Rooney Mara 1.jpg

Girl on Top: Let’s Talk About Rooney Mara

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | July 11, 2017 |


Rooney Mara 1.jpg

Rooney Mara has eaten pie once in her life. Before shooting A Ghost Story, one of the most acclaimed films of 2017 so far, the actress had never tried the dish before. Her first experience eating a chocolate pie - vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free - came for an extended scene where her character, still grieving the loss of her partner, eats the dish in one sitting. For a film whose director has pleaded with fans to not make a meme out of it, A Ghost Story is practically tailored for it, between the bedsheet ghost and Mara’s dessert antics. Now, chat of the pie has dominated many a site as readers wonder what it all means. How on earth can you have never eaten pie? What does a gluten and sugar-free chocolate pie even taste like? Is Rooney Mara utterly joyless?

In a strange way, this one baffling pie has revealed much about what we talk about when we talk about Rooney Mara: An immensely talented actress, deemed one of the most exciting actresses working today by IndieWire, who keeps many at a distance with her seeming coldness; the unapproachable ice-princess, nicknamed “Audrey-Bot” by Tom and Lorenzo who still attracts a zealous fan-base and myriad conspiracy theories; the indie darling with impeccable society credentials; a versatile beauty who is nonetheless more commonly described as “odd”.


Rooney Mara W Mag.jpg


Patricia Rooney Mara is from the youngest generations of two sporting dynasties. Her mother’s family, the Rooneys, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers, while her dad’s side, the Maras, founded the New York Giants. Her granduncle, Dan Rooney, was chairman of the Steelers and former American ambassador to Ireland, as well as the architect of the Rooney Rule in football hiring policies. She studied at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, which is a method of student-centred study designed around the needs and goals of the person. Many actors and suitably busy individuals studied under this school, including Anne Hathaway, Karlie Kloss and the Sprouse twins.

Following her sister Kate, Rooney moved into acting alongside studying, working in the expected bit-parts, TV work and straight to DVD fare, including Urban Legends: Bloody Mary. Like every New York based actor, she did her time on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, playing a formerly fat girl who bullied overweight kids. Few up-and-coming actors do their best work on the show, which remains a binge-watching staple, and plenty of them look back on their early jobs with derision, but there was something about Mara doing so that annoyed fans. In a 2011 interview with Allure, Mara described the role as “so stupid” and said of the show, “I don’t get it.” All in all, pretty tame stuff, but accusations of biting the hand that fed her followed, particularly since she repeated this routine when discussing her first major starring role on film, the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The remake of one of modern horror’s most influential series was always going to be a disappointment, especially with Michael Bay producing. Mara herself isn’t very good in it, but neither is anyone else with the possible exception of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddie Kruger. Dissing that project would be somewhat excusable for many, but probably not in the way Mara did it. She talked of how “you kind of learn to self-sabotage with things you don’t want to get. Sometimes you don’t want to get something but you do a really good job and you get in anyway… That’s kind of [what happened] with A Nightmare on Elm Street - I didn’t even really want it. And then I went in [to audition] and I was like, [whispering] ‘Fuck. I definitely got that’.”


Rooney Mara Elm Street.png


It’s a bizarre comment that’s equal parts self-loathing and smug, and it didn’t go over well. Eventually she backtracked on both this and the SVU comments. Several critics accused her of biting the hand that fed her, although she emphasised how grateful she was for every opportunity she received, regardless of her enjoyment of them. For some, she hadn’t earned the right to talk shit about her own work, at least not in the way older (male) actors do. Ian Mcshane is legendary for slagging off the bad films he’s done. It yields a different reaction when a privileged white woman does it.




The year following A Nightmare on Elm Street, Mara had a small but scene-stealing role in David Fincher’s The Social Network, as the (fictional) ex-girlfriend of Mark Zuckerberg whose rejection of him spurs on his creation of Facebook. Her most famous scene is a fast-talking, sharply executed break-up where Mara’s Erica gets to say the impeccably written take-down of douchey men every woman has dreamed of. Her work clearly made an impact, and soon Mara had landed the star-making tole of Lisbeth Salander in the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Much has been made about the transformative nature of Mara’s performance - the makeover into Lisbeth happened in one frantic day of piercings, hair-cutting and eyebrow bleaching - but what made the role all the more memorable in the press was her seemingly unusual working relationship with David Fincher. The director, known for his intense process and staggering number of takes for the most seemingly benign scenes, made for a curious coupling with the reserved Mara. The process for casting Lisbeth had been compared to the casting of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, which MGM had turned into its own masterful publicity campaign. What Fincher’s casting of Mara evoked to many was Pygmalion, albeit with a darker spin.


Rooney Mara Lisbeth Salander.jpg


A Vogue profile talks of Mara, in Lisbeth mode, “[hanging] on his every word, her eyes lit with admiration. Their relationship, it quickly becomes clear, is charged with the electric current of the mentor-protégée crush, which is both touching and occasionally uncomfortable to watch.” Even co-star Daniel Craig called it “fucking weird.” The whole profile is full of these discomfiting moments, including Fincher somewhat jokingly dictating what Mara can eat from a restaurant menu. He talks of needing Salander to “be like E.T.” for nude scenes, a contrast from Scarlett Johansson, who also auditioned for the role, and gleefully declaring Mara to be “a great weirdo.” Like the Hollywood studio system of old, this director-actress relationship seems out of time and place. We’re used to hearing about dictatorial directors who push bright young things to the limit, but we seldom hear of the actress herself approaching it with such relish.

All of this sounds as though Fincher is responsible for Mara’s Oscar nominated performance, but rest assured the exceptional work is all hers. Where Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth in the Swedish films is abrasive and more punk-rock, Mara is brittle and prickly. Very thin and seemingly held together by nothing but sheer spite, she seldom raises her voice but dominates every moment of the film, her absence felt sharply when she’s off-screen. It’s a brutal film and Lisbeth is put through the most horrid brutalities, but Mara’s performance is never reduced to mere pain. While Fincher sought an alien-like presence, Mara’s work is sharply humane, exposing the agonies of living in a world that hates women (remember, the original Swedish title of the novel translates to Men Who Hate Women). The film was a modest success but not the franchise starter Sony were hoping for, so when the reboot was announced, Mara’s name was off the table, which clearly disappointed her. She even kept in the nipple piercing just in case.

Following on from Lisbeth Salander, and her first Oscar nomination, Mara defined her career with a series of roles in works by noted directors: David Lowery, Steven Soderbergh, Spike Jonze, and Stephen Daldry. When it came time for her to do the token blockbuster role, she eschewed the cinematic universes of superheroes and sci-fi, but her choice was one of her biggest career blunders.


Rooney Mara Pan.jpg


Pan shouldn’t exist. It’s a ridiculous mess of an origin story nobody asked for that tries to be a cross between Pirates of the Caribbean, Moulin Rouge and The Phantom Menace. The film is terrible without even discussing the ridiculous whitewashing of Tiger-Lily, but adding on Mara in embarrassing costumes and insisting her casting is part of a “multi-racial world” in an industry that frequently engages in Native American erasure was too much to bear. It’s an exhausting and unbearably shrill movie, and Mara’s performance suggests instant regret at taking the thankless role. She never should have signed onto a whitewashed role, that much is clear. Like Emma Stone in Aloha and Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, it’s a decision that will stick with her even as her career reaches new heights. She later noted the shame of being on the wrong side of history on whitewashing in cinema, but the damage was already done. In the same year she experienced her biggest critical and financial flop with Pan, Mara put in her best performance in Todd Haynes’s Carol.




As Therese Belivet, Mara is astoundingly good. It’s a film that allows her to work at her peak within her most suitable parameters - quiet micro-expressions, furtive glances, sly smiles that speak volumes, and endless passion brimming beneath a cool surface. Everything about the film is stunning, and it truly deserves its future classic status. While Mara won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and received her second Oscar nomination, the film didn’t become the awards darling many were hoping for. Perhaps a queer film that doesn’t reduce its characters to tragedy bait or lessons for straight people to learn was too much for the staid expectations of the Academy. Perhaps it was all just a little too subtle for them.


Rooney Mara Cate Blanchett.jpg


Carol has a curious afterlife following its awards run. Its fandom is passionate, as many projects centred on positive LGBTQ+ romances are, but it also birthed a small but vocal sub-section of fans dedicated to a questionable conspiracy: That Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are genuinely in love. Real life shipping is nothing new, nor is it necessarily bad, as long as clear boundaries are set in place, but there’s a major difference between shipping two actresses and insisting they’re actually together. Blanchett and Mara had undeniable chemistry on-screen and seemed to genuinely enjoy one another’s company off it, but there has been no indication that the pair have remained in touch or socialise now their publicity duties are finished. That has led to some wild theories over secret meetings, family drama and questioning over when the pair will make their “public debut”. This tin-hatting theory is unusual when compared to something like the Robsten conspiracy because Mara and Blanchett have no previous or continuing connection beyond playing lovers in a film.

Alongside the Carol shippers are those who simply believe that Mara herself is gay and closeted. Gay rumours in Hollywood have existed for as long as film has been a major industry. It’s disheartening that our society and major modes of entertainment remain tentative in allowing major stars to live openly as LGBTQ+ talents, although that ceiling is cracking thanks to people like Kristen Stewart. But here’s the thing: There hasn’t been much talk of Rooney Mara actually being gay. She’s played gay and bisexual characters on film and her private life is kept away from the public eye, but this conspiracy seems to have sprung up simply because she played Therese and occasionally dresses in a tomboyish manner. There’s even a conspiracy’s that Mara’s a trans man, which has devolved into some wildly uncomfortable photoshops.


Cate Rooney photoshop.jpg


I could go into the entire conspiracy, as laid out in various forums and social media sites, but the entire thing is almost too upsetting to explain. It quickly delves into violent accusations against Mara and her family as well as outlandish fantasies where industry publicists wield more power than most major religions. The theories all follow the same templates as witnessed in most unusual fandom conspiracies: The all-knowing malice of PR; the screeds of paid-off paparazzi and photoshop studios set up to throw the sheeple off the trail; the secret messages only a handful of people seem able to spot; the overwhelming hatred of anyone that throws a spanner in their plans. None of this is unique to Mara - unfortunately, you can find any number of fandoms with these kinds of people and delusions - but there is something fascinating about Rooney Mara of all people being the canvas these theories are projected onto. All things considered, she’s relatively unassuming and low-key.

That may be why she’s so coveted by this small but vocal division of fans. She does some TV interviews but not many, and her presence is polite but not especially memorable, with the expected patter and cute but awkwardly told stories. In contrast to her sister Kate, she doesn’t use social media and her love life has, for the most part, been kept out of the press. She doesn’t do beloved geek projects or headline major tent-poles outside of the one that flopped on an eye-watering scale. When people say they love stars who don’t play the Hollywood game, they don’t tend to mean women like Rooney Mara, who certainly engages with it when she must but barely tolerates it. They prefer the goofier talk-show “I say what I want” antics, and Mara’s refusal, or inability, to do that renders her as a more aloof presence, which is immensely appealing for fans who want to treat their stars like puzzles to figure out. She’s a blank slate to complete, and one who stands out amidst her similarly aged peers because of that: She’s not the definable personality Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone are, nor is she a vocal online presence and advocate like Brie Larson. There are things we know about her - her family, her veganism, her work - but there are many gaps to be filled in.

Nowadays, there’s one less gap to speculate over. After six years with her previous boyfriend, the director Charlie McDowell, Mara entered a relationship with actor Joaquin Phoenix, with whom she has made three movies. Instantly, this became interesting gossip fodder, as all celebrity relationships do. While many romances of similar levels of fame are defined by glamour and fantasy, this one was more rooted in an earthy oddness. The pair were rumoured to have fallen in love while filming the upcoming Mary Magdalene (she plays the eponymous lead, he plays Jesus, as you do), then spent time after filming in a spa that specialises in colonics. They went to see Jim Jarmusch movies together, ate with Moby at his restaurant, protested Trump’s Muslim ban at LAX, joined in vegan vigils with fellow animal rights activists, and went shopping in matching stripy jerseys. Neither admitted the relationship, and paparazzi only photographed them together about three times, but when she appeared with him this May at the Cannes Film Festival, the relationship seemed confirmed. Nothing says you’re dating quite like holding your boyfriend’s hand when he wins Best Actor at Cannes.


Rooney Mara Joaquin Phoenix.jpg


This didn’t do much for Mara’s obsessive fans (immediately, they formed theories that Phoenix was her beard, forcing her into heterosexuality in order to promote their upcoming movies), but overall the press coverage of the pair has been delightfully positive. Two actors known for being awkward with the press and somewhat standoffish getting together and looking genuinely happy while cameras film it all can’t help but warm even the stoniest of hearts. Whether you like them or not separately, Mara and Phoenix being together just makes sense.

Mara’s future seems bright but quieter than those of her contemporaries. There are no blockbusters on the horizon, although it is possible that Harvey Weinstein will try to push Mary Magdalene for Oscar contention if the reviews are good and the film can skate past the inevitable controversy of having white actors play the two lead roles (and said actors being noticeably hesitant to engage in the awards campaigning). As well as a small part in Gus Van Sant’s next film, alongside Phoenix, she is gearing up to star in Vox Lux, Brady Corbet’s witchy drama about a pop singer’s dark journey, featuring songs by Sia. When Vogue profiled Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was under the expectation that she would be playing Salander for many years to come. With Claire Foy set to take over the mantle, Mara’s future looks to be a more varied affair. Of course, she may just not give a shit.


Rooney Mara Magdalene 1.jpg


Get entertainment, celebrity and politics updates via Facebook or Twitter. Buy Pajiba merch at the Pajiba Store.

Reddit Asks The Question: 'People Not From The USA, What "American" Food Are You Most Interested In Trying? | 'Preacher' Recap: Let's Cast Fake God To Appear On 'Game Of Thrones'




Continue Reading After the Advertisement

Bigots, Trolls & MRAs Are Not Welcome in the Comments




Advertisement




The Pajiba Store


petr-store-pajiba.png






Privacy Policy
advertise