How Noomi Rapace Almost Died Filming 'Close' (And The Cameras Weren't Even Rolling) [Interview]

Swedish actor Noomi Rapace went international when the original Swedish productions of the Girl WIth The Dragon Tattoo trilogy caught on around the world. Now she's been in Hollywood productions like Prometheus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and three films for Netflix, including this week's Close.

In Close, Rapace plays Sam, a bodyguard for Zoe (Sophie Nelisse), the daughter of a mining company CEO. After saving Zoe from a kidnapping attempt, Sam takes her on the run to protect her from the forces who are still trying to take her. Sam is inspired by real life bodyguard Jacquie Davis, though Close is a fictional tale.

Rapace spoke with /Film by phone out of New York. After Close, Rapace joins the cast of Jack Ryan for season 2. Close hits Netflix on Friday, January 18.

The action in Close looks very improvisational in the environment, but was it very carefully choreographed on the set?

Yes and no, ha ha. We had to improvise sometimes because things didn't really turn out to be what we thought. Especially in Morocco when we were shooting, things happened and we needed to improvise. I remember when I was test driving one of the little red taxis, I was just going to drive around the block the day before we were going to shoot the car scene. I'm quite confident. I'm a good driver and I'm used to manual from back in the days when I was driving countrysides. I'm like I'm good, I'm good. Basically I'm driving and the whole gear stick comes out in my hand. I'm driving quite fast with the chaos and mayhem of people, animals, donkeys, other cars, busses around me and I have no control of the car. I can't switch gears, so I just jammed the gear stick back in and by some divine miracle, it hooked into something and I managed to stop the car. I was sitting there and my heart was racing. I was like, "Holy fuck, I could've died. I could've killed someone." But shooting in a country that is wild and also poor like Morocco, on a daily basis there were things we needed to improvise and come up with solutions. Okay, in this room, it doesn't look like we thought it would or something's broken, we can't use that. Can we switch it in the fight? Can you roll over the bed or a table? I think the way Jacquie is creative about finding solutions and finding weapons, we had to open up our minds to the same creativity.

Were you able to rely on any of your training from previous movies, even though most of your action movies haven't been modern day?

I would say I always bring something with me from my previous projects. It's almost like I'm building up my library of knowledge from different films. Just my weapon training from Bright, I was shooting down in Santa Clarita, outside of L.A., for two months on and off when I was prepping for Bright. A lot of that training came in handy when I started prepping for Close because it was the same weapons sort of. The knowledge I still had in my hands, just to move, to run with a gun and stuff like that was something I took with me from Bright. I've practiced martial arts, different forms, since I was quite young and that was something that I totally could use in this one. All my fight scenes, I did all my own stunts in all the fights. We were basically building the scenes around me and the way I move and how my body would react and how I would fight. I was very involved in the whole creation of the character and the fights, and her world, the surroundings of it.

Which martial arts did you apply to Sam?

I did Krav Maga for a while which is an Israeli military style. It's very dangerous and really effective. It's not beautiful. There's no honor or loyalty codes. I love Thai boxing for example and jujitsu because it's almost like a dance. It's a mutual respect and you go in there and there's almost like this strong connection between the fighters. Krav Maga is just to take out the other person as fast as possible. So that was something that I had to open up in myself, in memories and my previous training.

This is your third Netflix movie and they've all been so different. Have there been any similarities between What Happened to Monday, Bright and Close?

Well, I fight in all of them, but they are very different. I play an elf in one of them and I'm the villain. I'm evil and mean. In What Happened to Monday I play seven sisters and here I'm a bodyguard. What they have in common is the fact that they're all very layered and very complex characters for me to step into, to give life to. In all three projects I've been very trusted with the filmmakers. I get invited into a process. I remember working with David Ayer on Bright. We were talking a lot and building her and digging into and exploring what is evil? Does evil even exist and where does it come from? What are her dreams? What does she want to achieve and what does she believe in? Where's her pain? It always goes back to the pain. When did the heart break? Where did the heart crack? Where are the emotional soul blisters.

Has What Happened to Monday been your most challenging role to play seven unique characters?

Yes, I would say that's one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was a five month shoot, 94 days of filming and I was on every day. I don't think I've ever worked so hard. Emotionally, it's almost hard to imagine. It's hard to go back and open up the memory bank from that experience because it was so extreme, but basically my own life was on pause for six months. I didn't have a life and my routines were so strict. I was up 4:30 in the movie, worked out, prepped the day, went over the lines. Just to learn the lines for seven different voices is pretty extreme because you answer yourself, and then you need to jump in and answer yourself again. Then okay, you jump into a third person and you jump into an argument between the two first versions of yourself. It's just a mindfuck so just learning the lines was a totally different process. Then learning the fight scenes. Normally, I'm a quick learner. I don't need to do things too many times, but when it's a fight scene and I'm fighting four different styles and four different angles, it's just everything is new. It was like I had to start all over with everything and my pickup was six maybe, 5:30/6, and I worked all day. Maybe I was sometimes three characters. At the most, I was all seven one day and then in the evening you come back and go to the gym. I prep the next day. I go to bed. I didn't go for dinners. I didn't see anyone. I didn't have any personal life whatsoever. I was totally devoted to those seven sisters but I loved it. I fell in love with each one and it was a heartbreak every time there was a death in the family.

Is there hope that Close could be a franchise where you'd have more adventures as Sam?

It's in the talks. We're talking about it actually because there's a lot of interest. Jacquie Davis' life is pretty remarkable. There's like five movies in there. She's traveled across the world. She's done the most crazy things you can imagine. I think there's a lot to explore in there and we're talking about it, so let's see.

There was supposed to be a Prometheus sequel before it became Alien: Covenant. Do you remember what the idea have been to continue your character?

No. I mean, Mr. Scott is very secretive and you never really know. That's the beauty with him. I love that man to bits but he doesn't share much so you never really know. If you ask him something, he will speak about something amazing and extraordinary for 20 minutes and then you're like, "Uh, wait a minute, he didn't answer what I asked him." So I don't know. I wasn't really sure. I think no one really knew what was going to happen after Prometheus. I don't really expect anything.

Have you seen Claire Foy's Lisbeth Salander?

No, I haven't seen it yet. I've just been working insanely hard. When I'm filming I can't watch anything. I go into my own weird bubble and it's really hard for me to take anything else in, but I think she's an amazing actress and I will watch it.

Who will we see you play in Jack Ryan?

My character's name is Harry. She's a total chameleon. She's a survivor, a player. She has a heart that is stained with a lot of different colors. I loved being her. We had a lot of fun. Harry grew up across Europe. She is German Spanish. She speaks different languages. She's really good at what she's doing but it's an interesting journey. She's not just a spy or an agent that is doing cool things. Where the season will take her is she goes on a journey herself and she needs to make some decisions about her past and who she is and who she wants to be, and look into the dark spots of herself.