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Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is Football Scion Who Changed Her Name

Thompson on Hollywood By Cameron Carlson | Thompson on Hollywood August 16, 2010 at 10:45AM

The new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara, 24, just got a huge boost up the ladder to rising stardom.
Thompson on Hollywood

The new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara, 24, just got a huge boost up the ladder to rising stardom.

With director David Fincher in her corner, she beat out all contenders for the role of Lisbeth Salander in Sony's upcoming English-language The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation. Audiences will first see Mara in a supporting role in Fincher's The Social Network as the girl that inspires Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook after breaking up with him. Exactly who is this young actress? Does she have what it takes to embody the tiny, tough, tattooed, damaged, brilliant, androgynous computer hacker Salander? And to hold her own with co-star Daniel Craig?

Before she turned to acting, Rooney was interested in non-profit work and used a different first name.

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Patricia Mara grew up in a posh Westchester, New York suburb, where she attended Fox Lane High School. She went on to study non-profit work and psychology at NYU. During a volunteer trip to Kenya, Mara was so upset by the corruption and poor standard of living in the slums, that she founded her own charity, Faces of Kiberia. It's in her blood: Mara comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Two of her great-grandfathers, Art Rooney and Tim Mara, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, respectively. Her uncle is the current president of the Giants, and took over after the death of Mara's grandfather, legendary team owner Wellington Mara.

Naturally, as part of a powerful football dynasty, Mara holds strong opinions about the game, and admits she "...really hated it growing up."

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Rooney was called Tricia until last year, when she replaced her first name with her middle after appearing in Tanner Hall, a coming-of-age story about four girls in boarding school, written and directed by royal offspring and boarding school vets Francesca Gregorini and Tatiana von Furstenberg.

Tricia's first work was alongside her older sister, Kate Mara (Brokeback Mountain, We Are Marshall, Shooter, Transsiberian), in the direct-to-DVD Urban Legends: Bloody Mary. The younger Mara then followed a standard trajectory of TV appearances leading to indie film roles and a supporting role in festival flick Youth in Revolt.

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Mara is probably best-known as Nancy Holbrook in the recent A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. Next up: the September 3rd opening of A Winning Season, in which she plays a pig-tailed schoolgirl dating a much older man.

Filmmaker profiled her as one of their 25 New Faces. And in a recent Interview Magazine feature, Mara described her own acting as "... not at all funny, I can do dark comedy pretty well, but straight-up comedy, I don’t know. I’m much darker. I’ve been like that since I was 3 years old. For Halloween, my mom asked me what I wanted to be. I said Klara, the crippled girl in the movie Heidi.”

Maybe she's got some Salander in her after all.

Here's the Tanner Hall trailer:

[Red carpet photo courtesy of Getty Images, Filmmaker Magazine photo by Thomas Whiteside]

This article is related to: Directors, Franchises, Genres, Headliners, Studios, In Production, Career Watch, David Fincher, Girl with Dragon Tattoo, Thriller, Drama, Sony/Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Classics

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.