The race for the Best Actress Oscar is really between Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and Viola Davis for The Help but if there had to be a third contender, I would say it is Rooney Mara. She has gotten the most buzz this Oscar Season for her work in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and went from an unrecognizable name to an established Hollywood player in merely a few months. Last year at this time Rooney Mara was only known as the sweet-faced girl who has that great opening scene in The Social Network. Now she has an Oscar nomination, a slew of high-profile films coming out and every designer in town hoping that she wears them. And she did this by selling her personal transformation that went perfectly hand in hand with her dark film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Last year when The Social Network was making the Oscar campaign rounds, Mara’s name wasn’t even mentioned and now she is the hottest ticket in town. How did she do it? Well, first of all she is a talented girl and she earned this role. She beat out every young, hot actress in Hollywood including Scarlett Johansson and Oscar winner Natalie Portman. But she also realized how huge this role was (best-selling book, film directed by David Fincher) and if she played it correctly she could launch an amazing career. And she has done just that. She has already gotten leads in Steven Soderberg’s Side Effects and Terrence Mallick’s Lawless. Not too bad for a girl who was in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake just a few short years ago. Rooney’s talent was obvious but with so much praise around Swedish actress Noomi Rapache’s portrayal of Lisbeth Sander in the Swedish film versions, Rooney was also going to have to show that she was willing to make a personal transformation. And she went for it full force. She got piercings, tattoos and completely changed her hair. Her new jet black hair and short straight bangs are quite a transformation from the sweet-faced dirty blond with rosy cheeks who starred in Tanner Hall. What is especially interesting is she has kept the look (the hair at least) to remind everyone that she is now a grown-up actress who can pull off high couture fashion, more so than many of her peers. Designer Kevan Hall told The New York Post, “She looks like a runway model, but her appeal is the whole package, as she is incredibly talented and also runs a charity,” he said. “Every designer likes to align themselves with people who are doing wonderful things in their careers.” Isabel Wilkinson of The Daily Beast wrote:
“Since she graced the cover of Vogue in November, one thing has been clear: Rooney Mara is a fashion force. In her public appearances, her aesthetic is dark and edgy, usually a little revealing, and always extremely sleek. It’s a long way from the baby-doll pastels, ruffles, and prints she wore as late as 2009. If Salander were forced to do red carpet appearances, this, surely, is what she would wear. The Prabal Gurung dress Mara wore to the New York premiere had, according to the designer, “a feminine appeal but the overall look showed such strength and depth…much like the character she plays in the film.””
Designers are most excited about what Rooney will wear tonight than other actress which proves she has sold her new personality well, according to The New York Post. “She will most likely have been offered the Earth in exchange for wearing certain designs,” an LA-based fashion insider told The Post. She could well have had offers of up to $500,000, plus a lifetime of free clothes on the table from labels that have big budgets but are lacking in the cool factor they all so desperately want,” the source said. “It might sound like a lot of money, but no advertising campaign will deliver the results that a red-carpet Rooney Mara endorsement can.” But this isn’t just about the fact that Rooney can pull off these looks. This is again a part of the selling of her brand and possibly getting her that Oscar. Wilkinson wrote, ” In a way, Mara seems to be quietly running an Oscar campaign through her fashion. The Academy loves personal transformation (see Charlize Theron in Monster) and ingénues (Ellen Page in Juno). Through her fashion choices, Mara appears to embody her character in a permanent campaign, which could appeal to the Academy’s sensibilities.” Mara is lucky in some ways in that Lisbeth’s look is more easy to integrate into her regular life than Charlize’s murderous character in Monster or Ellen Page’s pregnant teenager. Ellen tried to sell her off-beat, hipsterish persona (similar to Juno) but I guarantee she will not have the career Mara will have.
Though some have criticized Rooney for never looking excited or appearing bubbly when she appears on a red carpet or at an awards show, including Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter, others say the actress is just reserved. Sasha Stone of Awards Daily wrote, “This is her [Mara's] first big starring role, her first up front and center with the public – I think, personally, she’s doing a great job handling it all.” And frankly don’t we have enough bubbly young women in Hollywood? Mara reminds a bit of Kristen Stewart except she is reaching the hype level Stewart has without even completing her film franchise yet. So Rooney may not take home the gold tonight, but this entire awards season has just been a great launching off platform for a long career.