Have you ever read a script and gone, 'I don't want to do this because I want to experience it as a viewer'?
Mara: No (laughs).
Had you heard of David before coming onto this project? Although this marks his second feature following "St. Nick," he's been pretty active on the editing front and had a short premiere at Sundance.
Affleck: I hadn't no. I never heard of him.
Mara: You weren't paying attention.
Affleck: Once I met him he told me all the stuff he was doing which was pretty cool. But I had never heard of him.
What about the script specifically spoke to both of you?
Mara: A script you can either see it and feel it or you can't. I just kind of knew within the first few pages -- it just had it's own voice. I knew it was special. I loved the world that it took place in.
About that world, the period it takes place in is so evocatively conveyed in the film. What kind of prep work on your part went into delving into the 70s?
Affleck: Indirectly he was just very specific about each little part of the movie. He knew he wanted the clothes to look like, he knew what he wanted the music to be. You just get hypnotized by that and fall under the spell of what he's doing. But he never said, "Listen, this is the era." He was deliberately vague about some of that stuff. There would be a car from the 1980s.
Mara: No, there were no cars from the 1980s.
Affleck: There was a truck from the 1980s.
Mara: No way.
Affleck: He didn't want to be super specific about the time and the setting, but it was set in Texas, shot in Louisiana. If you're from Texas you can tell that there's no part of Texas that looks like that. He was just trying to create a very kind of fuzzy but evocative image.
Mara: He was sending me pictures of what he thought Ruth's house looked like and felt like -- all kinds of stuff like that.
Now Rooney, you were the first actor he met with for the part and he didn't meet with anyone else after meeting you. What happened in that room?
Mara: I don't know. They sent it to me knowing they wanted me to be in it. I read it and loved it, watched his short "Pioneer" and loved it. I really wanted to work with him. It was very easy.
So many critics have compared David's directing style to that of Terrence Malick -- the long takes, the fascination with nature and the overall "Badlands" vibe. Given that you've worked with Terrence now how would you compare the two?
Mara: I wouldn't. There's nothing similar about working with the two of them. Like nothing. I think David has his own voice that stands on its own. I think they're both very poetic and they're both very romantic, and they have a similar aesthetic, so maybe that's where those comparisons are coming from. But in terms of actually working with them, there's very little that's the same. But I feel that way about any two directors I've worked with.
Speaking of the directors you've worked with, ever since you worked with David Fincher you've managed to cultivate this amazing resume of auteur driven titles. Did you create a checklist of who you'd like to work with after working with David? Or has it just been happenstance?
Mara: (Laughs) I mean I guess it's just been happenstance. I have a list somewhere in my head of people I respect and want to work with. Yeah, I don't know. That's just how it happened. I don't have a rhyme or reason to what I respond to. It's just kind of instinct. It's not something I can really define.