Rooney Mara poses for LA Times 2016 Photoshoot for “Carol” movie.
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?”
Actress Rooney Mara has scored her first campaign, and it’s a big one. The 28-year-old has been unveiled as the face of Calvin Klein’s newest fragrance, Downtown, which the company hope will rival the success of their flagship women’s scent, Euphoria.The print ads have been shot by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, while those for TV have been directed by David Fincher, who worked with Rooney on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.“I am very excited to be included in the group of amazing women that have been featured in the iconic advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein fragrances,” Mara told WWD . “It’s an honour to be part of a brand with such a legacy of breakthrough advertising. The Downtown fragrance holds true to the chic, confident and simple feeling of the Calvin brand. The effortless and timeless appeal of the Calvin Klein Collection and the Downtown scent made this a natural partnership.”
It’s hoped the new fragrance, which is aimed at 25 to 35-year-olds and described as a “superaspirational scent”, will rack up sales on $120 million when it hits beauty counters in the summer.
Mara follows in the footsteps of fellow actors Eva Mendes, Diane Kruger, Scarlett Johansson and Alexander Skarsgard, all of whom have appeared in campaigns for Calvin Klein fragrances in the past.
Named after New York’s cool downtown district, the perfume is said to have top notes of Italian cedrat, bergamot, Tunisian neroli, green pear and watery plum; a heart of pink peppercorn, violet leaf and gardenia petals, and a drydown of Texan cedarwood, incense, vetiver and velvet musks.
Over the past two years, 27-year-old Rooney Mara has emerged as one of the most talked about and talented—if intriguingly complicated and enigmatic—young actresses of her generation. In fact, Mara’s ability to convey a range of often competing emotions without going over the top—used to such great effect in her Oscar-nominated performance as the determined-but-damaged hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—is party of what makes her so irresistibly watchable. But what’s she really like? On the eve of his retirement from feature-filmmaking, Steven Soderbergh, who directed Mara in the new psychological thriller Side Effects, graciously agreed to illuminate for us the completely unadulterated, absolutely unembellished, thoroughly unvarnished truth. Here, we present a Mara in full.
[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted via e-mail, and contains coarse language, discussions of nudity, and exorbitant amounts of biting sarcasm. Reader discretion is advised.]
STEVEN SODERBERGH: Did you think you were Little Miss Hot Shit in college, or did that come later?
ROONEY MARA: When I was at college, my nickname was Keds, because I wore Keds. I guess it wasn’t really a nickname, because nicknames are usually given to you by people who are your friends and who know you. But I didn’t know the people who called me Keds. I think that they didn’t like me because I didn’t want to join a sorority. I left that school.
SODERBERGH: Sounds like you would have been asked to leave if you hadn’t left on your own, especially since you think that all sororities should be abolished. Your background is boring me, so let’s get to the movie stuff. When you were working with [David] Fincher on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo , why did he have to do so many takes of all your scenes?
MARA: Har, har . . . Because I am such a pleasure to be around, Fincher would prolong my scenes so that I would be on set all of the time. And maybe because I am stubborn, I thought that I could out-stubborn him. But you can’t out-stubborn a Finch. He was always right, though. Not everyone can make films with “less than one take,” like you.
SODERBERGH: So do you really have any tattoos? Or was that acting?
MARA: I don’t have any. That was acting.
SODERBERGH: And are you an expert hacker? Or was that acting, too?
MARA: That was also acting. Unfortunately.
SODERBERGH: So why didn’t you win the Oscar?
MARA: Lots of reasons . . . I know how much you love your Oscar. My dog’s name is Oskar.
SODERBERGH: As an Oscar-winner, I find that incredibly insulting. By the way, do you know that your dog hates the way you smell?
MARA: He’s sleeping next to me right this very moment. He loves everything about me, bless his little heart.
SODERBERGH: In our movie, Side Effects, you were asked to play a woman who is struggling with clinical depression—amongst other things. I must note for the record that, as your director, I did not see you do any preparation for this role. Do you wing it all the time, or were you just trying to fuck up this movie specifically?
MARA: Clearly, on the eve of your retirement, you stopped paying attention to everything. When I do a film, I follow the director. And because you wing everything—like this interview—I decided that that’s the way I should work as well.
SODERBERGH: I think we both know how much I prepared for this interview. But just to give the Interview readers a little bit of insight . . . For the first week of shooting, I told you to do the opposite of what I wanted you to do, because I knew that you would do the opposite of what I asked. Then you stopped doing that, so I started asking you to do what I wanted, which you did for a while, and then I went back to asking for the opposite, and then, after about day nine, I was so medicated that I’m not sure what happened. Tell me about that.
MARA: If you hadn’t lost your ability to read people, you would have known that at first I was doing whatever you asked—and then slowly, bitterly, I started doing the opposite.
SODERBERGH: Glad it was a short shoot. By the way, you wanted your fee on Side Effects to be paid to you in small, unmarked bills. What’s up with that?
MARA: Shh . . .