How did Rooney Mara get the part of Lisbeth Salander in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

In a recent and very extensive  interview with Vogue Magazine, Rooney Mara and The Social Network director David Fincher shared how the actress landed the role of Lisbeth Salander in one of the most anticipated  movies of the year, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

In what appears to be a teacher and his mentor relationship, the two detail a young Mara jumping through hoops, a night of ordered drunkenness, and an inevitable change in the actress’ acting path ahead.

With some big name female leads initially on the list, Fincher appears to have had numerous challenges and some heartache over securing the right performer for the complex role of Salander.

“I had seen a lot of actresses,” he said. “I was beginning to get to the point where I was thinking, Maybe conceptually you are talking about a person who doesn’t exist.” One day his casting director said, “What about Rooney?” He resisted at first. “I believe in casting people whose core—that essential personality you can’t beat out of them with a tire iron—has to work for the character.” He needed someone who was dissociated, antisocial—the exact opposite of Erica Albright. But when he saw Mara’s audition, he was “struck by how different it was from what I felt I already knew about her.”  

During the interview, Mara also recalled having to get drunk in order to reassure Sony she had what it takes to play the part, looking strung out for a mini photo shoot the next day.  “And so began an agonizing period for Mara.  It was like, Come in. We need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ That’s all I thought about and all I did for weeks.”  Bringing up the time when Fincher said, “Go out and get really, really drunk and come in the next morning so we can take pictures of you.” He wanted to show Sony that she could look strung out. “And I did it!”  Adding, [I] “threw up all night!”

Meanwhile, Fincher was running the gambit when it came to finding the right leading lady for the role, looking everywhere before realizing Mara was the girl for the highly coveted role.  “We flew in people from New Zealand and Swaziland and all over the place.  Look, we saw some amazing people. Scarlett Johansson was great. It was a great audition, I’m telling you. But the thing with Scarlett is, you can’t wait for her to take her clothes off.” He stops for a moment. “I keep trying to explain this. Salander should be like E.T. If you put E.T. dolls out before anyone had seen the movie, they would say, ‘What is this little squishy thing?’ Well, you know what? When he hides under the table and he grabs the Reese’s Pieces, you love him! It has to be like that.”  Sharing “there were all these different versions of Salander, but the one that had the most layers was Rooney’s. I kept coming back to this.  I thought, This is the person to follow.”

After searching high and low, Rooney would ultimately take the cake, with a seemingly nervous Fincher prepping the actress for a different life ahead in the world of acting. “I said, ‘I need you to come in so I can get a photograph of you on a motorcycle.’ ” Mara was annoyed. “I was ready to throw down,” she says. “I was thinking, You either think I can be this girl or you don’t, but I need to move on with my life. He sat me down and gave me this long spiel about all the bad things that are going to come to whoever plays this part. He said something like, Vivien Leigh was incredible in A Streetcar Named Desire, but she will always be Scarlett O’Hara, and you need to be prepared for that.’ ”

Attending college, Mara recounts how she landed one of her first roles in Law and Order where she explained she played a girl that “hates fat people, and you find out in the end she used to be obese herself. It’s just too embarrassing.”  After graduating, Mara relocated to L.A. soon after, landing a role in the 2010 installment of Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, a part she says she “hated.”  “It left me thinking, If this is what is available to me, then I don’t necessarily want to be an actress. And then I got the script for The Social Network.

With The Social Network now behind her, the break out actress has already braced herself for what’s to come when Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finally hits theaters on   . “Where do I go from here?  I’ve been trying to really live in the moment because I will never get this part of it back. As soon as the movie comes out, everyone will turn it into what they believe it is, so I’ve really been trying to appreciate every minute of now. Because I know what’s coming.  That kind of fame is not something I ever wanted for myself,” she says. “It just so happens that this huge, gigantic monster of a film came around that also happens to have the most incredible character that I ever could have dreamed up. But my fear with a movie like this is the kind of exposure you get from it. I think that can be death to an actor. The more people know about you, the less they can project who you are supposed to be. It’s unfortunate that you really only get one shot at that. After this, I won’t be able to be that girl again.”

Watch the latest trailer for Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara below.  The movie will hit theaters on December 21st 2011.

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