When news broke last year that Rooney Mara was set to play Princess Tiger Lily in Joe Wright’s live-action Pan, there was a significant backlash against the fact the role didn’t go to a Native American actress. Now, Mara has spoken up about the controversy.
“It wasn’t great, I felt really bad about it,” Mara told PEOPLE at the New York premiere of Pan on Sunday. “It was something that I thought about before I met with Joe. When I met with Joe and heard what his plans for it were, it was something I really wanted to be a part of.”
“But I totally sympathize with why people were upset and feel really bad about it,” she added.
Pan, which retells J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan, stars Levi Miller as Peter, who teams up with Tiger Lily to face off against Hugh Jackman’s villainous Blackbeard. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Wright address the decision to cast Mara in the role.
“I thought about the idea of having a Native American tribe, and that worried me actually,” he said. “What would I be saying with that choice? So then I thought, ‘Well, where should they be from?’ And I couldn’t decide, so I felt like picking just one race would be an unwise choice. So then I thought about the potential of them being the indigenous people of the [entire] planet.”
Pan opens Oct. 9.