Rooney Mara as that scary take charge female in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo may really know how to keep a man in line in the movie, and then some. But when turning up today with co-star and assigned screen lover Daniel Craig, Mara emphasized her tender side, and even surprising reticence. Craig and Mara also shared strong opinions during this gab session, touching on leather trousers, movie to-do lists including smoking up a storm to get into character, and sex scenes that are just too weird to even talk about.
There’s a rumor that you were given a to-do list to prep for this role, what was that all about?
ROONEY MARA: Ha! Uh, yeah. I was told that if I got the part, I would have to become a smoker! And that I would have to sort of go off, and be by myself for a year.
And you know, I’d have to be butt naked! And I’d have to do these horrible rape scenes. And ride a motorcycle. What else is on the list…
RM: No, that wasn’t on the list. That came later! Just stuff like that.
About that list, what was most difficult for you on it?
RM: I couldn’t pick one thing that was the hardest. You know, it was all challenging. But the motorcycle was definitely the thing that I was least excited about doing.
RM: It just seemed very dangerous to me.
Were you really going that fast?
RM: Someone was! But Daniel wouldn’t get on the back!
How do you feel about being a fashion icon now, because there’s a whole clothing line that’s come out, based on the clothes you wear in Dragon Tattoo?
RM: In terms of the clothing line, I think it’s more Salander than me. I wouldn’t call her a fashion icon. But I guess that look doesn’t have to do with me personally.
How about putting on some weight? You’re so thin.
RM: No! But David was constantly trying to feed me on the set!
DANIEL CRAIG: I did that. But more successfully!
Speaking of cigarettes, what’s up with all the smoking going on in Dragon Tattoo?
RM: There’s a lot of smoking in the books. Much more than in the movie.
This film is preceded by three books and a film. So how did you conceive of your character in terms of what others have imagined her to be?
RM: Um, to be honest, I didn’t think much about what other people imagined it to be. I just used what I imagined it to be. I had read all three books, and I had a really clear picture of who this girl was. So no, I didn’t really think much of what other people thought of her.
DC: Exactly. I also feel that, the less you think about what other people think in this industry, the more original you can be. You can’t go into a project thinking, oh how would these people like it. You have to just get on with what you want to be single minded about. You can’t please everybody!
How did you go about exploring your character’s bisexuality?
RM: I guess growing up in NY and LA, it didn’t seem that crazy to me to be a bisexual character! Um, she’s incredibly comfortable with her sexuality. And I would enjoy it the same. It didn’t really faze me. I didn’t really think about it too much.
You’ve said that you weren’t ready to see this movie, has that happened yet?
RM: I haven’t seen it yet!
DC: This is a rare occasion in my career, where we made the movie we set out to make.
Daniel, that contraption you were held hostage in, down in the basement, looked uniquely uncomfortable. What was going on with that?
DC: There was an emergency code word! Just another day working with David Fincher!
RM: How come they didn’t do that for me!
This is a really odd couple. So how did you see them having a relationship?
DC: Um, I think it has a lot to do with honesty, and trust. And they shouldn’t really have a relationship, they come from completely different social classes, and whatever. But I think Salander has never been able to trust anybody, there are few people in her life that are straight with her.
But he is. He comes in, she’s broken the law, she’s hacked into his life. And he walks in and says okay, forget that. And I think you’re great, I’d like to work with you. And I’ll not walk away. And I think that just appeals to her.
RM: Yeah, I agree it’s that. And also I think he’s one of the first people in her life, to ever just appreciate her for the way she is. And he’s one of the first people to treat her with any sort of decency or respect.
Did you think of her as a vigilante like comic book hero?
RM: I hope not! We always wanted to make her very human. So yeah, we never really thought of her that way.
How easy was it for you to leave Lisbeth behind?
RM: I think it was harder to leave the whole experience behind. You work, you know, at a hundred miles per hour for over a year on something. And then you wake up one day, and you have nothing to do. So it’s hard to come out of an experience where you’re incredibly focused and hard working. It’s hard to come off of that.
Was your intimate sex scenes difficult?
Can you elaborate?
DC: No. That would be weird! No, of course not, they’re not difficult. Intimate scenes on a movie set are just dry, bizarre things. There are people standing around. And I don’t make those kind of movies!
Will we see you in the Dragon Tattoo sequels?
DC: I’d love to stay involved.
I recently saw you in Infamous, you do some good singing.
DC: Very debatable!
But getting back to this film, what was it like with all those rumored tons of takes for each scene?
RM: You don’t really think about it after a while. And that’s very exaggerated and dramatized. I think our average take count was much less than that!
DC: [whispers] Forty-five!
RM: No! Maybe for him!
DC: And sometimes you get worse and worse! But when somebody throws a lot of money to do something like this, you’re there to get it right. There are lots of other things to get frustrated about in a work day. And lots of sort of triumphs at the end of the day. So you just, you know, kind of get down about it.
Daniel, what about your character’s old school ways as a reporter, in contrast to Salander’s computer savvy techie?
DC: My character is not as computer literate as she is. He has to go out and bang on people’s doors, and do it the way he knows. It gets him out of the house! Which is good.
Rooney, what’s going on with your Kenya charity, Uweza?
RM: Yeah, I started a charity five or six years ago called Faces of Kibera. And we just recently merged with Uweza. We don’t have these huge, crazy goals, we just have sort of a bunch of little things that make a big difference in a few kids’ lives.
You know, we have a soccer league. And we have after-school tutoring. And we sponsor kids. And we just started a journalism program. So just little things like that. And it’s doing very well. Thank you!
Daniel, about those scary stunts…
DC: The most important thing about this character for me, was to make him as real and believable as possible. And when he gets shot at, he runs away screaming. Like anybody else would! So that was really the key. And easy.
So just to bring that out. And what I love about this character and his relationship with Salander, is that he’s not out to prove he’s a man. He’s just a guy. He doesn’t have to go around beating his chest. And he’s very happy to fall into this relationship, where she’s literally wearing the trousers.
Speaking of clothes, how much of that freaky attire did you get to keep?
DC: She would put a print dress on at the end of each day!
Well did you see people acting differently towards you, when you wore those clothes?
RM: You know, the hair was stuck to my head, so there wasn’t much I could do about that. And the eyebrows remained bleached. And the piercings that I got that were real, obviously stayed in. And obviously, I wasn’t wearing my wardrobe home at night.
I expected people to treat me much differently, but it really didn’t happen. The biggest change that I noticed, is when you look slightly off in that way, people sort of pay less attention to you. And their expectations of you are lowered.
And I didn’t mind that. I actually enjoyed that!