Noomi Rapace Reveals How Her Past Helped Prepare Her For Lamb – Exclusive
It’s probably fair to say that every actor puts a little bit of their own personal experience and life story into each role that they play. But when the role is that of a lonely woman on a remote farm who ends up raising a creature that is half human and half lamb — well, it might be difficult to find a corollary to that in real life.
Nonetheless, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace portrays just such a character in “Lamb,” the unsettling new combination horror story and folk tale from first-time Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson. Her character, Maria, lives on an isolated sheep farm in a distant region of Iceland with her husband Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason). Their daily routines often consist of driving a tractor, pushing bales of hay around, and even delivering the newest members of their flock of sheep — until one day they witness the birth of Ada, the strange hybrid being who becomes a surrogate child for the couple.
Strange as it may seem for an internationally known actress — one who broke through playing the computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and who also starred in the Hollywood blockbusters “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and “Prometheus” — Noomi Rapace’s own real-life upbringing was in many ways the perfect training for the part of Maria in “Lamb.”
“When Valdimar came to me with this project, I was invited to kind of revisit a place in myself that I haven’t been for a long time,” she told Looper in an exclusive interview. “And I’ve been wanting and needing and longing to go back to.”
Lamb brought Noomi Rapace back to her childhood
Although she was born in Sweden, Noomi Rapace told the Houston Chronicle that she moved to Iceland with her mother and stepfather when she was just five years old, where she spent several years in circumstances very similar to that of Maria and Ingvar in “Lamb.”
“I grew up on a farm, and it was a poor farm, far from everything,” the actress recalled. “My best friends were my dog and my horse, my cat. So from a very early age, I would say that I developed this strong relationship to animals, and they were my family members.”
Of course, Rapace’s experiences on the farm were not exactly like those of the character she portrays in the film. “I mean, I didn’t deliver baby lambs, I didn’t drive a tractor, and I didn’t have a half-human, half-lamb child [laughs]. But in the sense of living in a place that is really remote and really closed off from the rest of the world, where there’s animals and you find yourself being in the minority — like you’re kind of living in the animal kingdom — that was how I grew up.”
Although she began acting at the age of seven and eventually moved back to Sweden when she was 15 to enroll in an acting school in Stockholm (via The Telegraph), something about her time on the farm in Iceland stayed with her, and was stirred when she was approached about getting involved with “Lamb.”
“It felt like it was something I’ve always wanted and hoped for,” Rapace explained. “The combination of the script, the complexity in Maria, and Valdimar’s visual universe just made this a dream project for me. It was almost like I didn’t have a choice. It was like the project and Maria just had already chosen me.”
Rapace actually did many of the things you see in the movie
While filming “Lamb,” Rapace actually did many of the things that Maria is shown doing in the movie, including driving a tractor and delivering newborn lambs. “First day on set, my hands were pulling out a baby,” she said. “It was the very end of lambing season, so I didn’t have time. There was not a lot of practice or rehearsal.”
Perhaps most importantly, the filming location in a valley in northern Iceland — a farm that had been abandoned for 20 years — had an effect on Rapace that she perhaps hadn’t felt since leaving that country years earlier.
“It was really a powerful place,” she said. “It was like [there were] a lot of strong energies in that valley. There was no phone signal. You were really cut off from the rest of the world, and it was an hour drive to the nearest gas station. So somehow with all of that, and the fact that we shot in Icelandic summer, when it never goes dark — it’s like this strange daylight in the middle of the night — it felt like we all left the real world and lived in ‘Lamb’ world for that summer.”
She added, “It took over — I couldn’t really function outside of our bubble. I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t talk to anyone. It was very much a surreal, but very real reality.” And for Noomi Rapace, it felt a little bit like going home.
“Lamb” is out in theaters now.