Rooney Mara’s Evolution With Clues from Cate Blanchett, Todd Haynes – Quendrith Johnson comments

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To hear fellow Oscar-nom, two-time winner Cate Blanchett, gush about her Best Supporting Actress and Carol consort Rooney Mara, is almost as shocking as when Blanchett uses the word “startling” to describe Mara’s acting chops.
Carolhand16Next “The Great Cate,” a woman many Oscar watchers believe will one day match or best Katharine Hepburn in lead wins, cobbles together some descriptive sentences worthy of a literary titan. It’s more of a love letter than an endorsement, in keeping with the forbidden 1950’s women-in-love angle in Carol.

Kiss Me, Cate?

Blanchett is a fresh faced, in shoulder-length blowzy blonde waves. At 46, she looks younger by at least a decade, when she throws down a word so rare, you wonder how many people in the room will actually catch it: “Palimpsest.” As in upstate New York-born Patricia Rooney Mara, 30, part of the Rooney Pittsburgh Steelers football owner dynasty, is akin to “a palimpsest.”  Meaning she’s reminiscent of a manuscript that is written and rewritten upon with traces of the original writing underneath, but translated into performances that are many layered with undertones. Blanchett appears to be channelling her enchanted Elf Queen Galadriel from Lord of the Rings here, but this is actually how she speaks in real life.

When Rooney later describes Blanchett as “when I saw her in Elizabeth at 13, I couldn’t see the acting underneath. I thought ‘is she human?,’” you totally get what she means. The younger Carol star goes on to say “I’ve been a fan of hers since I was 13… so it’s like ‘is this really happening,'” not only getting high praise from an idol but getting to have worked with her in such an “intimate” way.

Words With Friends From The Wonder From Down Under

Cate also uses transitive verb “duchessing” as she speaks via taped message from Australia, without schedule permitting a Stateside visit before flying in for the 88th Academy Award presentation in a little more than two weeks. Award Season “can be a little bit of a revolving door of airports,” she intones, remembering “last time I was getting whipped around in the chaos,” meaning her Blue Jasmine Oscar win.  CateToddSet16Blanchett holds some mysterious Academy Award records, one of which is that she is the first actor ever nominated for playing the same character — Elizabeth I in 1998’s Elizabeth and in 2007’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age; another of which is that she’s only one of three women ever nominated for playing a man, with Carol director Todd Haynes’ other opus, the Bob Dylan-themed I’m Not There.

But the kicker is, again, she’s the only-ever actor/actress, to have won an Oscar for playing another Oscar winner in her turn as Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s Aviator. So when Blanchett says things like “you don’t really play ‘opposite’ Rooney, you play alongside her,” and “the first and most notable thing is her phenomenal range,” you are required to pay close attention.  So listen carefully: Rooney Mara “is startling,” there’s a “startling quality about her,” and “Rooney doesn’t do lying. She does truth. And she does it out of nowhere.” Cate is a straight-shooter, ironically, her father (who died of a heart attack when she was 10 years old) was actually a Texan, in the Navy, and moored in Melbourne when he met the future Mrs. Blanchett.

Enneagram For You from the HER Star

So, is this a big hint then that Rooney could come out of the backstretch and beat heavily favored Swedish darling of the Academy Alicia Vikander? Vikander of The Danish Girl, with the formidable award-spoiler Eddie Redmayne, who just won Best Supporting Actress from SAG in a race predictive of the Oscars? Then there’s Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Hateful Eight), and the other Kate, Winslet, in Steve Jobs. Could it be possible? Maybe they are making up for overlooking her in HER, the incredibly inventive Spike Jones film with Joaquin Phoenix.

Todd Haynes, who shepherded Rooney to Oscar in Carol, hints she could win. “Her unveiling is our unveiling,” Haynes says of character Therese’s journey “from formless aspirant” (read: pixie) to a fully realized young woman on her way. Meanwhile, when Rooney takes a turn to speak for herself, she will unexpectedly launch into the secret world of Enneagrams, revealing the fact that she is a “five with an eight wing.” Aspirant, duchessing enneagram? You can see why these three have such great chemistry, it must be the vocabulary. And Mara is all about the Enneagrams, which “I learned about from David Fincher,” her director from Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the American reboot, and The Social Network. “It’s not a culty thing,” she begins, “David uses it as a tool for casting.” Why? “Because he said, ‘At 3:00 am in the morning, there are just some things you can’t beat out of people with a tire iron.’” Enneagrams are a Briggs-Meyers like personality test which you can read about here. (After taking her recommended test, mine is a seven with a six wing Enneagram, spot on!) Out of the blue, Mara then describes Jesse Eisenberg, her Social Network foil as “fascinating.” She drifts without moving. It’s that Quixotic pixie energy again.

These Kids Are All Right

CateToddRooney16On the red carpet, after a two-on-one treatment from Rooney and Todd, you get the feeling Enneagrams are less important than the steel-plated armor all three of them have on in terms of Award Season. Responding to “Do you think two highly stylized movies like Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan) and Carol represent a trend, a return to fully mature female characters?,” both of them bristle visibly. “I don’t think Carol is even remotely like Brooklyn,” Haynes blurts out, “I mean I did a highly stylized (film), Far From Heaven, with Julianne Moore. This is different.” Rooney has her inscrutable clear-eyed blue stare going, it could probably stop a buffalo herd, it’s that magical, as she slowly speaks. “I mean, they may be from the same time period, but other than that…” And then you go for the pebble-down-the-well question, to see “how deep these still waters run,” as Blanchett said of Mara. It’s about the Oscars coming up, as in “are you scared?”

Rooney breaks off direct eye contact in protest, which is one of her poker tells Haynes reveals. It reminds of a story that came out of Cannes this year. According to reporter Joe McGovern of Entertainment Weekly, who has flown in to interview Rooney Mara for the Cinema Vanguard Award from a film festival she is about to receive, the story goes like this. A juror from Cannes revealed why they tapped Mara for special consideration this year. Paraphrasing, the unnamed juror said, ‘the great ones (movie stars) work in a one-square-foot area, this is what she is doing, and this is why we chose her as Best Actress this year.’ Mara co-won, along with Emmanuelle Bercot, who starred in a French marriage-romp called My King.


Todd Haynes will go so far as to discuss “the language of looking” in film, as he pencils in the transformation of not only Mara’s character in Carol, but of the actress herself. Having at least half a dozen films to her credit, Rooney Mara is just fully evolved it seems.

You Only Get To Fire Rooney Mara Once

Even Cate Blanchett affirms “her phenomenal range.” It makes you think back to how she stabbed Channing Tatum (Hail! Caesar, Magic Mike) to death in 2013’s Side Effects, tortured that rapist as Emo-heroine Lizbeth Salander in Dragon Tattoo, but then goes nubile sylphlike in Carol. It’s kind of disturbing, in a good way. “I once got fired, the only time I got fired.” How? Rooney Mara admits “they told me ‘you have too much inner life.’” She laughs with that perfect set of mini-Chiclet white teeth showing.

Haynes will describe her “surrender” in Carol as our surrender, her “unveiling as our unveiling.” Right now, her sparky laughter is our laughter, as she nails the point home. “Recently I was up for a role which I lost because they said I wasn’t wide-eyed and innocent enough.” This incident happened after Lizbeth’s domanatrix turn in Dragon Tattoo. “This was before Carol came out,” Rooney Mara chuckles. Hopefully she will get the last laugh when the Golden Guy follows her home at the end of the month, but even the UK betting oddsmakers favor Vikander. Stay tuned.

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