Swedish star gets scrappy in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Metro US

Swedish star gets scrappy in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

You can’t read her p-p-p-poker face — and don’t try figuring out her tattoo, either.

As Lisbeth Salander, the genius sociopath computer hacker of Sweden’s phenomenal Millennium thriller trilogy of novels by the late Stieg Larsson, Noomi Rapace is like a cyberpunk Lady Gaga, minus the lust for fame.

Her nose, eyebrow, lips and ears are covered with piercings. A shock of black hair covers nearly half her face and a ring of spikes adorns her neck.

Then there’s her full-back body painting, a mysterious icon that looks as if it were created in Satan’s own needle den.

It’s the main image of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the book and now movie (opening next Friday) that introduced Lisbeth Salander to the world, creating a franchise that rivals Twilight and The Da Vinci Code for blockbuster sales and fan devotion.

The book has sold 30 million copies worldwide in 44 languages, more than 350,000 copies in Canada. The film, the first of three, has already grossed US$100 million.

Everything about Salander only gets weirder, as does the Larsson series through the remaining volumes of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

How much of this is the punk, and how much is the real Rapace? It’s a little bit of both, actually.

The self-taught Swedish actress, who successfully fought all comers to grab one of the hottest casting assignments of the 21st century, admits to having both an aggressive and a “girly” side to her.

Her first name is pronounced “know-me,” but that’s hard to do.

“The piercings were real, but not the tattoos!” a laughing Rapace, 30, said from London

“When I was 14 or 15, I had many interesting piercings and I was some kind of punk rocker. And I have always been on my own. I moved from my mother’s and my stepfather’s when I was 15 and have been taking care of myself since I was young. So I think that I’m also a survivor and I’m pretty stubborn.”

Rapace began acting at age seven after taking a non-speaking role in a Swedish film. Her work since then has been mostly on stage or TV, but her award-winning performance as a downward-spiralling teen mom in the harrowing 2007 Danish film, Daisy Diamond, added “movie star” to her many accolades.

Rapace is well known across Scandinavia — she gets stopped in the streets for autographs — but notoriety alone wasn’t enough to land the role of Salander.

“I knew I could change into her, but I didn’t think they could imagine how I would be able to transform myself. So I was very surprised when they called me and wanted me to come in and do an interview.”

What is it, though, that made her want to play Salander, a character of such extremes? She commits acts of violence but she’s also the victim of horrific brutality.

“I like the fact that she’s a fighter. She’s a survivor. She doesn’t accept being a victim.”

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