Rooney Mara is not known for giving off the warmest of first impressions. Standoffish, aloof, icy, remote, guarded, distant, opaque, steely, impenetrable, unreadable: such tend to be the words used by journalists to describe their encounters with the actress, a less than inviting list of adjectives that I decide to lob at her the moment we meet in Manhattan. I figure my little ignoble stunt will put Mara on the defensive, stir up some deep-seated insecurities, maybe even provoke a flash of anger, all in the name of exposing some new, hidden dimension of the actress to the world.
“Yeah,” Mara says when I finish. “I kind of have a bad reputation, don’t I?”
Her tone is so unruffled that she may as well be remarking on the weather in a city she doesn’t care to visit. And from there? Silence. Mara fixes me with the same unblinking, glacier-eyed stare she deploys so penetratingly on screen — most notably in her breakout role, as the cyberpunk Lisbeth Salander, in David Fincher’s 2011 adaptation of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Finally, sensing victory in my discomfort, a sly grin springs up on Mara’s elfin, alabaster face.
“Isn’t mystique and the unknown,” she asks, “part of what keeps you drawn to someone?”
Until now, Rooney Mara’s on-screen presence could almost always have been described as steely, thanks to tough turns in The Social Network, Side Effects, and, of course, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the movie that rocketed her to the A-list and netted her an Oscar nod. But that’s all changing with the indie Western Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which allows Mara to bare a bit of her soul as young mother Ruth, one half of an outlaw couple in 1970s Texas. Ruth’s husband, Bob (Casey Affleck)—the Clyde to her Bonnie—takes the fall for her cop shooting, only to spring from the joint and fight to reunite with his family.
The tender, morally complex role is refreshingly new territory for Mara, whose subtly heartbreaking performance begs the question: Is this the real Rooney? Famously cagey about her personal life, the raven-haired 28-year-old is an enigma among starlets, and when she sat down with DETAILS, she faithfully maintained much of her trademark mystique. But she did share her thoughts on the unique playlists she creates for her roles, the Kenyan charity she started when she was 21, working with Anna Wintour, and how, in the end, none of us ever truly knows the “real” anyone.
DETAILS: Your role in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints allows for a lot of the tough resolve viewers have come to expect from you, but it also features more vulnerability than we’ve seen you express before, and Spike Jonze’s Her (slated for release in January) seems like it might do that as well. Is that a part of yourself you want viewers to see more of?
ROONEY MARA: I never think of it like, “What do I want people to see?” Certainly, the character does have a lot more vulnerability. I don’t know, I think that’s just where I was when I chose those roles. Maybe I was feeling more vulnerable, and that’s what I responded to.
DETAILS: What drew you most to this particular material?
ROONEY MARA: [Director] David Lowery just has a really special, unique voice, and the script was so beautifully written. In the first draft that I read, Ruth was actually not that well developed, but I could still see all the potential there. And her relationship with Bob I found to be beautiful and interesting, and I also really loved the love story between her and her child. I read a lot of scripts where it’s just, “the mom.” I found the way that she was a mother and her relationship with her child to be very different. It was much more complicated than simply, “the protective mother.”
DETAILS: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has been compared to the work of Terrence Malick, and you’ve recently worked on an upcoming project with him. Do you find a lot of similarities between David and Terrence as directors?
ROONEY MARA: People make that comparison a lot. Their directing styles could not be more different, but I would say that the similarities between them are that they’re both very romantic, and they both see the world in a sort of poetic way.
DETAILS: I was told that your charity, the Uweza Foundation, which supports families in Kenyan slums, was something you first got rolling when you were only 21. If you weren’t an actress, do you think you’d be doing more of that kind of work?
ROONEY MARA: I can’t imagine my life without having some sort of creative outlet like [acting]. But what I do for Uweza and for Oxfam America is what grounds me.
DETAILS: David reportedly sent you a number of songs to help you get into the character of Ruth—songs by artists like Joanna Newsom that helped to inspire the movie. Did you like his playlist? Was it helpful in building the character?
ROONEY MARA: I liked them, but…[Laughs]…I had my own songs that made me feel like the character, so I appreciated his songs, and I listened to them, but then I just, kind of…never listened to them again.
DETAILS: What were your songs?
ROONEY MARA: God, I don’t know, I had such a long playlist that I would listen to. There was a lot of Loretta Lynn on there, and a lot of sad songs. I’m constantly listening to music when I’m working, and I have different playlists for each character.
DETAILS: What was on your playlist for [Dragon Tattoo‘s] Lisbeth Salander?
ROONEY MARA: There was a lot of angry music, like Nico Vega, and a lot of stuff that [director] David [Fincher] and Trish Summerville, the costume designer, had sent me, like the Karen O cover [of “Immigrant Song”] was on there.
DETAILS: In the midst of the release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you were also seemingly being groomed as the unofficial new face of Vogue. You’ve been on two covers now, as well as the cover of the magazine’s latest book, The Editor’s Eye. Who would you say was the more intimidating woman: Anna Wintour or your character Lisbeth?
ROONEY MARA: Lisbeth is much more intimidating. Anna’s a wonderfully intelligent, wildly successful woman. A powerful woman. I guess I can see why she’s intimidating to people, but I think people view that differently than they view men in a position of that kind of power.
DETAILS: Do you feel like people view you as intimidating?
ROONEY MARA: I don’t know, do they?
DETAILS: I think you’re generally perceived as having a fairly intimidating persona.
ROONEY MARA: That’s okay. [Laughs]
DETAILS: There’s a moment in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints in which Casey Affleck’s character says, “People don’t know things the way that they think they know them.” In your experience, is there something the public, or maybe even your peers, may seem to think that they know about you that’s not accurate?
ROONEY MARA: Probably most everything the general public thinks they know about me is not accurate. There are very few people that you truly know in your life. It’s hard to really know someone. People are very complicated. I think we try to simplify people and put them in little categories of being this person, or that person, and it’s just simply not true. I’m sure that most people who don’t know me, probably most of the things they think about me aren’t true. And the same goes for me, with other people that I don’t know. I probably don’t really know anything about them.
Hauntingly beautiful and more than a little mysterious, Rooney Mara is Hollywood’s most enigmatic leading lady.
“I feel a little, like . . . schizophrenic,” confides Rooney Mara of the quartet of radically different roles that she has taken on in the intense, whirlwind working year since David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo garnered her Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations and launched her into the starry firmament. Mara has just flown in for Vogue’s cover shoot on the red eye from Mérida, Mexico, where she wrapped Terrence Malick’s latest film. The idiosyncratic director was particularly demanding. “He’s a genius,” says Mara, who is protective of Malick’s methodology, although she admits that “it was definitely the most challenging experience, just because every day is different. So even if one day you got into your groove or got the hang of it, the next day would be something else.”
Earlier in the year she worked with the antic Spike Jonze on the science-fiction romance Her,and with writer-director David Lowery on the independent Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a love story set in the seventies in the hills of Texas. Meanwhile, her fourth project of 2012, Steven Soderbergh’s suspenseful thriller Side Effects, is released this month.a
“It’s been very strange, jumping from one character to the next,” says the chameleon Mara. “All four of them were very intense experiences. . . . I really feel sometimes like those things are happening to me. Obviously they’re not. But it’s hard going from one to the next.
“And I’m hypercritical of myself,” she adds in a masterpiece of understatement. “Anytime I see anything I’ve done, I wish that it had gone differently because you figure it out as you go along, and you’re always discovering new things. I’d probably feel that way about anything that I did.”
She couldn’t bear to see herself on-screen in Dragon Tattoo and famously resisted until she went to a theater near Manhattan’s Union Square and bought a ticket with the general public. “I really wanted to go alone,” she says, but her boyfriend, writer-director Charlie McDowell (the son of actors Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen), insisted on accompanying her. “He was wise to come with me because if anyone had recognized me, I would have been so embarrassed.” [Read more…]
Since zooming to stardom in last year’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara has gone from virtual unknown to that rare combination of serious actress and fashion-world darling. Recently named a face of Calvin Klein, Mara is no ingenue. Instead, she evokes the intensity of the seventies, when the world of filmmaking was dominated by passionate auteurs. As with those directors—and her brilliant mentor, David Fincher—Mara is both complicated and uncompromising.
Who from the seventies do you find interesting?
Stylewise, the person I’m most drawn to is Ali MacGraw. There was something about her that was very regal but very natural at the same time. We kind of modeled my character in The Social Network after her: I had a crocheted beret that was inspired by the one she wore in Love Story.
What was the worst fashion trend of that decade?
I find the way men dressed then to be kind of repulsive—especially disco style. I like almost all of the women’s fashion—and I think men in little shorts and high socks are really cute—but I don’t like anything shiny, and much of the seventies was shiny.
What’s your favorite movie of that era?
Paper Moon. I saw it only last year. David [Fincher] made me watch it, and I think I’ve seen it five times since then. My favorite scene is when Ryan O’Neal is talking about how he’s going to leave Addie [Tatum O’Neal, who plays his daughter in the movie]. They’re mad at each other, but Addie comes up with something clever, and they get back together. I love that ending—it’s not too happy-happy.
Source: W Magazine
Lisbeth Salander, misanthropic Watson to Mikael Blomkvist’s investigative journalist Sherlock Holmes in Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is by nature a rule-breaker. Look no further than her day job as a hacker; a means of assaulting the society that scarred her. To get Lisbeth to jump off the page, it required an actress with both an adolescent punkish attitude as well as a glacial resilience. Furthermore, like Noomi Rapace who originated the part in the original Swedish trilogy, the role required a starlet whose image wouldn’t cloud moviegoers’ perception of the character’s unorthodoxy (reasons why such Salander candidates as Natalie Portman or Scarlett Johansson were passed over for Sony’s Stateside remake). Director David Fincher’s expectations were smashed by Rooney Mara, the straight-laced girl he cast to reject Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Through a half-dozen screen tests Mara proved her worth to Fincher and eventually bowled over Sony’s reticence. Mara certainly has gotten the town’s attention, landing a role in Terrence Malick’s upcoming Lawless as well as best actress Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for the role. AwardsLine’s Anthony D’Alessandro interviewed Mara.
AWARDSLINE: Did you know someone like Lisbeth Salander growing up?
MARA: No, I don’t think anyone does. That’s what’s great about her: She’s unlike anyone you’ve seen or read about before.
AWARDSLINE: When you started auditioning for David Fincher, did you have the Swedish accent under control?
MARA: He asked for the actresses to do a Swedish accent for the audition. It’s a really hard dialect to figure out and there aren’t a lot of people who specialize in it here in Los Angeles. There’s no such thing as a Swedish accent. Everyone sounds completely different. Some sound British or American. People from the North sound different from the people in the south. When I was auditioning the accent wasn’t as perfected as it sounds in the movie.
AWARDSLINE: Any idea what it was that made David Fincher decide you were the one to play Lisbeth?
MARA: I don’t know. Initially he didn’t want to see me. I had just finishedSocial Network and I was something completely different in that. I am all the things in that movie that Salander was not. So it was hard for him to wrap his head around the notion that I could be this other girl. I think when he saw me the first time [for Lisbeth], it dawned on him that I could be. I’m not sure what it is he saw in me that made him know that I could be the girl. I think he was trying to find someone who at their core had a lot in common with this girl. [Read more…]
Thanks to Luisa for sending the videos in!
I’ve added new screen captures of Rooney Mara did for “TIME” Oscar 2012: Great Performance special to the gallery.
- (x056) Interviews: 2012 TIME Oscar Q &A