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Rooney Mara honored with Cinema Vanguard Award at the SBIFF

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Rooney Mara honored with Cinema Vanguard Award at the SBIFF

Rooney Mara received the Cinema Vanguard Award at the Arlington Theatre (photo / Susanna Sinclair)

Rooney Mara received the Cinema Vanguard Award at the Arlington Theatre (photo / Susanna Sinclair)

Photo credit: Susanna Sinclair

Rooney Mara received the Cinema Vanguard Award at the Arlington Theatre (photo / Susanna Sinclair)

Photo credit: Susanna Sinclair

Photo credit: Susanna Sinclair

Rooney Mara received the Cinema Vanguard Award at the Arlington Theatre (photo / Susanna Sinclair)

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Actress Rooney Mara, best known for her roles in Academy Award-nominated films “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and  “Carol,” was honored with the Cinema Vanguard Award on Feb. 12 at the Arlington Theatre during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

As Rooney Mara arrived at the Arlington Theatre, a crowd of eager fans awaited behind gates to welcome her. Samantha Sobrevinas, a dedicated fan from San Diego, skipped class to see Mara on the red carpet.

“She’s the next Audrey Hepburn,” said Sobrevinas in a KEYT broadcast. She held a sign that read ‘Rooney Please hack my grade! Ya gurl needs to graduate,’ referencing her role as a hacker in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Arriving early, Mara, accompanied by Todd Haynes, director of “Carol,” split her time between her loyal fans and the press lined along the red carpet.

Rooney Mara responds to interview questions (photo / Maylah Williams)

Maylah Williams
Rooney Mara responds to interview questions

The Cinema Vanguard Award celebrates actors “taking artistic risks and making a significant and unique contribution to film,” according to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival website.

Throughout the award ceremony, clips of her most famous films were shown, such as “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Social Network,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” “Her,” and “Carol.”

Joe McGovern, correspondent for Entertainment Weekly, approached the stage to introduce Mara.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving,” he began. McGovern described Mara as “light, funny, candid, sarcastic.”

He further explained that there is a time and a place in movies and life for questions, and Mara “makes you earn her eye-contact and smile.”

Mara then sat down with McGovern on the stage of the theater for an interview.

As “The Social Network” opening scene was played on the screen, Mara explained that the first scene “may have had 99 takes.”

“One of the easiest [auditions] I had,” said Mara. “I didn’t think I was going to get the part.”

Mara’s most renowned film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” was her following movie.

Mara said she saw the original version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in Sweden with a friend. Her friend laughed at her when Mara mentioned that she was auditioning for the American remake of the film.

Mara’s mother had also read the book the movie was based from a few years before and thought she would be perfect for the lead role as Lisbeth Salander.

“[She] said that I had to play the part, that I was the character, which I thought was kind of weird,” said Mara.

She was still determined to play the lead role and although David Fincher, director of “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” discouraged her from it, she was persistent in auditioning for as the lead in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

“They [other girls auditioning for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”] are not anymore right for it than I am,” said Mara. 

(photo / Maylah Williams)

Maylah Williams
(photo / Maylah Williams)

Her perseverance paid off and she landed herself the role of Salander, a computer hacker who helps solve a 40-year-old murder case.

The dramatic physical transformation Mara experienced included cutting and dying her hair to a pitch black, bleaching her eyebrows, getting piercings, losing weight, and hiring a dialect coach to help her master Salander’s Swedish accent.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Mara. “I started getting into that headspace of that character. I lived in that space for a year.”

In the six-time nominated Oscar film “Carol,” Mara worked alongside Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett about two women falling in love in the 1950s.

Mara said she loved how “naive and innocent” the film was and how it refrained from pushing any political agenda onto the audience.

She said that technology has impacted the connection between others and that there is “no longing” anymore due to the “instant gratification” technology provides us with.

“Everyone wants that instant gratification,” said Mara. “It’s really a romance-killer.”

Mara said she found Blanchett to be “so funny and so human.”

“I think I’ll always be in awe over just how perfectly human she was,” said Mara.

Although Blanchett was unable to attend the event honoring Mara, a video of her was projected onto the screen.

She spoke very highly of Mara and described it being “phenomenally easy” to work with her and how Mara “doesn’t feel the need to fill spaces with chatter.”

“One doesn’t really work opposite Rooney,” said Blanchett. “One works alongside her.”

Upon receiving the award, Mara expressed her gratitude to those who helped her along the way.
“As an actor, I really feel as though I am nothing without my director,” Mara said in her acceptance speech.

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Rooney Mara honored with Cinema Vanguard Award at the SBIFF