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Martin Sheen

Cate Blanchett

Hugh Jackman

Conan O'Brien

Joaquin Phoenix

Jude Law

Casey Affleck

Georgia King

Daniel Craig

Rooney Mara Biography

Home > Actresses > M > Mara, Rooney > Biography

Birth Name: Rooney Mara
Born: 1985
Birth Place: Bedford, New York, USA

Born in 1985 in Bedford, NY, a suburb of New York City, Mara was a member of a sprawling sports dynasty that started with great-grandfathers Art Rooney, Sr. and Tim Mara, founders of the NFL franchises the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants, respectively, and grandfather Tim Rooney, who ran Yonkers Raceway. Her grandfather was Wellington Mara, one of the most influential owners in the history of professional football, while his son and her father, Timothy Mara, was the vice president of player evaluation for the Giants. Her uncle, John Mara, was also a co-owner of the Giants. But Mara disliked sports during her childhood, which she described as somewhat lonely. Instead, Mara found solace and inspiration in plays and classic movies, a pursuit fostered by her mother, Kathleen Rooney. After her sister, Kate Mara, became an actress, she desired to follow in her footsteps. But an overwhelming fear of failure initially kept her from pursuing it as a career.

Mara completed her primary education at Fox Lane High School, after which she toured South America for four months as part of the Traveling School. Her next stop was Kenya, Africa, which inspired her to launch the Faces of Kibera, a non-profit charity which provided food, shelter and medicine for orphans in the eponymous town, where one million people lived in a one square mile region devastated by poverty and AIDS. Upon her return to the United States, she studied psychology and international social policy at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. While there, Mara flirted with acting in several student films, but a chance audition for a production of "Romeo and Juliet" - for which she was signed up by a friend - led to her win the titular lead, which drastically altered the course of her life.

Initially billed as Tricia Mara, she made her on-camera debut with a bit part in the direct-to-video horror film "Urban Legends: Bloody Mary" (2005), starring sister Kate. A more substantial role came in a grisly 2006 episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) as one of a group of siblings who brutally assault a teenage girl because she was overweight. Mara continued to gravitate toward challenging roles in subsequent television appearances, with turns as a drug-addicted piano prodigy on "The Cleaner" (A&E, 2008-09) and a young mother who drops off her newborn at County General Hospital on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). She simultaneously appeared in independent dramas like "Dream Boy" (2008) and "Dare" (2009), both of which placed her at odds with young men attempting to wrest control over their sexuality. Somewhat lighter in tone was "The Winning Season" (2009), a comedy that cast her as a member of a junior girls' varsity basketball team overseen by a failed former hoops star (Sam Rockwell). The latter two films premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, generating a groundswell of buzz for Mara, who was eventually named one of Filmmaker magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" in 2009.

In an ode to both sides of her family, the actress changed her billing to Rooney Mara and continued to work regularly in independent film, earning her first lead with "Tanner Hall" (2010), a coming-of-age drama about four young boarding school students struggling to navigate their adolescence. The picture, originally conceived as a pilot for the now-defunct UPN network, was met with decidedly negative reviews after screenings at festivals in 2009. Somewhat more successful was "Youth in Revolt" (2009), a comedy with Michael Cera as an introspective young man who pursues a dream girl (Portia Doubleday), while Mara played her promiscuous, goal-oriented roommate. The following year, she made her studio feature debut in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (2010), Samuel Bayer's remake of the 1985 horror classic by Wes Craven. Mara was cast as the film's protagonist, Nancy Holbrook, the target of disfigured killer Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), who seeks revenge from beyond the grave. Though critically panned, the film was a box office success. Mara was set to return to the newly revamped franchise, having agreed to reprise the role in two sequels prior to her filming the first.

Mara's career continued to rise in the months after the release of "Elm Street;" she was cast as the young woman whose breakup with entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg spurred him to create Facebook in David Fincher's "The Social Network" (2010), costarring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake. One year later, she rocketed from well-kept secret to overnight sensation when she was cast in the lead of the American remake of the hit Swedish thriller "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2011). The role of Lisbeth Salander, a psychologically troubled but brilliant computer hacker who aids a journalist (Daniel Craig) in his investigation of a wealthy industrialist family, garnered Mara critical raves even before the film's release. Among the accolades were Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actress.