Noomi Rapace has lived under the formidable shadow of Lisbeth Salander for a couple of years now, but she's not entirely sick of the punk computer hacker yet.
"I've been traveling for a year, and the questions people ask me here are not the same as they ask in Europe," says the Swedish actress, who stars in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the final installment of the film trilogy based on the late Stieg Larsson's crime novels. "I think that people over here have another perspective, so it's not boring to talk about. This is a new situation, so that's fun."
Hornet's Nest, which opens Friday in South Florida, continues the story of the whip-smart, antisocial and often-lethal Lisbeth and her continued persecution at the hands of an evil faction of the Swedish government. The role is a dream for any actress -- Rooney Mara of The Social Network gets her chance in David Fincher's upcoming U.S. version -- and it has brought Rapace, 30, international attention and the opportunity to cross into Hollywood films. (She's shooting the sequel to Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.)
But Rapace, who read and loved Larsson's novels long before she got the role, is fond of Lisbeth for other reasons.
"She's such a fighter; I love her," Rapace says. "She's so wounded inside. People have treated her so bad since she was a little girl. Almost everybody has pissed on her, but she doesn't feel sorry for herself or complain. She always finds a way to fight back and stand up. . . . I really think that's beautiful in a way, having the will to create a life. She stands for something, for living a better life."
Audiences around the world have responded enthusiastically to Lisbeth, although reaction to the brutal rape scene in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo differs from country to country. Some critics in Britain and the United States lambasted the violent, though not terribly graphic, scene in which Lisbeth is assaulted by her guardian. The violence is essential to the story line; Lisbeth's revenge plays a crucial part in Hornet's Nest.
"People in Scandinavia are a bit more used to those scenes," Rapace says. "In Europe, too." She says U.S. audiences are also more likely to ask her about sex scenes, in particular about the encounter between Lisbeth and her friend and sometime lover Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi) in The Girl Who Played With Fire.
‘‘In Sweden we are pretty used to that kind of nudity," she says, "but in other countries, people were like, ‘Oh, how was that, to shoot that?' In Sweden it's not a big deal. It really puts the spotlight on a lot of cultural differences that I was not aware of before. But that makes it interesting."
Lisbeth is an extremely physical character in the first two films, but she spends much of Hornet's Nest stuck in a hospital bed, recuperating from her almost-fatal battle with fear-some Soviet defector Zalachenko -- her father.
"I couldn't move; I couldn't talk," Rapace says, laughing. "I felt like I was in a prison. I thought, ‘How should people even know what I'm thinking? I don't have any tools to work with.' I just had to put myself in her situation. . . . She's really damaged. She's been shot in the head and the shoulder and hip. I did a lot of research on how that affects you and what it does to your body and your brain. . . . Really, I
just put myself in her situation and let her body become mine. But I felt really lonely and so isolated sometimes."
Rapace, who lives in London now though she barely spoke English when she started work on the Millennium films, says she's enjoying the lighter tone of Sherlock Holmes, but "I'm very much a drama girl." Don't expect to see her in a romantic comedy anytime soon: ‘‘When I was a teenager everybody was so much into romantic comedies, but I was like, ‘Why? I don't get it.' I saw True Romance, Rag-
ing Bull and The Godfather, all those more complicated and crazy films about f - - - - - -up people, and that was much more me in a way."
Rapace doesn't believe watching Mara play the role she originated will bother her: "I'm not so sentimental. I'm pretty much like Lisbeth. When you're done, you're done. You leave it behind."
And she won't regret her decision, despite the Larsson family's announcement that a fin-
ished manuscript for a fourth book may exist.
"It was like one and a half years with her," Rapace says. "She really took over my life in a way. When people started to talk about an American remake, I said, ‘I don't want to do it. It doesn't matter who's going to do it or who plays Mikael.' It was so funny -- when it was released that David Fincher would be directing, people asked, ‘Did you change your mind?' And I said, ‘No, why should I change my mind?' I admire him. He's a really cool filmmaker. But I'm done. . . . It's better to leave things behind and move on."
The final film installment of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series -- at least until director David Fincher's version with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara hits theaters at the end of 2011 -- is, in some ways, better than its book.
It's kinder, at least, to the American fan, leaner and less confusing than Larsson's whopping, 576-page novel, which featured a staggering number of characters (many with confusing Swedish names) and occasionally bogged down in tedious historic detail.
The film version of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, however, bears no such burdens. It's as lithe and compelling as its heroine Lisbeth Salander although, fortunately, not half so dangerous. Director Daniel Alfredson, who was also at the helm for The Girl Who Played With Fire, keeps the story moving and deftly overcomes what could have been a devastating obstacle: the fact that its best character, punked-out computer hacker Salander, spends much of the running time trapped in a hospital bed.
Hornet's Nest picks up exactly where Fire left off: in the aftermath of a deadly battle. A helicopter transports battered and bloody Salander (the terrific Noomi Rapace) to the nearest hospital. Next to her lies the equally damaged Soviet defector Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov),the murderous father who ordered her shot and buried alive. Despite the bullet lodged in her head, Salander dug her way out and clobbered him with an ax. And you thought the Greeks had a monopoly on family drama.
Meanwhile, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) struggles to uncover proof of a government conspiracy that sent the then 12-year-old Salander to a psychiatric hospital in order to cover up Zalachenko's existence. With the help of his editor/lover Erika Berger (Lena Endre), Blomkvist sets out to reveal the nefarious scheme in a Millennium magazine story in time for Salander's trial for attempted murder. But the plotters have plans to stop him. Meanwhile, the homicidal blond giant Niedermann (Micke Spreitz), Salander's half-brother, has escaped police pursuit and seems to be killing his way across Sweden.
The nature of Hornet's Nest requires a certain amount of talkiness, but new characters -- particularly Annika Hallin as Blomkvist's sister, whom he enlists as an attorney for Salander -- develop and register quickly, and the straightforward script keeps the convoluted plot easy to follow. The final courtroom scene is immensely satisfying -- we know the ammunition Salander's lawyer has in her arsenal, and it's a time bomb -- as is Salander's final confrontation with her half-brother.
Her reunion with Blomkvist may be somewhat less than satisfying, but one can only blame fate. Larsson planned a 10-book series but died after writing only three novels about this fascinating, prickly
but devoted friendship. We're left to imagine what might have been.
The latest and possibly strangest trend in publishing these days is fictional characters who publish real books. The latest is Mad Men's Roger Sterling. Roger, as you know if you're a fan of the AMC series - and you should be, because it is AWESOME - has been working on his memoirs, much to the amusement of his right hand man Don Draper.
And so on Nov. 16 you can buy Sterling's Gold: Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man, a collection of surely entertaining missives from the Sterling (played by the terrific John Slattery) of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Be warned, though: Roger already confessed there's no chapter entitled "Joan" - though there should be.
Sterling's Gold follows a trend that also includes the fictional Richard Castle's work, which includes his latest, Naked Heat. (Castle is played by Nathan Fillion of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog fame, which makes HIM every bit as awesome as Roger Sterling.) I have to admit, the whole meta-ness of this is giving me a headache.
A year after it released its Nook, Barnes & Noble unveiled its $249 Nookcolor, with a seven-inch VividView color touchscreen. With it comes Nook Kids, which will feature 12,000 chapter books and 130 pictures books for (who else?) young readers. Because kids like color. And so do magazine readers...and readers of graphic novels...
Not surprisingly, the Nookcolor begins shipping Nov. 19 - just in time for the holidays. It'll be in B&N stores in late November, as well available at Walmart and Best Buy
Click here to read more.
Remember how you griped when you couldn't lend your favorite Kindle download to your cheapskate friends? Never again. Amazon announced it will soon be launching a "lending" feature in which each book can be loaned once to a friend for a 14-day period (the lender can't read the book during that time). And not every book will be lendable; that's up to the publisher.
Amazon's also making newspapers and magazines readable via free Kindle apps in the coming weeks, the company reports.
Click here to read more.
"I've been reading Isabelle Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, which is the really fascinating story of the great migration and its cultural implications. It's a big book to be carrying around while traveling, but utterly worth it -- avivid narrative with meticulous research behind it.''
- DANIELLE EVANS, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
Cathleen Schine is all too aware of the perils and pitfalls of reimagining the works of one of literature's most beloved authors.
"I never in a million years would consider myself in a position to write something as good as Jane Austen," says the author of The Three Weissmans of Westport (Sarah Crichton, $25), who will speak at two local Jewish book fairs in November. "When I thought of this, I thought, ‘I can't even tell anybody.' It's embarrassing and presumptuous. I'm just being inspired by a book, but oh my God, there are all these crazy Jane Austen books out there, and that's not what I'm trying to do."
What Schine accomplished with her delightful novel -- a warm, funny, contemporary take on Austen's Sense and Sensibility -- is remarkable. Plenty of writers have tried cashing in on the Austen name (thanks, Helen Fielding). Schine's novel is one of the rare gems that doesn't merely borrow a plot and themes but deftly echoes Austen's wonderfully comic, pointed prose.
The Weissmans are mother Betty, who has just been dumped for a younger woman by her husband of 48 years, and adult daughters Annie and Miranda (think Elinor and Marianne), whose lives have also fallen into a sort of limbo due to romantic and financial complications. The women find themselves regrouping in a rundown beach cottage in Westport, Conn., where Schine grew up.
"No matter where I live, it's a place I've gone back to," says the longtime New Yorker, who now lives in Southern California. "It's a place that has a very strong pull on my memory."
In the end, taking on Austen was more fun than intimidating, she says.
"I always felt free to change things," says Schine, who counts Anthony Trollope as her favorite writer. "Sometimes I felt a kind of giddiness about it all. I just could not keep my hands off some things. When I would appropriate certain plot points, that's when I felt like: ‘Is this OK? Would she mind?' ''
Hard to imagine she would mind at all.
A: I had an idea for a book that wasn't really jelling, and I was rereading Sense and Sensibility, which I love, and when I finished it I was thinking about it. This book has this very modern vibe. Jane Austen's characters resonate; we always recognize the relationships. But there was something else that struck me as feeling familiar and kind of modern. The book is about money, based on this law of primogeniture, which doesn't exist in England any more and never existed here. But it's also about social pressure and the sudden vulnerability of these three women when the father dies.
I was also thinking I wanted to write about older people and their love affairs, and it struck me that what the book was reminding me of was a lot of women in my mother's generation who suddenly and to their great surprise at a late age were divorced by their husbands. Suddenly they were in a position -- while fighting the divorce and never having anything to do with finances -- of selling diamond rings to get by. When I made that connection I got very excited. What fun to examine the relationship of mothers and daughters and how they help each other and misunderstand each other.
Q: When you're using a classic as a sort of template, how bound do you feel to stick with the original plot and characters?
A: I did not set out to use the book as a template to the extent that I did! Every time I would go back to look at the book because of some thought I had or because some character was urging me, I wanted more and more to see how Jane Austen handled the situations and the problems she had set up and how the human problems would play out in a modern situation. For much of my book it was closer to the [original] plot than I expected. For me it was wonderful. I did an incredibly close reading; I was standing on someone's shoulders and getting the benefit of that view. By the end I started seeing ways that no longer made sense to follow. What she was examining was no longer a realistic way for my characters to be in the world.
Q: What is it that appeals to you about Jane Austen's books?
A: Jane Austen's books are just about perfect novels. The way they're structured and the balance of humor and sadness and worry is all wonderful. But the real thing about them, the reason people come back to them, is that the characters are wonderfully imperfect. I would say the book that is my favorite has the most imperfect character, which is Emma. There's tremendous sympathy and understanding of human nature.
Q: When you're a woman, and you write a comedy of manners or a domestic drama, you get
tagged as a "chick lit'' writer. Does that bother you?
A: When I first started writing, the genre did not exist. . . . It became a commercial phenomenon. Successful publishers started pushing books by women as chick lit, and suddenly people were asking me about chick lit, and I was sort of astonished, like, ‘What does that have to with me?' I think for about five minutes it bothered me. But any way that anyone can sell a book seems good to me. And I like chicks, and I like lit, so I can't really object to the name! I know a lot of writers who feel they're not taken as seriously as men are, but there are lots of genres men get stuck in, too, foremost among them comic writing. When you're a comedy writer, as Woody Allen said, you're sitting at the children's table. I personally think writing really good humor is one of the hardest things you can do.
Q: Earlier this year you wrote a column for The New York Times about all the classics
you've read and loved. Which classic haven't you read?
A: I'm embarrassed to say it: Catcher in the Rye. Every time I think, "I should read that," I think, "I don't want to read that." I just don't want to read it. . . . Another thing, I've read War and Peace twice, each time I was pregnant, in different translations, but I cannot read Anna Karenina. Every time I start it, I get so upset and anxious. It's just too awful. I've tried a number of times. I haven't read a lot of the
good contemporary fiction. I sort of discovered the 19th century, and it's really a sacrifice to get my head out of there and read something modern.
Schine appears at:
Nov. 8: Bet Breira Samu-El Or Olom, 9400 SW 87th Ave., Kendall, for the Alper Jewish Community Center Book Festival; 7:30 p.m.; $7; 305-271-9000, www.alperjcc.org.
Nov. 10: David Posnack Jewish Community Center Book Festival, 5850 S. Pine Island Rd.; 11 a.m. (includes lunch); $40, reservations required; 954-434-0499, www.dpjcc.org.
Publisher's Weekly reports that after announcing it would sell the Barnes & Noble Nook at its stores, Walmart will also begin selling the Kobo wireless e-reader next week at 2,500 stores.
There's a new rumor afoot about the Nook, too: Tech site CrunchGear reports whisperings that next week B&N will announce a full-color, 7-inch screen Nook that will sell for $250. The Nook Color would allegedly run Android. Is it true? Hard to say, but as crunchgear points out, a new Nook could help B&N combat cheaper e-readers.
Meanwhile, Amazon reports that its newest generation of Kindles is the fastest-selling yet, according to PW. The number of e-books available at the Kindle store rose to 720,000 in the last quarter. Amazon also reported that sales of digital and print books grew in the third quarter.
What's got readers stirred up? The upcoming Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, which is due out Nov. 15 (there are three volumes planned). The Associated Press reports that for the past few days, the book has placed in the top five pre-orders at amazon.com and barnes&noble.com outpacing new books from John Grisham, Ken Follett and Jon Stewart.
From AP: "Excerpts have appeared over the past several decades, but Twain's strong opinions on current affairs and other matters were left out, at his request. He had said that it was best to wait 100 years after his death for the whole book to be released."