The Untold Truth Of Rooney Mara

Rooney Mara, Hollywood's enigmatic leading lady, has always let her work speak for itself. She isn't on social media (unlike most celebs nowadays), offers few press interviews except to discuss her projects, and is a true artist, putting her all into every role she's played — from a tatted goth hacker to a 1950s shopgirl.

Despite her on-camera successes, she's not a fan of the limelight. In a 2013 Vogue interview, she said she finds the whole red carpet experience a nightmare. "There are all these photographers, and they're all screaming at you," she explained. "And usually there's a party at the other end of it, so it's not even like I have solace at the end of the carpet! It's like then I have to walk into my other nightmare!"

Because Mara is generally a private person, there's a lot about her that fans might not know. Here's the untold truth of Rooney Mara.

Rooney Mara's family is basically NFL royalty

Rooney Mara and her family have strong connections to the National Football League. Her father's family (the Mara family) founded the team the New York Giants, and her mother's family, the Rooneys, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers, as noted by Vogue. Though football runs in her blood, Rooney Mara, along with her actress sister Kate Mara, chose theatrics over sports. 

In 2015, Rooney Mara told comedian Seth Meyers on his late-night show that she was always at football games as a child, despite sometimes not wanting to be there. "I hated it," she told Meyers, who then proceeded to ask why. She explained, "Because we would always go after church and I'd have to wear like tights and a little outfit, and it was like everyone else was in their sweatpants eating like crappy food and I was in my little Sunday church clothes." 

Rooney Mara got into the entertainment business because of her mom

In an interview with Vogue, Rooney Mara credited her mom for introducing her and her sister to old black-and-white movies at a young age. 

This early education prompted a growing Rooney Mara to audition and be cast as a crow in a community production of The Wizard of Oz, which afterwards led her to realize she may not be fit for stage acting. "I was so horrified to be out in front of everyone that I couldn't remember my one little line ... and that was the end of my thespian career," she told Vogue. 

Even in 2013, Mara said she still hadn't overcome her fear of live performing. "I would like to do a play someday," she told Vogue. "But I find it really scary. I hate being onstage." For her, even a first day on set "is like the first week of school" with "new people." She noted, "I always get nervous in the beginning. But you know, it's so intimate [that] you get used to it."

Rooney Mara's earlier gigs included a remake of a classic horror film

Rooney Mara began auditioning for roles at 18 years old, and, like many now-successful actors and actresses, she appeared as a guest on Law & Order: SVU early on in her career. "It couldn't have been more exciting for me. It's an experience I hold very dear to my heart," she told the HuffPost of her 2006 episode

While now she sticks to "dark, cerebral, deeply romantic" films, back then, Rooney Mara auditioned for everything, which wasn't actually easy for her to do. "Auditioning is like going on a job interview. You have to wear a certain outfit and behave a certain way and play the game a little bit, and I'm just not good at that. I'm really not," she told Vogue.

Later on, Rooney Mara appeared in a couple of indie films like Youth in Revolt before trying her hand at horror with 2010's remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, which she later told the HuffPost was a tough movie to make. "I didn't love the experience, but I would never take it back because I feel like I learned something from it and it brought me to my next job," Rooney Mara said.

Rooney Mara first gained recognition in this social media-centered film

Rooney Mara's short, but sweet scene-stealing role in 2010's The Social Network, which was directed by David Fincher, was a turning point in her acting career. In the film's opening, Mara plays Erica Albright, a whip-smart fictional character who, at a college bar, dumps the inventor of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg. That small role — and the ones leading up to it — landed her the leading role of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also directed by Fincher.

Mara, a relative unknown in the movie world at that point, reportedly beat out actresses like Ellen Page and Carey Mulligan for the role of Salander in the English-language film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's first entry of the Millennium Trilogy book series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as reported by IndieWire.

Rooney Mara later told Variety that, following The Social Network, she "was re-inspired to give it my all," and that she did. 

Rooney Mara went full method in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo star Rooney Mara spent more than a year with character Lisbeth Salander, who takes potent revenge on the man who sexually assaults her. "I think the thing that makes her such a compelling character is that you do sort of fall instantly in love with her, but at the same time you don't always agree with what she's doing and you also question her and you get frustrated by her," Mara told Parade. "She's just an incredibly multi-layered character."

And Rooney Mara knew she wanted to play her as authentically as possible — right down to the haircut and piercings. In the book series, the heroine is full of the latter especially. Mara got multiple piercings on her face and body, including in her eyebrow and right nipple. Fake piercings were an option, but apparently not for the committed actress. She told Allure the piercings helped her get into character and not feel like she was in costume. "And I thought, She has it in the book, and she should have it [in the movie]."

She also appears in the buff quite often in the film, something Mara prepared for by kickboxing, which helped her feel more confident when it came to taking her clothes off (via Parade)

How Rooney Mara acts is real life

Rooney Mara was shy growing up, and she still considers herself to be shy at times, as she told The New York Times. "In high school, people thought I was stuck-up because I didn't talk to anyone," she said. "It was just because I was shy and scared, but I think because I'm super self-possessed that it doesn't come across as scared so much as stuck-up."

She told The Guardian she's been "guarded" since she was 3 years old, though she's not sure why that is. She shared, "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."

Even now as an adult, the actress can find public appearances to be overwhelming. "For Dragon Tattoo, I had eight different premieres, this many different photo calls. It's a lot to plan for. It's not like you can just show up," she told Vogue in 2013.

Rooney Mara has starred in two films with beau Joaquin Phoenix

Rooney Mara first worked with Joaquin Phoenix on the set of 2013's Her. The movie follows a man who falls in love with a computer operating system, and Mara portrayed Phoenix's ex-wife in the movie.

Phoenix opened up about meeting Mara to Vanity Fair in a 2019 interview, telling the magazine, "She's the only girl I ever looked up on the internet." He continued, "We were just friends, email friends. I'd never done that. Never looked up a girl online." During filming, however, Phoenix also said he thought Mara despised him, but later learned she was just shy. And she actually liked him, too. 

The actors reunited in a professional setting to shoot Mary Magdalene, in which Mara played the titular role, while Phoenix portrayed Jesus. According to W magazine, Mara and Phoenix were just friends during production, but they started dating after the film wrapped. While dating rumors had begun to swirl on the set of Mary Magdalene, it wasn't until the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, when they revealed their romance to the world.

After three years of dating, the couple became engaged in 2019, according to Us Weekly.

Rooney Mara doesn't shy away from nudity

Like in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara wasn't opposed to stripping down when it came to her role as shopgirl Therese in 2015's Carol, for which she later went on to receive an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. Interestingly, Mara initially declined a part in the film. "I had done four films in a row and was exhausted," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I read it and thought it was beautiful and was dying to work with Cate [Blanchett], but I didn't think I could do it. I didn't think I'd be good in it."

After completing four more films, including Side Effects and Her and then taking a year off to recover, according to The New York Times, the Carol script fell on Mara's lap again, and that time she said yes. 

When it came to getting naked with her formidable co-star, whose character plays an upper middle-class housewife in 1950s New York City who falls for Mara's young department store clerk character, Mara told E! News, "I think doing a love scene can be more or less comfortable but that's just depending on what character you're playing and who you're doing it with." She noted, "I felt very comfortable around Cate."

This is Rooney Mara's real name

While actress Rooney Mara is known for her moniker Rooney thanks to her work in a number of projects, Rooney isn't actually her first name. Rooney Mara was born Patricia Rooney Mara, and she went by the abbreviated "Tricia" throughout her adolescence, as she told Paper magazine in a 2010 interview. It wasn't until her acting career started taking off that she decided to toss Patricia altogether and go by Rooney, her middle name and her mom's maiden name, while keeping Mara as her surname.

"I never really liked my first name," Mara told Paper. "I never felt like a Tricia. And Rooney is more memorable." 

She went by the name Tricia Mara until the making of indie flick Tanner Hall. After the film premiered, Tanner Hall brought the rechristened Rooney Mara several awards, including a Rising Star award at the 2009 Hamptons International Film Festival.

Rooney Mara is an animal rights activist

Rooney Mara is not only vegan, but she's also an animal rights activist. 

In 2019, she joined Animal Equality, an organization dedicated to the protection of farmed animals, to conduct an undercover investigation into a couple of farms in England, according to the Daily Mail. In video footage narrated by the actress, she and others are shown walking through the dimly lit and poor living conditions housing pigs and chickens. The documentary With My Own Eyes asks viewers to question meat consumption. In the video, Rooney Mara said, "Nothing prepares you for looking into the eyes of a mother pig whose life is to be impregnated and left in a cage until she's slaughtered." 

In 2019, Mara, along with beau and fellow vegan Joaquin Phoenix, marched in a National Animal Rights Day demonstration, as noted by Harper's Bazaar. During the march, participants, including Phoenix and Mara, held the bodies of pigs, chickens, and other farm animals who'd died in factory farms and other places that mass-produce animals, according to VegNews.

Rooney Mara once wanted to be a singer

Though she's known as an actress, Rooney Mara once had aspirations of becoming a singer. Growing up watching Broadway musicals like Les Misérables and Rent captivated a young Mara. "That's actually why I started acting," she told Vogue. "Just because I can't really sing, so that was like my only way into that world that I love."

A lover of all things musical theater, Mara revealed in a 2013 interview with The Mirror that she learned how to ballroom dance. "I'm a crazy dancer when I'm alone but a little too shy to let it come out in public," she said. "But let me tell you, it's going to come out!" She's even danced in some of her movie roles, trying her hand at ballroom dancing with Brie Larson before her Captain Marvel days in Tanner Hall, and in Terrence Malick's 2017 project Song to Song, in which Mara starred alongside Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender. 

Rooney Mara and her sister lived in the same apartment in their early acting years

Kate Mara of House of Cards and The Martian fame had been acting for years before her sister, Rooney Mara, became an actress. Kate told ABC News she didn't have any acting friends before her sister came along.

"So from the time I was 14 'til, I think, my sister started acting when I was 20, 21, I didn't have someone to share this craziness with," Kate Mara told ABC News. "So when she became an actor, we actually lived together in my apartment for the first year or two." During that time, the sisters "bonded over their auditions and when their movies didn't exactly have positive reviews."

In a 2017 interview with Vogue, Rooney Mara said her sister has a "better personality" than her. "People like her more," she added. Unlike her sister, who knew she wanted to be an actress by age 10, Rooney told the magazine she was slower to jump on the acting train. "Maybe because I was a contrarian, I wanted to go to school and not be a child actor," she said.

Rooney Mara doesn't like watching her own movies

Rooney Mara told Vogue in 2013 that she hates seeing her own movies, and she sometimes avoids the experience unless necessary, as she prefers to watch them by herself in a public theater. "Anytime I see anything I've done, I wish that it had gone differently," Mara said. She noted that she watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in a theater near Manhattan's Union Square with the public. 

"I really wanted to go alone," she said, but her then-boyfriend, writer and director Charlie McDowell, pushed to go with her to the movie. "He was wise to come with me because if anyone had recognized me, I would have been so embarrassed."

Mara's not alone in not always wanting to see her work. According to Entertainment Weekly, there are dozens of actors who hate watching themselves on screen, including Adam Driver. As reported by the Daily Beast, Driver walked out of a 2019 NPR podcast interview after host Terry Gross wanted to show a clip of him singing in Marriage Story.

Rooney Mara is a philanthropist

After high school, Rooney Mara enrolled in the Traveling School and headed to South America for four months. "It really changed my life," she told Vogue in a 2013 interview. She explained that after that experience, she no longer wanted to attend college. "What am I going to do — join a sorority and go to frat parties?" she shared. But there was a push for her to continue with her studies, leading her to enroll at George Washington University and later transfer to New York University. At NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Mara made her own major and would enroll in a course called "Writing About Africa," which inspired her to travel to Africa to volunteer. 

After spending a college summer in 2006 as part of a volunteer program in Nairobi's Kibera area, reportedly one of the largest slums in Kenya, Mara founded a charity there to administer care and services to children. She's currently a member on the board of directors with the Uweza Foundation, focusing on providing education to children.