She’s Different… Rooney Mara

In a world where family matters more and more, millennial actress Rooney Mara, whose family ties includes the owners of the New York Football Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers, represents the new model for entertainment industry royalty.

Like many people from good families, Rooney developed a real social network that helped prepare her for movie land before going on to play Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend in The Social Network, the humorous blockbuster that tells the story of Facebook.

Clearly, she has the right stuff to join Angelina Jolie as a Hollywood UN Ambassador. Rooney attended Fox Lane School and spent four months in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru studying sustainability issues. She did course work at George Washington and graduated from New York University. She studied the world of NGOs and even founded a project to improve the lives of impoverished families in Kibera, a densely populated shanty town in Nairobi, Kenya. Inspired by her sister Kate, already a successful actress, Rooney felt confident enough to start her own film career.

Known earlier as Tricia Mara (her first name is Patricia), Rooney moved out to Los Angeles to launch her career and lived with Kate. Film zines note there was a mentoring dimension to their sisterhood. The two discussed the business, script opportunities, auditions and deals. Still do.

Rooney started out at the bottom, doing extra jobs for TV in 2005. Then came one timers on Law & OrderSpecial Victims Unit, The Cleaner and ER.

Her first major role was that of a boarding school girl who has an affair with a married man in Tanner Hall, a film by Tatiana von Furstenberg that drew critical acclaim at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival. She then landed a role in a boutique indie film, Dare, that was a vehicle for singer-actress Emmy Rossum and was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Playing Nancy Holbrook in a remake of Nightmare on Elm Street followed. She was tagged by Filmmakermagazine as one of the young faces in indie film to watch.

Director David Fincher’s team must have been watching because Rooney was cast as Erica Albright, the young woman who breaks up with Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Her trajectory from extra to big box office breakthrough took five years.

Seeing a winner, Fincher then tapped Rooney to play investigator Lisbeth Salander in the first of Columbia Pictures remakes in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The original series was done by Swedish TV.

In spite of well-orchestrated Tinseltown buzz, critics have been rather unforgiving about Fincher and Rooney. A reminder that questions about the listening skills and intellectual mettle of millennials like Rooney aren’t going away.

Considered a perfectionist, Fincher has been tagged for bland directing and changing Larsson’s story line. The film has been called “retrofuturism”over at Rotten Tomatoes and Rooney’s performance has been characterized as emotionless.”  But so it goes when Hollywood messes with novels and mysteries, especially those with a Swedish pedigree and the cinematic tradition of Ingmar Bergman.

Rooney, who says she likes to discover new things instead of following a traditional Hollywood career path, is currently involved doing projects with directors Steven Soderbergh and Spike Jonze.

In a recent YouTube interview she was asked about the issue of not revealing emotions and feelings in her Golden Globe winning performance as Lisbeth Salander. Her response was an “I don’t know.”

The question of Rooney winning an Oscar for Best Actress is a question of if, not when. When the moderator opens the envelope one hopes Rooney will have better answers to the questions. But hey, people like her because she’s different.


About Author

Eric is a digital nomad who writes on sports, politics and culture. He is a member of PEN, one of the original bloggers on the HuffPo World section and is one of the pioneering contributors to Rolling Stone starting in 1968 working under co-founder Jann S. Wenner. Eric resides in Brazil and is fluent in five languages. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, National Review, New York Times and USA Today. Photo credit, Eric Ehrmann.