updated 11/06/2010 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 11/07/2010 AT 8:00 PM ET
When Noomi Rapace won the role of the gutsy Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, she knew it would change her life. But not quite the way she expected.
“I thought everyone would hate me!” says Rapace, 30, who transformed herself into an androgynous, punky, chain-smoking computer hacker for the three Swedish movies. “The readers of the books have such a strong relationship with her as a character, I thought they’d never accept what I did with Lisbeth. It felt like a suicide mission to accept the role.”
To prepare, Rapace trained kick-boxing four times a week for seven months, dieted, got a motorcycle license, cut her hair and pierced herself a total of six times.
Her 7-year-old son – with Swedish actor Ola Rapace – was at first hesitant about his mom’s new look. “For the first movie, he asked me, ‘Mom, why do you want to look like a teenage boy?’” she says. “For the last movie, I shaved my head on both sides like a Mohawk. I brought him with me when I did it, because I didn’t want to come home and look like Edward Scissorhands and scare him! He sat there and looked at me and said, ‘Mom, why are you doing this?’ After a while, he said, ‘I think it looks good! I want a hairdo like that, too!’ That’s when I said, ‘Stop!’”