Niels Arden Oplev talks about finding his first American film, reuniting with Noomi Rapace, and working with Colin Farrell for DEAD MAN DOWN
“Dead Man Down” follows the story of Victor (Colin Farrell), a lackey in a crime empire with a dark secret involving revenge. His seemingly fragile neighbor across the street, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), threatens to expose him unless he helps her carry out a certain revenge of her own.
Oplev talks about finally finding a script he loved, working with Noomi Rapace again, and his nontraditional approach to telling a dark story.
AG: This film definitely had me on the edge of my seat the entire time wondering what was going to happen next. It’s a great script by Joel Wyman. What was it about this story that made you really want to take part in this film?
NAO: I came over here [to the U.S.] with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and I read so many scripts. I just couldn’t connect very well with any of the scripts. There were many that I didn’t think deserved to become a film, and those who I did think could, the stories were too traditional, in a way, for what I felt I should make after having made a film that became a world hit. When Joel sent me the script, he had seen my film. He sent the script to me and was very excited about the fact that it has this element of a really compelling action story but yet a great revenge story, a double revenge story, where the male and the female lead’s stories get entangled and disrupted by each other. It has my favorite theme, which is when you’re in the most trouble, when your life is the darkest, and something or somebody grants you a second chance and gives you the chance to get your life back again, regain your synergy in a way. This story really had it all. Character-driven action was what I was looking for, so that’s why I was so excited about the script.
AG: Ori Marmur said you had a very “clear and specific vision for the film.” What vision was that, and did the film stay on track? Was the end product what you had wanted from the beginning?
NAO: It’s an elevated action film, so I wanted everything in the film to be super real. I really wanted the acting to be compelling and emotional. At the same time, because it’s a film that has such a heart of darkness and is a revenge story, the traditional thing would be to shoot it kind of dark and gritty, but I wanted to shoot it beautiful. I wanted to go against what you would normally expect and really make the images beautiful even though the film has this darkness in it. So one of the inspirations for the look of the film that Paul Cameron had, the Director of Photography, was that Hong Kong film, “In the Mood for Love.” All this darkness in “Dead Man Down,” I wanted it to take place in an aesthetic setting. That, of course, made it a very distinguished vision for the film. I really honestly feel that the end product completely lives up to my expectations. I’m very excited about sending this film out.
AG: There was a really great balance of action and emotion, so what was the most challenging part about making this action-packed film with all these twists and turns while keeping that relationship between Victor and Beatrice so central?
NAO: I think that the script already has that in the sense of the situations that happen between the characters, it kind of swings things into action. It’s really founded in the characters. The way that Beatrice entangles herself into Victor’s plans sets it off. I don’t think it was very difficult to do the thing between Noomi and Colin in the sense that they both have such intensity and such talent as actors, and they both loved the material. You have great action, but you also have such great emotional scenes between the two of them. It’s a very good mix for me, as a director, to work with, doing lots of action that I’ve ever done before and still doing these really good dramatic and compelling moments between characters, which is what you could say my “home field” is. It was a good mix.
AG: I thought Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace did such a good job. It was a great chemistry. What was it about them that made you want them for these parts? Were they your first choices, or how did that work out?
NAO: They were definitely my first choices. I worked with Noomi before, and we have a very close relationship, kind of like sister and brother. I thought it would be absolutely fabulous if she could reunite with me and team up with me again for my first American film, my first film since “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” When I heard Colin was interested in the script, it was really exciting, because he has this – as well as Noomi – wide range in an actor. Colin can go from being incredibly tough as an action hero, but he also has the ability to portray himself as an engineer who moves over here looking for work and loses his family and then chooses to transform himself into a “street soldier,” in a way, to take down these people that have caused this injustice on him. He holds credibility as a compelling, dramatic actor and at the same time, he has this toughness as an action guy. That’s what made it so cool. You could say the same thing about Noomi. She has this compelling strength inside herself, but yet she can be vulnerable and emotional. She can also really kick ass if she has to. She’s a strong female lead. She’s a strong woman in herself, but also a strong female character. It was very cool to be able to have this Beatrice who has this French, petite look with a French manicure, a beautiful woman, but at the same time, she has this unexpected darkness and fury inside her that comes out. She’s a strong female character in a beautiful, fragile wrapping.