Rooney Mara Scores
A Touchdown In "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
By Beverly Cohn
ooney Mara was born into sports "royalty." She is
the daughter of Timothy Christopher Mara, executive of the New
York Giants football team, and Kathleen McNulty, granddaughter
of Art Rooney, Sr., founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mara got her first lead role in "A
Nightmare on Elm Street," followed by playing the girlfriend
of Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network."
However, her major break-out role was playing Lisbeth Salander
in the American version of "The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo" which is the first film of a trilogy. Her work in that
film brought her a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination.
She also had the female lead playing opposite Channing Tatum
in "Side Effects," which dealt with the dangers of
psychotropic drugs. The cast included Jude Law and Catherine
Rooney Mara received accolades for her performance
in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Courtesy
Mara recently sat down with a group of select
journalists to discuss one of her latest films, "Ain't Them
Bodies Saints," a story about a young outlaw couple in Texas
in the 1970s. Written and directed by David Lowery, the
film co-stars Casey Affleck, with a supporting cast including
Keith Carradine and Ben Foster who plays a local sheriff
who creates a complicated love triangle. The film received the U.S.
Dramatic Cinematography Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
The following has been edited for content and continuity.
Rooney Mara as Ruth and Casey Affleck as Bob in
David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." Photo
Courtesy of IFC Films.
What attracted you to the script?
Mara: I loved the whole world. I loved where it took
place and the time period in which it took place. I really loved the
roots the stuff that you don't see in the film. I felt like the
whole script was very poetic. It felt like a folk song. Then, when I
met David (Director David Lowery) and I saw "Pioneer,"
his short film, I had this feeling that he was going to make something
special and I wanted to be a part of it.
How would you describe your character?
Mara: I think Ruth, in the parts that come before the
film starts, (back story) had to kind of grow up fast and is
sort of caught in between the nostalgia of wanting to go back to her
old life and also being a mom and being protective. She's caught in
between two love stories the love story with Bob (Casey
Affleck) and the love story with her daughter and she has to
choose one, which is a very difficult choice to make.
Where did you shoot film and was it a pleasant
Mara: We shot the film in Louisiana in August
and it was 105 degrees every day. There's really not a whole
lot to do there, but I just kind of loved how easy and simple it was
and loved being there and would love to go back to shoot another movie.
I don't think most people would say that but there's something about
it that I loved.
Were you able to walk around without being recognized?
Mara: I can walk around anywhere. It doesn't happen
very often that people recognize me, but it has been happening more
often recently, but not really that much. It happens the most in New
York. Like I said, hardly ever. Maybe people do recognize me but
maybe I'm not very approachable.
This story takes place in a very rural area. Did
you find it easy or difficult to immerse yourself in that world?
Mara: It's not really a whole different culture. I'm
an American and grew up here. It's very different from having
to play someone from a completely different country. That is truly a
different culture. Even though the setting is very different from growing
up in New York, it felt very familiar to me and it didn't feel
like a totally different culture. We've grown up hearing similar accents
and watching westerns and very similar stories to this one so it didn't
feel that foreign to me.
Ruth and Bob struggle with their past and what to
do with their future.
Photo Courtesy of IFC Films.
We meet you and Casey's character as a very loving
couple and while certainly not like Bonnie & Clyde, we see almost
no traces of their outlaw pasts. Was that directorial?
Mara: It was how it was written. It's sort of a more
realistic version of this kind of story. I don't think they consider
themselves outlaws. They're just kind of kids who get in over their
heads, but I don't think they're trying to be outlaws.
Is it advantage or disadvantage to work with the
Mara: I've done it a few times. It's different because
they have a different perspective on the script and sometimes it can
be really helpful and sometimes it could also be a hindrance because
maybe they're too close to it and don't know if something isn't working.
It could go either way. Working with David is fantastic because
he's not precious about anything and would have dropped anything if
you gave him a good enough argument and would come up with something
right on the spot. The way he wrote the script, like I said, was so
poetic and very musical. I think a lot of the dialogue and monologues
have kind of a musical quality and he wanted the film to feel like a
folk song and I think that's definitely what the script read like. We
made a lot of last minute changes so it obviously was great having the
writer right there.
Ruth (Rooney Mara) reads a letter from Bob (Casey
Affleck) outlining his plan for them to reunite. Photo
Courtesy of IFC Films.
A lot of the scenes were dialogue heavy. Does
that satisfy you as an actor?
Mara: It would but I feel like Ruth had the least
amount of dialogue of any of the characters. We added stuff while we
were shooting but I think Ruth is actually a pretty quiet character.
I was always trying get a little more fire in there for her. I didn't
want her to just be this sympathetic mother who is protective. I wanted
her to be more rounded than that.
You and Casey's character did bad things. Why
do you think they're sympathetic characters?
Mara: Casey (Bob) makes the point that
he's never really hurt anyone. My character is the one who did something
bad in the beginning and I don't think she did it with ill intentions.
Like I said, they're just kids. I don't think they had any idea what
it means to shoot someone or the power behind a gun. There's no ill
will behind what they're doing. They're just get caught up. I think
they're just kind of naïve. Bob actually goes to prison
and he hadn't killed anyone ever.
What do you like about Casey as an actor?
A very different look from the character she
played in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Courtesy
Mara: Casey as an actor? You know, I really didn't
know him at all before this. He shot all of his stuff first and then
I came to Shreveport and we shot our stuff together and then
I shot my stuff alone and he went off. So, I think our first day shooting
together we shot one of the opening scenes in the car. He has this long,
beautiful monologue about our future. I had read the script so many
times at that point and loved that monologue and when we did it together,
I never imagined the way he was going to do it, which is very rare.
Usually you can imagine how an actor is going to do something, especially
if you've read it many times. It was so alive and in the moment and
that's what it was like working with him. He's a fantastic actor.
When you're not working, what do you do with your
Mara: I like to read a lot. I don't spend that much
time not working, but I'm not working now and I haven't really been
doing anything. I like to walk around different cities. I like to travel
a lot. My charity takes up a lot of time.
Rooney Mara with one of the children from
the slums of East Africa. Courtesy photo.
What is the name of your charity?
Mara: It's called Uweza. It's sort of like the
Boys & Girls Club of America. It's in Kibera in Kenya
and is one of the largest slums in East Africa. We have a lot
of enrichment after-school programs. (It also provides housing, food,
and medical care for orphans.)
Did your family support your decision to become
Mara: Yes. Well, my older sister is an actress (Kate
Mara) and she started acting before I did so they were use to
it. They were very supportive of her and very supportive of me.