“I actually passed on it the first time,” admits Rooney Mara about the role in “Carol” that we are predicting will win her an Oscar. She made this shocking revelation at a recent academy screening of Todd Haynes‘ film in which she plays Therese Belivet, a young shopgirl who falls in love with Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), an older married woman in 1952 New York City. As she explains, “Cate was attached to it at that point. But I had just kind of worked and worked and worked non-stop and I had nothing left to give of myself that I didn’t think I’d be any good in it, so I passed on it.” (Take a listen to the whole of this fascinating conversation below.)
But a delay in development meant Mara got a second chance. “Luckily about a year or more later it came back to me and I hadn’t worked in a year and I was really hungry to work and at that point Todd was attached to it and I couldn’t believe that I’d ever passed on it.”
Mara, who won Best Actress at this year’s Cannes filmfest, gives much of the credit for her performance to her co-star: “Therese is very much a reactive character. Much of what I do is in reaction to Carol and you can’t really ask for a better thing to be reacting to than Cate Blanchett.”
The actress was joined at the Q&A by Phyllis Nagy, a two-time Emmy nominee who adapted Patricia Highsmith‘s semi-autobiographical 1952 novel “The Price of Salt,” which was originally published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. While Nagy says she usually doesn’t write parts with certain performers in this, she admits she couldn’t help it this time around: “The model for Therese in my mind was really the young Pat Highsmith; it is her alter-ego, so that was very easy for me to write.” And, she adds, “the thought for Carol I had in mind specifically was the Grace Kelly of ‘Rear Window’ and that’s exactly the model that I tried to use to write that role.”
Below: Listen to the rest of their candid conversation and then make your Oscar predictions beginning with Best Supporting Actress.
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Photo: Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in “Carol.” Credit: The Weinstein Company