The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace has hit out at the pressure on women to be sexy and attractive in the film industry, and claims that is far more important to be real.
In an interview with the Telegraph this week, the 34-year-old actress says vanity is the very opposite of what acting should be about.
“I had to make a decision, a very strict decision, when I was 21, and that decision was never to make a professional choice based on vanity,” she says. “And it’s really hard. Sometimes I see a movie when it’s finished and I’m like, ‘I look like something is wrong with me!’
But, she continues, “It is so wrong that women can feel they need to be sexy and beautiful to be given attention. For me, acting is the opposite. For me, in films it is more important to be real. If posing and being sexy is my first priority, then I can’t act. That kills everything.”
Rapace certainly isn't one to shy away from challenging and complex roles, having played everyone from Lisbeth Salander, the lead in the original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, to a scientist who gives herself a caesarian because she is pregnant with an alien, in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
She is currently promoting The Drop, a gritty crime drama co-starring Tom Hardy. She admits her tendency to take on tough parts means people often expect her to be ballsy and angry in real life.
“A lot of people think I’m quite dark and angry and hardcore and really quite kind of super serious,” she says. “And then they meet me and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you’re so funny and you laugh and you’re smiling so much!’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, why wouldn’t I?’”
Rapace has an 11-year-old son, Lev, with her actor ex-husband Ola Norell (the couple divorced last year).
She has had her fair share of troubles in real life; as a teen growing up in her native Sweden, she didn't learn to read or write until she was 14 years old and she also struggled with alcoholism after falling in with a bad crowd of people.
“I could drink a bottle of whisky a day,” she recalls. “Weirdly enough, I didn’t do drugs or smoke, because everyone around me was smoking and I didn’t want to be like everybody else. I wanted to be the best drinker.
“I used to get into bar fights... I have [scars] everywhere from fights and from stuff in my life. I still have a piece of glass in my hand here [where] I smashed a glass.”
By 16, she managed to go sober - “I did everything young” - and her acting career began. Nowadays, the actress still enjoys smoking and drinking wine, but is currently off both in order to throw herself into her clean-living character for upcoming CIA thriller Unlocked.
“When I’m working I go into a place within myself,” she says. “I go into a zone and I kind of forget about the world a bit. I find it hard to be functioning completely in real life, when I am shooting something really intense.
“When I am about to play someone, I ask myself what I need to do in terms of physical preparations. Sometimes I gain weight, sometimes I lose it.”
Rapace has taken on other major challenges in the course of her movie career, as well - not least learning English six years ago, in order to promote The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
“I couldn’t express myself," she says, remembering when she had to attend press conferences abroad for the film. “I was embarrassed and angry and I felt panicked. I went back to my hotel room and I was like, ‘I can’t have this. This is too embarrassing.’”
She went onto learn the language and scored a major role in Prometheus, but “It took me 10 hours to read a script at first. I had to look up every second word.”
“Survival is a skill that I had to develop when I was quite young,” she adds. “When I decide to do something, I will find a way to do it.”
The Drop is out this weekend. Photos: Rex Features