Patricia Rooney Mara (// MAIR-ə; born April 17, 1985) is an American actress and animal rights activist. Born into the Rooney and Mara sports business families, she graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2010. She began acting in television and independent films, such as the coming-of-age drama Tanner Hall (2009), and first gained recognition for a supporting role in David Fincher's biographical drama The Social Network (2010).
Patricia Rooney Mara
April 17, 1985
Bedford, New York, U.S.
|Education||New York University (BA)|
|Partner(s)||Joaquin Phoenix (2016–present; engaged)|
|Relatives||Kate Mara (sister)|
Mara had a career breakthrough when she starred as Lisbeth Salander in Fincher's thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her career progressed with leading roles in the thriller Side Effects (2013), the science fiction romance Her (2013), and the romantic drama Carol (2015); all three were critical and commercial successes. For the latter, she won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has since appeared in the biographical drama Lion (2016), the supernatural drama A Ghost Story (2017), and portrayed Mary Magdalene in the biblical drama Mary Magdalene (2018).
Mara is known for her charity work and oversees the Uweza Foundation, which supports empowerment programs for children and families in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. She is also the founder of the vegan clothing line Hiraeth Collective.
Early life and education
Mara was born on April 17, 1985 and raised in Bedford, New York, a town in Westchester County about 40 miles (64 km) north of New York City. Mara's mother's family founded the Pittsburgh Steelers and her father's family founded the New York Giants. Her father, Timothy Christopher Mara, is the senior vice president of player personnel for the New York Giants, and her mother, Kathleen McNulty (née Rooney), is a part-time real estate agent. She is the third of four children: she has an older brother, Daniel, an older sister, Kate, who is also an actress, and a younger brother, Conor.
Mara's father has Irish, German and French-Canadian ancestry, and her mother is of English, Irish and Italian descent. Her Rooney ancestors originated in Newry, County Down. Her paternal grandparents were Wellington Mara and Ann Mara. Wellington was the long-time co-owner of the Giants, who was succeeded in that position by his son (Rooney Mara's uncle), John Mara. Rooney Mara's maternal grandfather, Timothy James "Tim" Rooney, has run Yonkers Raceway & Empire City Casino in Yonkers, New York since 1972. Mara is the great-granddaughter of both New York Giants founder Tim Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr., as well as of Kathleen McNulty Rooney. Her granduncle, Dan Rooney, was chairman of the Steelers, the former United States Ambassador to Ireland, the co-founder of The Ireland Funds charitable organization, and the architect of American Football's Rooney Rule. U.S. Representative Tom Rooney and former Florida State Representative Patrick Rooney Jr. are her cousins.
After graduating from Fox Lane High School in 2003, Mara went to Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia in South America for four months as part of the Traveling School, an open learning environment. She attended George Washington University for a year before transferring to New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she studied psychology, international social policy and nonprofits, graduating in 2010.
Mara was inspired to act by seeing musical theatre and classic movies, like Gone with the Wind (1939), Rebecca (1940), and Bringing Up Baby (1938), with her mother. She also wanted to be like her sister, Kate Mara, a professional actress. Mara resisted pursuing acting as a child, stating to The Journal News that "it never seemed that honorable to me, and I guess I was always afraid that I might fail." Her first and only role in high school was Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, which she got after being signed up to audition by a friend. Mara acted in a few student films while at NYU, and then began her career in acting, first auditioning at the age of nineteen.
2005–2009: Career beginnings
Mara first appeared as an extra in films which starred her sister, including a bit-part in the 2005 direct-to-video horror film Urban Legends: Bloody Mary. She found work in television, making her professional debut in a 2006 episode of the drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as a girl who bullies overweight children. She guest-starred on the legal drama Women's Murder Club and played a drug addict in an episode of The Cleaner. Mara made her feature film debut Dream Boy (2008) and guest-starred as Megan for two episodes of NBC's ER.
In a coming-of-age film Tanner Hall (2009), Mara landed her first lead role, as Fernanda who has an affair with a married family friend (Tom Everett Scott). The film was the directorial debut of Tatiana von Fürstenberg and Francesca Gregorini, it debuted at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and had a limited theatrical release in September 2011. Mara dropped her first name 'Patricia', to be known professionally by her middle name after working on the project. "I never really liked my first name," Mara stated to Paper magazine. "I never felt like a Tricia. And Rooney is more memorable". Her father and younger brother also go by their middle names.
In Miguel Arteta's comedy-drama film Youth in Revolt, Mara played Taggarty who tries to sleep with fifty men before she goes to college. The film was based on C.D. Payne's 1993 cult novel of the same name. Mara had auditioned for the starring role, but was offered the smaller part when the lead went to Portia Doubleday.
Mara played Courtney in the 2009 independent film, Dare and in The Winning Season as Wendy, a high school basketball player having an affair with a middle-aged shoe salesman (Kevin Breznahan) with a similar story to The Bad News Bears. Both films were premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and Mara was included on Filmmaker magazine's list of "25 New Faces of Independent Film" that year.
Mara starred in a remake of the 1984 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street, as the protagonist Nancy Holbrook, a high school student victimized by Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley). Mara began shooting the film in Chicago on May 5, 2009, directed by Samuel Bayer. Mara told Filmmaker that she felt that her Nancy was "completely different from the original" and "the loneliest girl in the world". Mara had signed on to continue her role if a sequel was made. She stated to Vogue that she disliked the experience of making the film so much, that it made her question if she wanted to be an actress. Mara appeared at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October 2009 as part of its Breakthrough Performers Program, where she was tutored by Sharon Stone.
2010–2016: Breakthrough and critical acclaim
In August 2010, Mara was cast as the lead in a film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first of the Millennium book trilogy by Stieg Larsson. She played Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but troubled computer hacker who helps journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) solve a series of murders. Mara won the role over several other actresses after two and a half months of auditions and screen tests. David Fincher directed the film, with Scott Rudin producing. The other books, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, may be adapted, depending on box office performance. Fincher initially did not picture her as the character but changed his mind when she auditioned. He convinced executives at Columbia Pictures to cast her for the part.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo began shooting in Sweden in September 2010. Mara did not consider the film to be a remake, but another interpretation of the novel. "I plan on giving my interpretation of the character," she stated to Variety. Mara's long brown hair was cut short and dyed black, in a style reminiscent of 1970s punk and 1980s goth fashions. She also had her ears pierced four times, and had her brow and right nipple pierced for the role. Her nose and lip piercings were fake. She kept the nipple piercing so that it would not need to be re-pierced for a sequel. Mara's eyebrows were bleached, and she wore a temporary dragon tattoo. She began preparing for the role by starting to skateboard and kickbox, and underwent dialect and computer training. She also visited Stockholm, the setting of the novel. The film was released on December 20, 2011. Mara received universal critical acclaim and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for her performance. On January 24, 2012, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
In late 2011, Mara was considered for Kathryn Bigelow's action film Zero Dark Thirty, but the role went to Jessica Chastain. Mara replaced Carey Mulligan, who had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, in Spike Jonze's film, Her (2013) to play Catherine Klausen, the ex-wife of central character Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix).
Mara starred in Steven Soderbergh's 2013 crime-thriller film Side Effects, replacing Blake Lively. The film also starred Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vinessa Shaw. She played Emily Taylor, "a woman who turns to prescription medication as a way of handling her anxiety concerning her husband's upcoming release from prison." That same year, she starred in David Lowery's 2013 independent film Ain't Them Bodies Saints which is described as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde story, alongside Casey Affleck and Ben Foster. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013 where IFC Films purchased the rights for U.S. distribution. In May 2013, she became the new face of Calvin Klein new fragrance Down Town.
In 2014, Mara served as the costume designer on her former boyfriend Charlie McDowell's acclaimed independent film The One I Love starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass. She is credited as Bree Daniel.
In 2015, Mara played Tiger Lily in the Joe Wright-directed fantasy film Pan, a role for which she received a great deal of criticism; she and Wright faced accusations of "whitewashing" a Native American character. To express their concerns, Native American activists created a hashtag #NotYourTigerlily to protest Mara's casting and thousands of Native Americans participated in a "Twitterstorm" to share memes addressing their concerns about the portrayal of Native women in film.
At the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, she tied for the Best Actress award for her role in the film Carol. She was also nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a British Academy Film Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance.
In 2016, Mara voiced The Sisters in the stop motion animated film Kubo and the Two Strings. She starred alongside Ben Mendelsohn directed by Benedict Andrews in Una which had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2016. Mara next starred in Lion alongside Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, and The Secret Scripture, directed by Jim Sheridan.
2017–present: Continued success
In 2017, Mara appeared in The Discovery directed by Charlie McDowell and A Ghost Story, with Casey Affleck, directed by David Lowery. Both had their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017. Mara starred with Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Val Kilmer in Terrence Malick's Song to Song, which was released in a limited release on March 17, 2017.
In 2018, Mara appeared in Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, directed by Gus Van Sant, opposite Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill and Jack Black. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2018. and was released on July 13, 2018, by Amazon Studios. That same year, Mara starred opposite Phoenix again in Mary Magdalene, written by Helen Edmundson and directed by Garth Davis. The film was released in the United Kingdom on March 16, 2018, by Focus Features. This same year, she also collaborated with Joaquin Phoenix, Sia, Sadie Sink and Kat von D to narrate Chris Delforce's animal rights documentary Dominion. For her contribution to the documentary, she was granted the 2018 Award of Excellence for Narration by Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards. Mara will next star in Nightmare Alley, an adaptation of the novel of the same name directed by Guillermo del Toro. She is also attached to co-produce and star as Amanda Lindhout in the screen adaptation of the memoir A House in the Sky.
In June 2021, it was announced that Mara joined Frances McDormand, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Ben Whishaw in Sarah Polley's feature adaptation of Miriam Toews’ bestselling novel Women Talking. MGM’s Orion Pictures and Plan B Entertainment will produce the film. The same month, it was reported that Mara would reunite on-screen with Phoenix in Lynne Ramsay's upcoming film Polaris. She is also set to star in Luca Guadagnino's reimagining of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited for the BBC.
In February 2018, it was announced Mara, Sara Schloat, and Chrys Wong had started a vegan clothing line named Hiraeth Collective, consisting of clothing, shoes, and accessories, designed by themselves. The clothing line is produced in Los Angeles, California. The clothing line was made available in select Barneys New York stores and online, beginning in August 2018.
Mara founded the charity Faces of Kibera, which aimed to provide housing, food, and medical care for orphans in Kibera, a Nairobi, Kenya slum. The charity's goal was to build an orphanage in the region, for which 6 acres of land have been purchased. The charity auctioned memorabilia from the Steelers and Giants, as well as training camp events on eBay to raise money. She visited the area as a volunteer in 2006 and was moved to help the orphans, many of whom lost parents to AIDS and HIV-related illnesses. She began the charity due to her frustration with the growing number of nonprofits that are just business opportunities. "The people who need help aren't really getting it. So I started my own", she told Interview magazine in 2009. Mara later found it challenging to balance her charity work and acting career. "I need to do both; I can't just do acting," she stated to The Journal News. In January 2011, Faces of Kibera merged with Uweza Foundation which runs community-based empowerment programs in Kibera, including soccer leagues and after-school tutoring. Uweza is a Swahili word meaning opportunity, ability, and power. Mara serves as the president of the board of directors for the foundation.
Mara moved to Los Angeles in early 2007 and lived with her sister temporarily. Although they do not live together anymore, Mara felt that the experience brought them closer together, and as of 2010 were regularly discussing the film business and movie scripts. As of January 2012, Mara lived in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. She includes Gena Rowlands among the actresses who inspire her, especially her performances in A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Opening Night (1977). She is a vegan.
Since late 2016, she has been in a relationship with American actor Joaquin Phoenix, her co-star in Her (2013), Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (2018), and Mary Magdalene (2018). As of September 2017, they reside in the Hollywood Hills with their two dogs, Soda and Oskar. In July 2019, it was confirmed that they are engaged. In May 2020, it was reported that Mara was expecting her first child with Phoenix. In late September 2020, it was announced that Mara had given birth to their son, named River after Phoenix's late brother River Phoenix.
|Denotes productions that have not yet been released|
|2005||Urban Legends: Bloody Mary||Classroom Girl #1||Mary Lambert|
|2008||Dream Boy||Evelyn||James Bolton|
|The Winning Season||Wendy Webber||James C. Strouse|
|Friends (With Benefits)||Tara||Gorman Bechard|
|Youth in Revolt||Taggarty||Miguel Arteta|
|Tanner Hall||Fernanda||Tatiana von Fürstenberg|
|2010||A Nightmare on Elm Street||Nancy Holbrook||Samuel Bayer|
|The Social Network||Erica Albright||David Fincher|
|2011||The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo||Lisbeth Salander|
|2013||Ain't Them Bodies Saints||Ruth Guthrie||David Lowery|
|Side Effects||Emily Taylor||Steven Soderbergh|
|Her||Catherine Klausen||Spike Jonze|
|2014||Trash||Sister Olivia||Stephen Daldry|
|2015||Carol||Therese Belivet||Todd Haynes|
|Pan||Tiger Lily||Joe Wright|
|2016||Kubo and the Two Strings||The Sisters (voice)||Travis Knight|
|Una||Una Spencer||Benedict Andrews|
|The Secret Scripture||Rose||Jim Sheridan|
|2017||The Discovery||Isla||Charlie McDowell|
|A Ghost Story||M||David Lowery|
|Song to Song||Faye||Terrence Malick|
|2018||Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot||Annu||Gus Van Sant|
|Mary Magdalene||Mary Magdalene||Garth Davis|
|2021||Nightmare Alley||Molly Cahill||Guillermo del Toro||Post-production|
|TBA||Women Talking||Sarah Polley||Filming|
|2006||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Jessica DeLay||Episode: "Fat"|
|2007||Women's Murder Club||Alexis Sherman||Episode: "Blind Dates and Bleeding Hearts"|
|2008||The Cleaner||Rebecca Smith||Episode: "Rebecca"|
- List of actors with Academy Award nominations
- List of actors with two or more Academy Award nominations in acting categories
- List of animal rights advocates
- List of vegans
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