Rooney Mara

At first blush, you might think that Rooney Mara has an interesting name. You might ask yourself if you’ve ever heard of a woman named Rooney before.

The story behind Rooney Mara’s name becomes even more interesting if you think about the names of the great families who created the NFL. And then you just might thing of the Rooney family that founded the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Mara family that founded the New York Giants. At that point you just might pull things together and realize that Rooney Mara’s parents came from those respective families.

What’s most interesting about her, of course, is that she’s a brilliant actress. She started her career with some small movie and television parts, and then got some attention in 2010 with her small part as Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend in “The Social Network,” working with director David Fincher. Rooney then had her breakout role in 2011 as Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” also directed by Fincher. Rooney landed the coveted part with her audition which convinced Fincher to cast her in the role.

Since then, Rooney has become a fixture in Hollywood along with her sister Kate who had her own breakout performance in “House of Cards” on Netflix. Still, we’d love to see Rooney in more starring roles.

Iconic Character – Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

As noted above, this role made Rooney Mara a star and established her as one of the best actresses in Hollywood. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and frankly should have won that year, though there’s no shame in losing to Meryl Streep.

Our movie critic David Medsker had this to say when opening his review for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”:

I shredded Rooney Mara for being flat as a pancake in the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” but she commits to this role in a way that few actresses have ever committed to anything in their lives. Lisbeth is constantly struggling to maintain her composure, and Mara displays that in every terse reply and her refusal to make eye contact. The role launched Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth, to a new level of stardom, and it will do the same for Mara.

Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011

John Fever adds the following after a recent rewatch of the film:

Rooney Mara delivers a stunning and breathtaking performance as Lisbeth Salander, who is one of the more unique and compelling characters we’ve seen in years.

Mara was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and delivers one of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen. She brings to life the fascinating character of Lisbeth, starting with her edgy, punk rock-inspired looks. The character is a natural blonde, so Mara’s eyebrows are a very light blonde while her funky hair with short bangs is died jet black, creating a haunting look that often makes it appear she has no eyebrows at all. So much of Mara’s acting here is done with her eyes, showing ranges of thoughts and emotions with a simple look. She’s also sexy as hell, making her an unforgettable character.

Rooney will be forever linked to this incredible character and it will interesting to see of she gets to tell more of her story. The film made our lists for the best films of 2011 which you can read here and here.

More Performances

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
This remake of the horror classic wasn’t very good, and it didn’t give Rooney much to work with. David Medsker had little good to say about the film or Rooney’s performance, but we know now there were much better things ahead for her: “Nancy, in fact, might be the blandest, dullest heroine in horror movie history. How much of that is actress Rooney Mara’s fault is unclear, since none of the kids stands out.”

Rooney Mara in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010

Her (2013)
Rooney has a small but important part in this forward-looking film that seems much more realistic now with recent developments in AI. She’s excellent playing opposite Joaquin Phoenix as his bitchy soon-to-be ex-wife.

Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix in Her 2013

“Carol” (2015)
Rooney stars opposite Cate Blanchett in this love story about two lesbians set in the 1950s. The film received mixed reviews and should have been better with these two amazing actress in the lead roles. Jason Zingale said that the film is worth watching just for their performances. Meanwhile, David Medsker noted his disappointment with the film in his 2015 year-end recap, though he did note that Rooney might have the most perfect face on the planet.

Nightmare Alley (2021)
Steve Katz points out that Rooney was given little to work with in this film by Guillermo del Toro: “The issue, perhaps surprisingly, is Rooney Mara, whose Molly is such a lifeless character that even an actress of her skill can’t do much to make her interesting. When first introduced, she seems far more worldly than she is, but in actuality, she exists to remind Stan of his decaying morality while being the pretty dame at his side during his shows. She wears out her welcome rather quickly and is easily cast aside when the far more engaging Blanchett comes into play. It’s not necessarily a case of her getting the role wrong — there’s just nothing to it on the page.”

Women Talking (2022)
Rooney stars opposite Claire Foy in this extraordinary drama about the women of an isolated religious community and their paradoxical relationship with faith. This Sarah Polley film was nominated for Best Picture.

Rooney Mara and Claire Foy in Women Talking

Check out more of our coverage of Rooney’s film roles with “Pan” (2015), “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016), “Song to Sing” (2017) and “A Ghost Story” (2017).

Rooney Mara Videos

Behind the Scenes of Rooney Mara’s February 2013 Vogue Cover Shoot
Lovely Rooney gets sexy for her Vogue photoshoot.

Rooney Mara Says Bleaching Her Eyebrows Was the Most Important Step in Becoming Lisbeth Salander
Here’s a fascinating interview with Rooney talking about playing the part of Lisbeth.