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On the Rise: Rooney Mara of “The Social Network”

On the Rise: Rooney Mara of "The Social Network"

Not only is David Fincher’s “The Social Network” reaping critical accolades left, right and center, with lofty comparisons being made to everything from “The Godfather” (!) to “Citizen Kane” (!!), but the film is also proving itself to be a breeding ground for Hollywood’s brightest stars of the future, with star-making turns from Jesse Eisenberg, a surprisingly credible Justin Timberlake, and future Spidey himself Andrew Garfield. Arguably the biggest talent to emerge from Fincher’s Facebook drama is Rooney Mara, who reportedly beat out the likes of Ellen Page and Carey Mulligan, to re-team with Fincher for the role of a lifetime as Lisbeth Salander in the English-language film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s first entry of the “Millennium Trilogy” book series, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

When news hit that Mara nabbed the lead, the world seemed to blurt out a collective “eh?” — mirroring the reaction Peter Parker’s camp received when Garfield was announced as their web slinging superhero. Fans of Larsson’s wildly popular series who contributed to making “The Social Network” number one at the American box office this past weekend will probably agree that Fincher made a sound choice in picking the enigmatic Mara. Within the first five minutes of the film, Mara stakes her claim as an actress with serious skill by handling Aaron Sorkin’s whip-smart and speedy dialogue with aplomb. No easy feat. “The Social Network” is peppered with Sorkin’s brand of “West Wing” banter, but the opener is a doozy of a scene, from which the whole film launches off, along with Mara’s career.

Despite the general public’s unfamiliarity with the actress, “The Social Network” doesn’t mark her first film to open at the top of the box office. Earlier this year she played the lead in the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” which despite ghastly reviews ended up on top. Coincidentally, Mara made her professional acting debut in another horror film, the direct-to-video “Urban Legends: Bloody Mary.” Her experience with dabbling in the slasher genre makes her Lisbeth Salander coup all the more remarkable. When’s the last time a scream queen actually nabbed a substantial and challenging role after fending off serial killers in slasher pics? No hard feelings Neve Campbell, and Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Shortly after her debut, and prior to tackling Freddy Krueger and talking our ears off at the multiplex, Mara was declared the indie film star of 2009 by Interview magazine. No surprise given that in one year she appeared in four indies: “The Winning Season,” “Youth in Revolt,” “Tanner Hall,” and “Dare.” During that same year, the busy lass shot a two-episode arc on the final season of “ER.”

If her sheer productiveness isn’t enough to convince you that Mara has the goods to inhabit the fractured psyche of Salander, Mara has clued in Interview that she’s a dark girl underneath her pristine complexion and delicate features.

“I’ve been like that since I was three years old,” she said. “For Halloween, my mom asked me what I wanted to be. I said Klara, the crippled girl in the movie ‘Heidi.'”

Consider us sold.

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