Eye on the Oscars: The Actress - Leading Role: Rooney Mara

Even before Rooney Mara persuaded director David Fincher she was right for the lead in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” she had to convince herself.

“I saw the Swedish film and was impressed and blown away by Noomi Rapace’s performance,” Mara recalls. “I thought it was a great story and an amazing character, but I didn’t come away thinking, ‘Oh, wow, I have to play that part. I would be perfect for it.’ In fact, I wasn’t even sure I would be good.”

Slowly, though, the 26-year-old probably best known for her work in “The Social Network” began to reconsider playing the role of a computer hacker genius investigating the disappearance of a young woman 40 years earlier.

It started with Mara’s reading the trilogy by novelist Stieg Larsson, of which “Dragon Tattoo” was the first.

“I had a much different take on it,” she says. “I really felt quite strongly that I could bring something new to the part and that I really had to play it. I felt like I understood something about the character on a very deep level and I really could relate to her. I just understood her.”

Mara began preparing for the screen test a year before she got the part.

“I went into training,” Mara says of how she readying herself for the role. “I did skateboarding to sort of get the teenage boy walk and a lot of kick boxing. I started the dialect training right away and did some computer training.”

Mara also attended a school for autistic children and a center for sexually abused women, as well as visiting Stockholm.

“It’s such an important part of the story,” she says of the Swedish capital.

During production, Mara says she was greatly influenced by Fincher.

“I can’t imagine doing this without him,” she says. “He knows the story better than anyone and is prepared to answer any question. The reason David and I worked so well together is because I like to investigate every facet of something and understand things fully before I reveal myself. David really allows for that because he also likes to explore everything. He’s just so open and knowledgeable.”

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