Rooney Mara Almost Quit Acting After ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ Remake, Says David Fincher Saved Her Career

It’s been a good two years for Rooney Mara. The Oscar nominee has received strong reviews for her back-to-back appearances in Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” and Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking,” but those films were preceded by a multi-year hiatus from acting. Fans of the actress have had to make peace with her sporadic work habits, given that she has become famously selective about the roles she’s willing to take.

In a new appearance on the LaunchLeft podcast, Mara explained that her selectivity is partially a result of an unpleasant on-set experience in the late 2000s that almost led her to quit acting.

“A few years before [‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’], I had done a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ remake, which was not a good experience,” Mara said. “I have to be careful with what I say and how I talk about it. It wasn’t the best experience making it and I kind of got to this place, that I still live in, that I don’t want to act unless I’m doing stuff that I feel like I have to do. So after making that film, I kind of decided, ‘OK, I’m just not going to act anymore unless it’s something that I feel that way about.’”

But that changed when she had the opportunity to play a small role in David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” a collaboration that paved the way for her to headline his next film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

“I got an audition for ‘The Social Network,’ which was a small part but it was an amazing scene, and then I didn’t work again from that until I think ‘Dragon Tattoo,’” she said. “David didn’t want to audition me for it because he didn’t think I was right for it based on what I did in ‘The Social Network’ and I kind of insisted they put me on tape anyway so I did, and then he had to fight really hard for me to get the part because the studio didn’t want me for it. It was a definite real turning point in my life and my career.”

Mara says the experience of working with Fincher in a larger capacity on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” gave her a new perspective about acting, and she now prioritizes working with directors who will treat her with a similar level of respect.

“I worked on it for a year straight,” she said. “David really took me under his wing. He became my mentor in a lot of ways. He took such great care to make sure that I knew that I had a voice and that my opinion meant something. He constantly was empowering me, which I think really affected the rest of my choices thereafter.”

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