Rooney Mara’s Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has won near-universal critical praise and turned her into one of Hollywood’s hottest young actresses. We sat down with her shortly before the film opened for a Q&A that’s running in the next EW, which hits newsstands this Friday. Here are some parts of the interview that we didn’t have room for in the magazine.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last time we last talked you said one of the hardest scenes to shoot was the one where you’re in the subway and have to fight a guy who steals your computer. [At the time of this interview, Mara still hadn’t seen the finished film.] You spent three grueling 10-hour days doing nothing but running and fighting. In the movie that scene is over in a flash…
ROONEY MARA: Yeah, exactly. I’ve seen that scene because I had to do ADR [additional dialogue recording] for it, and it’s like, f—, that’s three days worth of work? That scene was not like that when I shot it. It’s hard to see [a film when it’s finished], because you want to have your own memory and experience of it, and when the movie’s finished it’s never the same. It’s really scary to see yourself. I’m really hard on myself. You always look back and wish you’d done things differently. You see every little thing that other people don’t notice. It’s just a very weird experience. I always wish I can just go back and start over, reshoot the whole thing. You watch a scene and think, Oh I would have done that differently. I think David always feels that way too, which is maybe why we work well together. We would be reshooting until the end of the world if we could. [Laughs]
You’ve talked about being shy and liking to watch people more than being watched. Now you’re starting to get a sense of what this movie is going to do to your life. What’s it like so far?
I’m very grateful for all the opportunity it’s given me. I’m grateful to be able to continue to work with incredible directors and the material that’s coming my way is certainly much richer. The other part of it I haven’t really gotten a taste for, and I don’t really want a taste for it. So we’ll see when and if that happens how I feel about it. I don’t really like this [promotional] part of moviemaking.
You certainly picked the wrong line of work…
I know. [Laughs] Well, you know, this is a strange part of the job. But for the acting part I think being a wallflower is really helpful. I think observing people is part of the job, having an understanding for different people and how they act and react.
Fincher has described you as being “a weirdo.” What do you think he was talking about?
I don’t know, I think he’s a weirdo. We’re a bunch of weirdos. You know, David has an incredible sense of humor. I guess I have always been a little bit odd, but I don’t know what he meant by that.
What do you make of your whole experience with him in retrospect? He really put you through a lot making this movie.
I don’t know if it’s him who put me through that or if I put that on myself. He didn’t make me go get pierced, he didn’t make me do a lot of the things that I did. He was just there as support and as a collaborator. We had endless conversations about the character and about, oh, should the dragon [tattoo]’s wing go this way or this way? David works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. I think that’s one of the reasons he liked me, is because I’m a really hard worker. He surrounds himself with people who want to work as hard as he does. It never felt forced upon me. I always felt like it was self-inflicted. But I can’t imagine having made the movie with anyone else. I wouldn’t want to. And I think more than anything else I’ve gotten out of this movie, I’m most grateful for David.
When you started getting serious about acting you moved to L.A. and lived with your sister, Kate, who’s also an actor (American Horror Story, Entourage). What was that like?
It was really hard. I don’t think I would have stayed if she weren’t there. It’s a hard place to live, especially for someone like me. It’s a weird place. It takes a few years to get used to. My sister was amazing, but it was hard. My sister’s been acting professionally since she was 12 years old, and she’s incredibly talented. It was hard being there auditioning every single day and not getting any work. It’s always hard getting rejected multiple times a day. [Laughs]
Were you competitive?
No, because we’re so different. I was going out for things completely different from her. We’re so different we would never be up for the same part. I never felt anything but support from her. It’s nice to have someone who can relate, who you can honestly talk to and has your back.
Was there something that you really wanted and didn’t get?
Oh, I’m sure there were tons of things. I can’t even remember what they are. I’m not going to say them. But when you look back, I think everything happens for a reason. Had I gotten some of those things that I was obsessed with and devastated not to get then I probably wouldn’t be here right now.
Tell me just one thing you were obsessed with and devastated not to get. It’s only fair, since I’m sure there were a lot of actors who were devastated not to get the Lisbeth part.
I don’t even know. There were so many parts. I tried out for everything for the past four years and was rejected from most of them, so… too many to count. I get very obsessed with things. I get really invested in things way too early. That’s why I waited to read the [Dragon Tattoo] books until I knew I had a really good shot at getting this part. I know myself after years of doing that. I knew it would be that much more devastating to not get the part. Through the audition process I kind of always knew that I was going to get it, because I couldn’t imagine my life if I didn’t get it. I knew I kind of had to get it.
You must be getting tired of talking about the infamous rape scenes.
Yes. [Laughs] It’s not that I’m tired of talking about them, but people really need to up their game with the questions. Everyone is like, “So, the rape scene. Was that hard?” You’re just like, “No, it was really fun. It was really titillating.” But I’m not sick of talking about them.
So what are you doing next?
I don’t actually have a project that I’m going to do next. There’s a ton of things in the air.
You’re reportedly involved in the next Terrence Malick film, Lawless, along with Ryan Gosling.
Yeah, that’s something that I hope to do, but it’s unfortunately not until September, so it’s a ways away.
Are you definitely going to do that?
Yeah, I hope to.
What can you tell us about it?
I can’t tell you anything! He’s one of the great filmmakers out there. After working with David, it’s really hard — the bar has been set at sort of an unreachable height. I want to work with people who have a vision and who are uncompromising in the way that they make films, and Terry is one of those people. He’s incredible. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever come into contact with. But I’m not going to give away his secrets.
You must be getting sent better scripts than a year ago.
Yeah, I get sent pretty incredible scripts. And they’re all across the board. I definitely got sent a script for a girl who was meant to be a hacker, but luckily there aren’t that many of those out there.
So it’s not just all Lisbeth-y roles.
No. I mean, I haven’t been offered a romantic comedy yet.
Would you like to be?
No. [Laughs] Maybe a dark comedy.
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