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New York Times Interviews Rooney Mara

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?”