The first audition that Rooney Mara ever did was in high school, for a production of Romeo and Juliet. She planted herself before those present, read a monologue and left without saying another word. The teacher in charge of casting followed her out, shocked after what that “dark, brooding, miserable” teen had just done. “I didn’t even know you could talk! What was that?” he asked her. She had always been in her sister Kate (House of Cards)’s shadow when it came to exhibiting artistic inclinations.
Of course the role of the Capulet lover ended up being hers, inaugurating a career which has been held up as one of the most suggestive and captivating of recent times in Hollywood. She is a rara avis who now celebrates her 37th birthday having conserved the aura of an unsolved puzzle despite her two Oscar nominations, her starring roles in box-office hits like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and her romantic relationship with one of the best-known actors in the world, Joaquin Phoenix. We can ask ourselves the same question as that disconcerted teacher: “What was that?”
“I don’t have any kind of master plan to seem enigmatic... I’m mysterious even to myself!” exclaimed Patricia Rooney Mara in an interview with S Moda in October of last year. The face of Givenchy since 2018, her taste for black and neutrals has cemented that image of a gothic-romantic heroine with porcelain skin, red lips, black hair and defined cheekbones, always sophisticated, that marinades well with her impenetrable public image. She characterizes as a “nightmare” the need to walk the red carpet, and her congenital shyness makes her blush at even the general applause from the technical team at the end of a movie shoot. It’s so extreme that during the filming of Her, Joaquin Phoenix thought that she “detested” him, and he was only able to cultivate an intimate relationship with her after months of digital correspondence. “I like being alone. I need a lot of alone time,” she admits.
After later sharing scenes in the film Mary Magdalene, in 2017 Mara and Phoenix got together in the most opaque and eccentric relationship of all those living in the hills of Los Angeles. With both against any type of public display of affection, the winner of the Oscar for Joker left an unusual exception for posterity when he dedicated his prize for best actor at the Toronto Film Festival to his “dirty dragon” life’s companion, a pseudonym that referenced her role as the Nordic hacker Lisbeth Salander. While completely unknown to the average viewer, she surpassed stars like Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lawrence to play her most recognized role. The muse of prestigious directors like Spike Jonze and David Dincher, she recently finished out three years away from the industry to focus on raising her first child, River, named after Phoenix’s famous late brother.
Despite the mysteriousness of her profile, her family history could be characterized as anything but enigmatic. Born in the cradle of the union between two of the most powerful and wealthy clans in American sports, the Maras and the Rooneys, owners of football teams in New York and in Pittsburgh, she could have opted to follow the path of yellow tiles –golden would be a better descriptor– that other opulent heiresses had walked, like Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie. According to the specialized website Celebrity Net Worth, her family’s fortune is estimated around 3 billion dollars.
Raised in the community of Bedford, NY, one of the richest enclaves in the nation with stars like Michael Douglas, Blake Lively and Ralph Lauren among its community members, Mara attended public college and finished a major in psychology and NGOs –today she is an activist employed widely in various institutions promoting animal rights and climate issues– before dedicating herself completely to acting. Although she confirms that she enjoyed a “privileged” childhood, she rebels against the label of rich girl and assures the public that they didn’t even have a butler or maid in their home. Her interest in fashion materialized in 2018 with the launch of Hiraeth Collective, a clothing and accessories brand which, four years later, has not been able to really break into the industry.
She, on the other hand, was able to break into the industry in Hollywood. She just needed five years to conquer critics and audiences with that distrant, attractive, unreadable and playful look; reaching the status of a star thanks to films like The Social Network, Carol, or as mentioned, the adaptation of the Millenium saga. After ending her maternal leave with the recently debuted Nightmare Alley by Guillermo del Toro, she has another film, Women Talking (with Frances McDormand and Claire Foy) coming out and her mediatic new project will surely reactivate the interest of all those who thought her impact on the Mecca of cinema was over.
The New Yorker once more beat out other actresses in the casting process for one of the most aspired-to roles in recent times in Hollywood. Next we will see her in the guise of Audrey Hepburn, in a biopic directed by filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) for Apple. The son of the legendary star, Mel Ferrer, shared his enthusiasm about the news: “Rooney is a delight. Sounds like there is a lot of love there.” Breakfast with diamonds surely sounds familiar to the actress.