When I think Hollywood heroine, I think of a beautiful, ornately-dressed woman (maybe with a cape) who arrives just in the nick of time to kick some butt and save the day. But there's another kind of heroine that's just as powerful. One possibly more rooted in reality, without glamorous makeup or costumes, and though she may or may not save the world, she is still a hero. This describes Noomi Rapace's role in Rupture, the sci-fi thriller in theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on April 28. While speaking with Rapace over the phone days before the film's release, she tells me why gritty heroines are her "heroes" and how the effects of such intense roles go beyond skin-deep.
In the film, Rapace plays Renee, a single mom who's brutally kidnapped to endure horrifying tests as part of a secret, underground mission. The dangerous people who kidnapped her attempt to "rupture" her human self to become a greater alien power — if she doesn't escape them first. For a majority of the film, she's tied up, exhausted, sweating, pushing, and acting on every survival instinct to break out and live. Beyond being stripped down physically, the actor says taking on the intense role heavily affected her mentally.
Being tied up for days in a row shook her even after leaving set, because the straining physicality of playing an abductee took a toll. "My body was so intense. To be tied up and not be able to move, to not be able to sit up when you want to, or to grab a water," she says. "I had the most crazy nightmares." Eventually, playing Renee got to her head, to a point that was hard to turn off.
"I couldn’t have imagined how disturbing and how hard it is. It really got to me," says the 37-year-old. "I had really dark thoughts about people that get abducted or kidnapped, all this kind of sh*t, being tied up and held against your will. It gets to your deep core in a way like nothing else."
Rapace recalls sitting quietly in her trailer, feeling immobile and "empty," literally unable to speak at times. "I couldn’t have a conversation," she says. "My sister came and visited me when we were shooting and she was like, ‘‘This is scary.’" She says she even woke up crying from intense dreams she had about her real-life son. But that's the price to play for taking on such a physical and mental challenge on the job. "Every character in every movie I do, I feel like a hostage sort of. There’s something else in control and I have to surrender."
Rapace purposefully chooses these characters because of those who came before her and the message she wants to get across. "In the world we live today, where women and girls are so caught up in beauty and perfection and being flawless and attractive and sexy, it becomes an emotional prison," she says, calling gritty roles liberating. "I was always very fascinated with characters that were unbeatable, women who didn’t care about how they looked and they were bleeding and ugly and sweating and screaming. You saw veins, you saw something very tribal and animalistic," she says.
The actor recalls some of her role models, like Patricia Arquette in True Romance, Emily Blunt in Girl on the Train, Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. "They are my heroes," she says. "All these women just gave everything, not trying to look pretty, they’re actually fighting for their lives. [They] are not vain."
As difficult as the roles she takes on can be, Rapace also admires how they bring out the innate instinct women have to fight and survive. "You gotta protect your kid, your clan, your tribe... If you end up in a situation like I do in the film, I think all of that would kick in and reconnect with your roots of being a warrior," she says.
The nightmares, strains, and difficulties are ultimately worth it. "It’s something I’m aware of and choose because I love the message," she says.
The mind is the strongest shield a woman can have, with or without a cape and uniform.