess, but I always felt really happy. It never felt like I was carrying something really heavy on my shoulders, even though it was quite tough some days; it always felt like we were doing something together. And it's definitely not Ripley but she feels like she's in the same family, in a way, she's a survivor and a fighter in the same kind of way, a little bit similar to Ripley.
Did Sir Ridley do anything to surprise you during the shoot... anything potentially traumatic such as what he did with John Hurt's character in Alien [which his actors were unaware of at the time]?
Noomi Rapace: I dreamt nightmares for two weeks! I had these weird f**ked up images in my head, so yes it did affect us.
Interview: Rob Carnevale Photo: Fox