Two-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara turns 32 today. A descendant of the founders of two NFL teams—New York Giants founder Tim Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr.—she began acting while studying at NYU, playing a bit part in a film starring her older sister Kate Mara. Early in her career she was billed as Tricia Mara (her full name is Patricia Rooney Mara), but she began using Rooney Mara as her screen name around 2009. She began to be noticed in supporting roles in Youth in Revolt and The Social Network.
Her big breakthrough was being cast as Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. While the film was not a big success financially, Mara was a success as Lisbeth, receiving Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. In the next few years she appeared in a variety of projects, such as Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects and Spike Jonze’s Her. In 2015 she starred opposite Cate Blanchett, in the role of Therese Belivet in Carol.
The supporting actor and actress Oscars were not given out by the Academy for the first eight years of the existence of the yearly film awards. Only lead actors were apparently deemed worthy of such plaudits at first. Is it any wonder supporting performers so often feel so undervalued?
It doesn’t help that two of this year’s five nominees for Best Supporting Actress are clear examples of “Category Fraud.” Both Alicia Vikander of The Danish Girl and Rooney Mara of Carol are undoubtedly actresses who played leads who are slumming in the supporting category in hopes of a win against competitors with less screen time. Of course, this isn’t really the actual actress’ decision in most cases, but the decision of somebody at the studio who is promoting the film and its artists for awards. Should there be some sort of objective criteria to identify what makes a lead performance? Maybe. But how? By billing? That backfired on Robert Shaw on The Sting. Number of lines? That could negatively effect a lead in a quiet film with little dialogue. Total time on screen or percentage of time on screen? Okay, but what if a character dies early in the story and their body hangs out in the background the rest of the way? Maybe a committee independent of the studios? Ugh-the committee hasn’t even been named yet and it’s already corrupt. I don’t really have the solution right now, but boy something should be done. It’s been a problem for a long time.
Okay so, with that out of the way, let’s take a quick look at each of the actresses in the Supporting Actress category this time around. You’ll find them listed in the order that the awards obsessives rank them based on their likelihood of winning.