Rooney Mara on the film that threw a wrench in her best-laid plans.

ELLE (Canada) - - Radar -

In 2015, Rooney Mara was turn­ing 30, and she had a plan: She was mov­ing house, and then she was go­ing to take a break from mak­ing movies and spend her birth­day in In­dia, a coun­try she has al­ways wanted to visit. What she (“adamantly!”) was not go­ing to do was work, which is why she re­ally only read the script for Lion, out now, as a favour. “It was so beau­ti­ful, and such an in­cred­i­ble story, and I was like, ‘I’m still not do­ing it, but at least I’ll speak to Garth [Davis, the direc­tor],’” she ex­plains. “Af­ter five min­utes with him, I was like, ‘I’m def­i­nitely do­ing this.’ I’m so happy I did.”

The story that grabbed Mara is this: Lion is based on the true tale of a boy named Sa­roo, who wan­ders from his home vil­lage in In­dia, loses touch with his fam­ily, is adopted by an Aus­tralian cou­ple and even­tu­ally, as an adult, tracks down his birth mother us­ing Google Maps. The role Mara fell for (and about which she made a joke that it was “an ac­tual sup­port­ing role,” in ref­er­ence to the con­tro­versy about her Oscar nom­i­na­tion last year, when her main-char­ac­ter role in Carol made the Best Sup­port­ing Actress short list) is that of Lucy, the girl­friend of the adult Sa­roo (played by “When did he get so hot?” Dev Pa­tel).

Eigh­teen months af­ter Mara’s de­ci­sion to aban­don her big birth­day sab­bat­i­cal, we’re with the Amer­i­can actress in a Toronto ho­tel room. It’s a few days af­ter the film’s premiere at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (TIFF). While Mara seemed aloof and a lit­tle un­com­fort­able walk­ing the red car­pet, to­day she’s con­fi­dent and clever (and dev­as­tat­ingly cool, with her hair slicked back in a bun). The only in­di­ca­tion this whole movie-star lark might not be en­tirely her thing is her ner­vous fid­get­ing with a sil­ver ring, which she puts on and takes off on a loop dur­ing our chat. (Later, she con­fesses to a dis­com­fort with red car­pets in par­tic­u­lar: “The first year at TIFF no one knew who I was, so no one was look­ing at me on the red car­pet. I still feel un­com­fort­able but in a much dif­fer­ent way. Now, the fear is more ‘real’—peo­ple are ac­tu­ally look­ing at me and judg­ing me so it’s a ra­tio­nal fear.”)

Mara is a thought­ful and con­sid­ered ques­tion an­swerer. When asked whether she be­lieves that fate guides her life, she thinks for a mo­ment. “It’s weird be­cause I have two dis­tinct sides: One is very log­i­cal and grounded, and the other is very much in fairy­land,” she says. “I be­lieve in des­tiny, in a way, but I also be­lieve in free will and that we are the mas­ters of our own fate. But I be­lieve there is some pull that the uni­verse has in where we are sup­posed to be and what we are sup­posed to be do­ing.”And then she laughs: “I don’t want to sound kooky, though! I am an in­tu­itive per­son, and that’s how I make my de­ci­sions. Ev­ery time I don’t fol­low that feel­ing, it leads me to the wrong thing or some­thing that doesn’t turn out good.”

And maybe it’s that ex­pe­ri­ence that leads Mara to give a pre-emp­tive “No!” when the idea of ever be­ing in a rom­com comes up, or be­ing in a movie about foot­ball, given her fam­ily’s in­volve­ment in the sport. (The Maras are part own­ers of the New York Gi­ants.) “I love sports movies; I love an un­der­dog story,” she says. “But I would stay away from be­ing in one be­cause [be­ing in­ter­viewed] would be very painful for me be­cause that’s all peo­ple would want to know about.”

In Lion, Lucy knows Sa­roo when he is liv­ing in Aus­tralia—which means, iron­i­cally, that Mara was one of the few ac­tors work­ing on the film who didn’t get to shoot in In­dia. “I still haven’t been there!” she says. “But I’m go­ing to go next year dur­ing my time off.” Un­less the uni­verse has other plans—right, Rooney?

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