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Rooney Mara Was Scared About Playing Sexual Abuse Victim in ‘Una’

Benedict Andrews has had a long career in Australian and European theater, staging a plethora of Shakespearean works as well as contemporary pieces. Andrews told Variety at the New York premiere of his upcoming film, “Una” — held at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema with an after-party at Hotel Chantelle — about his history with David Harrower’s play “Blackbird,” and why he wanted to adapt it as his directorial debut.

“I directed the play in 2005 in Germany, so I knew the play inside and out. So having that under my belt and having the play in my bones was a great advantage,” he said. “I didn’t want to make just a filmed version of theater. I wanted to open it up to something distinctly cinematic.”

The film follows the titular character (Rooney Mara), who, 15 years after the fact, confronts the man (Ben Mendelsohn) who sexually abused her as a 12-year-old. The play debuted in 2005 — the same year Andrews first directed it — and he says the playwright permitted him to not be too literal or didactic when adapting it for the screen.

“What we wanted to be truthful to is that the play sends people’s moral compass spinning,” he added. “It invites the audience to get comfortable with two characters that it’s quite uncomfortable to get close with.”

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Mendelsohn has developed a reputation for playing antagonists in everything from “Bloodline” to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and told Variety that he wasn’t worried about playing a pedophile. “I’m not confused as to where I end and where the characters begin,” he said, adding that he’s planning on playing a series of more “benign” character soon. “I get that that’s a concern for certain embarrassed actors. It’s not really a concern for me.”

Mara first saw the play 10 years ago with Alison Pill in her role, and unlike her co-star, she was nervous about taking on the character, though she says that’s par for the course. “Everything scares me. I feel that way about every film I do,” she said. “Every time, you feel terrified like you don’t know what you’re doing.”

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