David Fincher’s film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is actress Rooney Mara’s breakout role. The 26-year-old actress follows in her sister Kate’s footsteps in making a career of acting, pursued after studying psychology, international social policy an nonprofit organizations at NYU. Coming from a distinguished sports family, Mara’s great grandfather Art Rooney, Sr. founded the Pittsburgh Steelers; her other great grandfather Tim Mara founded the New York Giants football team.
After appearing on a couple of television series, including Law and Order SVU and ER, Rooney crossed over into the world of feature films, including a featured role in David Fincher’s hit The Social Network. Playing opposite Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg, Rooney portrayed the girl who dumped the genius at Harvard, inspiring the Facebook founder to begin a little enterprise that changed the world.
In a very different role this time, but again cast by Fincher, Mara can currently be found inhabiting the title role in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—Lisbeth Salander. Salander is so far removed from The Social Network’s Ivy League coed, Fincher reportedly did not originally visualize Mara as the brilliant, but very troubled young computer hacker. However, it was widely reported, that Mara won the coveted role over several much better known actresses, including Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson.
Mara went through quite a physical transformation to play the Goth-punk, motorbike-riding computer genius, going so far as to acquire several of the body piercings sported by her character. The young actress portrays Lisbeth with a potent combination of fragility and strength; her pale skin and petite build a stunning contrast to the inner strength that comes through with the experiences her character has endured both in her life before we meet her—and during the movie’s narrative arc. Mara’s work in Dragon Tattoo has deservedly earned her critical acclaim, with Best Actress Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.
Mara has put her university studies to good use as well, founding a charity called Faces of Kibera long before she became a star. The actress created the organization, which provides food, housing, and medical care to orphans in an impoverished area of Nairobi, Kenya after visiting the region in 2006. Last year Kibera merged Uweza Foundation, a local Kibera organization on whose board Mara serves.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will be released on Blu-ray and DVD March 20, and is now available for pre-order.