Noomi Rapace is a Swedish actress, who first drew attention from Hollywood with her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film adaptations of the Millenium book series. Since then, she has appeared in a variety of action-genre based films like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Prometheus, Dead Man Down, and What Happened to Monday. Noomi Rapace will be portraying Leilah, a dark elf, in the upcoming fantasy Netflix film Bright, which is out on December 22, 2017.
Screen Rant got a chance to chat with Noomi Rapace on press day, where we discussed how much training Rapace had to do to prepare for all of the action sequences in the film, what her initial thoughts were when she first read the script for Bright, and how the diversity and treatment of the characters in the story can be translated and made relatable to the modern audience.
SR: Cool thing about this is it blends two genres. When I saw the trailer for Bright Comic-Con I was blown away. I couldn’t wait for the film and lived up to my expectations because it’s the real world mixed with this fantastical element.
Noomi Rapace: Yeah.
SR: Now, I heard that all of you guys had to do training and you have a lot of extensive action in this. Did all of you guys do training together?
Noomi Rapace: We did like martial arts together. We did a lot of the gun, like we went out to this shooting range in Santa Clarita but I was mostly with the elves like my two beautiful small soldiers. So it was the three of us a lot and then I was so hooked. I got like kind of obsessed with it. The whole shooting thing, because it’s I’m very competitive with myself. I was going to do better, so I was asking, can I come again? I started coming on my own as well. I’m going to do a lot of training, and I want to do my own stunts, and I kind of I really want to do as much as they allow me to do. I was working really hard with the stunt team, which all of them are amazing! Rob Alonzo saw this as a stunt coordinator and he did and Deadpool, the first one. He’s so much fun, super creative, Filipino American, and we were just on the same level so much. I had so much fun with them.
SR: When you first read the script, because this is obviously it takes place in the real world but it’s also this fantastical element. When you first read the script what were your initial thoughts?
Noomi Rapace: I was totally blown away. I was like, actually, it was funny, so I met David at my friend Joel Kinnaman’s house and I read the script and David was like, “So what do you think?” I like, well, I love it! He said, Okay, it’s yours. I was like, what? Just like that? He was like, yeah. I was like, okay, yeah, okay, boom! I was telling my friends like you don’t know what just happened. David Ayer just gave me the part. I read it and I was like, I’ve never read anything like this and it’s amazing because the writing is so smart. Sometimes if it goes too far, if it becomes like sci-fi, then you have to like use a lot of imagination. You have to kind of build this world and like imagine it, and see like yeah, are they going to use green screen? Later on, when you actually see that movie, you can see it all come to life. This was all real. I came to the sets and he was there, you know?
SR: I didn’t know that. All of this was practical?
Noomi Rapace: Yeah. We blew a whole gas station up. you know it’s amazing. Yeah.
SR: And that was Downtown L.A. I grew up in South Los Angeles and the world felt really real and lived in.
Noomi Rapace: Yeah. That’s what and I think that’s you know what I love about David is Films. I saw Harsh Times and I was kind of blown away by that. It’s so brutal and it is so human at the same time and it feel so real, but it’s still very cinematic. Training Day is like one of the best scripts ever. End of Watch, you know, it just feel so raw, and real, and authentic. He brought all that into this fantastic world which is the perfect combination.
SR: Yeah it was quite amazing but you see the grittiness of his filmmaking mixed with this. I got so used to Org’s it just became a normal thing.
Noomi Rapace: Yeah! That is exactly what we wanted, you know? That we want the Elves and the Orcs to feel like you can walk out of this cinema or the home, or wherever you see the film and be like okay, I could run into an org and it wouldn’t be such a big deal. That becomes kind of a normality.
SR: With your character, obviously you play the villain of the piece but can tell that there’s backstory. Is there any of the backstory that probably we didn’t see on the screen that is either in the script or that you had made up or you talked to David (Ayer) or Max (Ladis) about?
Noomi Rapace: Oh yeah! I always kind of build the whole world in me and Layla is like deeply religious and she’s serving the Dark Lord. She wants like she’s dreaming of creating a more beautiful and divine, kind of like a Queendom of beauty? (Laughs) She wants to bring back an order that doesn’t exist anymore and in her head, she’s supposed to do that was it with her sister and bring the best out of her tribe to lead, and to guide, and to be in front of this new movement. She’s a deeply passionate villain which was something I really wanted to do. I don’t want to do like a cold-hearted killer machine. Her heart is on fire and she’s in pain and that was something me and David spoke a lot about. He’s like the wand, it’s her baby, you know? The wand, I grew it in my body. It’s a bone from my body so for her it’s like, she’s looking for a baby. It’s hard to be away from it and she’s losing her mind because it’s so important to her. We built this whole back story what happened before, and when my sister ran away, and I’ve been trying to find her. In this in this struggle, want to kill everything that gets in your way, and everything is against you because you have this.. She’s extremely violent but she’s also has a strong love for a sister. It’s a conflict in her. I really love Layla. She’s a very complex person.
SR: You talked a lot about David helped you out with with a lot of the story and character. How was it like collaborating with him? It seems like he had a lot of Influence on some of the choices you made or story elements of your backstory.
Noomi Rapace: Amazing! He’s very open. He feels like he’s exploring it as we go, which is like for me, as an actor, it’s a great gift to be in because he was like once we came to this kind of the strip club or like the big club it was like a big scene. There was a stage in the middle of the room. The first time he came in we were like rehearsed in the fight scene. This long fight scene and then David came in is like looking at the stage, just like, so I want to start this with Layla running across and jumping through this glass wall, and then landing, then she start fighting and (laughing) stunt team was like, right. We start shooting this in three days. How are we going to make this work? They were like, are you game? Are you up for this Noomi? I was like, sure, and then I started like rehearsing, running with my shoes on. I love that with David. He’s just always working. He’s very open-minded. He’s very spontaneous and I think that’s something also, that Netflix kind of makes it possible for a filmmaker to have that freedom and to try things but you know what? I think, you know, it kind of gives a filmmaker like David a lot of freedom, which was amazing.
SR: One thing I love also about this movie is that it’s the general message is to me was, you can watch it and you see that there are orcs, and elves, and fairies, but it’s just about acceptance right? And it’s this grounded, real thing that’s all about acceptance because it’s so topical right now.
Noomi Rapace: Oh yes!
SR: Talk to me about what this story means to you?
Noomi Rapace: Well, it’s really important. It was interesting, I was talking to my son the other day and he said every time someone says a terror attack, everyone is in thinks straightaway it is a Muslim, and we have a lot of Muslim friends in London. I live in London and it’s a very diverse. This very mixed community and I love that and my son has a very open mind, so he was so upset he was like some of our Muslim friends are some of the best people in the world. Now, most people in the world think that Muslims are just bad. We started talking about Bright and he said, you know, it’s kind of like Joel’s character, right? that the org always gets the blame because they look different and, you know, they’re not. Maybe they don’t have a position, a strong position in society and I so amazed by my son’s thoughts. He was on set a couple of times and I always talk to him a lot. I was like, wow, this movie might really be important. I get it in a way that I didn’t really see, you know, because when you’re actually making it, you’re so deep in, then your just kind of driving your own story. I’m the villain, so I’m kind of on a side track, but I was like, wow, this has a deep meaning as well. I think because it’s told in a very entertaining way it doesn’t get too pointy. I love that when they’re writing, it’s very clever and it really points out problems in the society that we need to totally work on.
SR: The cool thing about you guys is cast to it so diverse.
Noomi Rapace: Yeah.
SR: I mean outside of Orcs and Elves and your actual cast is very diverse, something that David did a great job guys. You talked about Netflix having somebody like David having so much creative freedom. This is also a huge blockbuster. How do you take that into consideration that there’s no opening day because every day on Netflix is an opening day? This is kind of like a new medium. How do you feel about that?
Noomi Rapace: Well, it’s like something beautifully kind of democratic about it that. People can watch it like all over the world. It’s really expensive to go to the theaters now. My son and his friends, some of them don’t really have money and I’m always like, I can pay for you. He was like, Mom, they don’t feel comfortable. Then what they do now, they go to someone’s house and they wait for movies to come on Netflix and then they sit all together, of course, you know, sometimes I have a group of like fifteen boys in my house watching a new Netflix movie, which is amazing. I love that part of it and it’s something very magical with the fact that people in one hundred ninety countries can watch this movie at the same time. I’m a big film lover and some films, I think really need like to be seen on a big screen, so I think that’s something that I want to protect but I also think, you know, we’re all film lovers and I think Netflix, they do put up some movies on the big screen as well, but I think our business is changing really fast, which I love. I embrace changes and I think that’s something that Netflix is done so well. It’s an exciting new chapter now but I’m very happy to be a part of it. I’ve actually just heard that Netflix bought my new movie as well. Next year I’m going to be doing this again. (Laughs)
Noomi Rapace: Thank you! It’s an exciting time.
SR: What do you want people take away after watching Bright?
Noomi Rapace: Well, that’s the simple thing would be don’t look at color, or see skin colors, and features and don’t be judgmental. Try to be a little bit open-minded. Look twice, ask again, because I think so many things today, like racism, is one of the worst things.I hate it so deeply and I grew up, you know, I was a punk rock girl. I was in a lot of like demonstrations. I got in a lot of trouble because for me, it’s like this is the lowest thing, you know?
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