Hollywood’s female actors tend to fall into one of two categories when talking about themselves. The sexy starlet types will try effusively to convince you they were tomboys growing up, while the serious actors – irritated to be talking about anything but the art – will begrudgingly allow you to write that they were dark-minded toddlers or troubled teens. So,Rooney Mara: which were you?
“I like that. That’s good.” She smiles, and it takes her extraordinarily malleable face from blank to beautiful in an instant. “Well, OK: when I was three or four, I decided to dress up for Halloween as Clara, the crippled girl in the Heidi books. I wanted to make it authentic so I insisted my mom wheel me around in a buggy; you know, because the crippled girl needed a wheelchair.”
Did she agree to that? “Sure she did. She was totally on board.”
Certainly, then, one couldn’t accuse Rooney Mara of lacking the requisite, natural-born imagination from which to draw the range of characters she’s created, from her blistering tour de force as Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, to her short but memorable turn as Mark Zuckerberg’s quietly furious girlfriend at the start of The Social Network. But it’s her face, sculpted in the tradition of a Mary Pickford or Mae Marsh – all Slavic cheekbones, porcelain skin and cool, intelligent eyes – that instantly mesmerises. It’s an extraordinary face: plain and pretty at the same time, she gives away nothing in person but everything when in front of the camera. Steven Soderbergh, director of her latest film Side Effects, describes it as “[a] very classical, almost silent-movie face; very ‘shootable’.”Her overly guarded demeanour, too, has drawn as much comment as her work. Warnings from colleagues about Mara the interviewee ranged from the semi-flattering (“impenetrable”) to the cautionary (“tricky”) to the bluntly unflattering (“miserable as fuck”). She’s used to the question, and readily addresses it: “I feel like I’ve been guarded since I was about three years old. I don’t know why. I come from such a huge family, so maybe it’s that. Maybe it comes from going to Christmas and having 30 people all in your face at once. I’ve always been a bit like, ‘Aaargh!'” Including at family photos? “Yeah, exactly. Like, ‘What am I smiling on demand for? This is so weird.'”
What of her burgeoning reputation as the Greta Garbo of her generation? She laughs. “Oh God, I don’t know. I don’t find myself intriguing. Does anyone? I live with myself. I think maybe people find me difficult to read. It’s a hard question. I’ll tell you one thing about my face, though: I am a horrible liar. So even though people find me to be mysterious and intriguing, trust me, if I don’t like something you say, you’ll read it on my face.”
Source: Guardian UK