Rooney Mara Almost Quit Acting After Horrendous On-Set Experience

Rooney Mara says a negative experience during A Nightmare on Elm Street made her consider quitting actor.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

rooney mara

Actress Rooney Mara says that a negative experience on the set of 2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street reboot almost made her leave the profession. In a new episode of the LaunchLeft podcast, the Nightmare Alley star was sparing with details (saying that she needed to “be careful with what I say and how I talk about it”) but revealed the experience made her only want to act if she had a project that she felt she absolutely had to do. Rooney Mara specifically said that “So after making that film, I kind of decided, ‘OK, I’m just not going to act anymore unless it’s something that I feel that way about.”

Rooney Mara starred in the 2010 reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street as Nancy, a reimagined version of the protagonist played by Heather Langenkamp in the 1984 Wes Craven horror film. While the film failed to kickstart a new series of Freddy Krueger films (played by Jackie Earle Haley in the reboot), it grossed $117 million globally, becoming the highest-grossing entry in the entire franchise. However, it does not appear that starring in the Samuel Bayer-directed film was a pleasant experience for Rooney Mara, though she appears to be very cautious in describing what actually happened on set.

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Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Rooney Mara goes on to credit director David Fincher for the direction of her subsequent career. She appeared in a small role in Fincher’s The Social Network the same year as A Nightmare on Elm Street, which led to her auditioning for the lead in his next film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. According to Mara, Fincher was initially against her being cast in the role, but after an audition, became her biggest supporter. Mara says:

David didn’t want to audition me for it because he didn’t think I was right for it based on what I did in The Social Network and I kind of insisted they put me on tape anyway so I did, and then he had to fight really hard for me to get the part because the studio didn’t want me for it. It was a definite real turning point in my life and my career.

Though Rooney Mara was highly acclaimed for her performance as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, she did not return to the role for 2018’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web, being replaced by Claire Foy. Interestingly, both Rooney Mara and Claire Foy are currently starring in the movie Women Talking along with Frances McDormand and Jessie Buckley. 

After The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made Rooney Mara an A-lister, she followed the film with the Steven Soderbergh thriller Side Effects, starring alongside Jude Law, Channing Tatum, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Since then, she has starred in a wide variety of films including the Hugh Jackman fantasy film Pan (for which she received criticism for portraying a traditionally Native American character) and the Spike Jonze science fiction film Her, in which she starred alongside her real-life partner Joaquin Phoenix.

Regardless of how things exactly went down on the set of A Nightmare on Elm Street, it is fortunate for audiences everywhere that Rooney Mara decided to keep acting. It really goes to show the importance of positive experiences in any career field, especially one in which you might not have acclaimed director David Fincher to get your back.