Noomi Rapace captured the attention of filmgoers with a gripping and explosive performance in the Swedish film "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2009). The actress played a gutsy and troubled computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander, a character based on Stieg Larsson's 2005 best-selling novel of the same name. Rapace's performance resonated among critics and audiences who loved to watch a strong yet complex female character on screen. Rapace reprised her breakout role in two other films from Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy" (2005-07) - "The Girl Who Played with Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" - both released in 2009. Even though she was not cast in the American film version, Rapace capitalized on her popularity and landed featured parts in mainstream Hollywood projects. Still, it was the commitment and passion she threw into the physically and emotionally demanding role in the original "Dragon Tattoo" that catapulted Rapace from an independent film ingénue into an internationally renowned star.
She was born Noomi Norén on Dec. 28, 1979 in Hudiksvall, Gävleborgs län, Sweden. Her father, Rogelio Duran, was a Spanish Flamenco singer and her mother was Swedish actress Nina Norén. When she was five, the future star moved to Flúðir, Iceland with her mother and stepfather, and lived there for three years. Rapace fell in love with acting at eight years old after she landed a non-speaking role in the historical drama "Í skugga hrafnsins" ("Shadow of the Raven") (1988). She made her television debut with a recurring role on the series "Tre Kronor" (TV4 Sweden, 1994-99) before establishing herself as a renowned stage actress. Rapace appeared in a number of plays at two of her country's finest theater establishments, the "Stockholms stadsteater" (Stockholm City Theater) and The Royal Dramatic Theater. She further gained critical acclaim for one of her earliest big screen performances, portraying a struggling teen mother in the 2007 Danish film "Daisy Diamond."
In 2009, Rapace landed a starring role in the feature film adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Based on the first book of author Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy," the film followed investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) as he attempts to solve a decades-old family murder case with the help of a computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander. A subplot involving Lisbeth's troubled past and her sadistic probationary guardian (Peter Andersson) fueled her to cross paths and strike up a partnership with Mikael. The actress admitted it felt like "a suicide mission" to take on the role of Salander because she did not want to disappoint loyal and opinionated fans of the book who had such a strong relationship with the character. To prepare for the role of the androgynous, tough-as-nails computer hacker, Rapace went through an intensive seven-month diet and kickboxing regimen, and received her motorcycle license. She also took on a physical transformation by cutting her hair and undergoing a total of six body piercings. It seemed she had nothing to worry about, as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" became a worldwide phenomenon, grossing millions worldwide (even with a subtitled, limited release in North America) and earning Rapace a Best Actress trophy at the 2010 Guldbagge Awards - the Swedish equivalent of an Academy Award.
Rapace reprised the iconic role of Lisbeth Salander in the subsequent films based on Larsson's "Millennium" novels - "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" - that were also released in 2009. "The Girl Who Played With Fire" alone grossed over $60 million at the international box office. The films' astounding success and its stars increasing popularity with audiences also resulted in the miniseries "Millennium" (SVT Sweden, 2010), which also starred Rapace and Nyqvist. The worldwide buzz surrounding the "Millennium" phenomenon and its breakout star soon caught the attention of Hollywood, which wasted no time adapting the films for the English-speaking audience. Rapace - whom several film buffs thought was the clear choice for Lisbeth in the David Fincher-directed U.S. version - was a rumored candidate along with fellow independent cinema darlings Ellen Page and Carey Mulligan. The highly coveted role, however, went to New York-born actress Rooney Mara, while Daniel Craig was cast as Mikael Blomkvist. Audiences and industry insiders wondered whether Rapace felt slighted by someone else stepping into Lisbeth's motorcycle boots. The actress told People magazine in 2010 that she was fine with someone else as Lisbeth because she was ready to move on from the much-loved character. That same year, Rapace was reportedly cast in the sequel to Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" (2009), opposite Robert Downey, Jr. as the titular detective and Jude Law as his trusted sidekick, Dr. Watson.