Telluride: Rooney Mara Feted As Weinstein Co. Oscar Hopeful 'Carol' Lands Stateside

Rooney Mara Look 2013 - H 2014

Rooney Mara Look 2013 - H 2014

On Friday night, Todd Haynes' Carol, a Weinstein Co. drama about a forbidden lesbian love affair in 1950s America, had its first North American screening at the Telluride Film Festival's Palm Theatre following a festival tribute to one of its two leading ladies, Rooney Mara. (The other, Cate Blanchett, was unable to make it to the fest.) The film had its world premiere back in May at Cannes, where Mara was awarded the fest's best actress prize.

In recent days, many in Telluride muttered that it was premature for Mara — who is just 30 years old, works only sporadically and has been in the business for only a decade — to receive any sort of career recognition. But a fest-prepped reel of her most impressive performances — in 2009's Tanner Hall, 2010's The Social Network, 2011's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and 2013's Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Her and Side Effects — which preceded her introduction, quieted dissenters, as did Carol, in which she plays a shopgirl who falls in love with a beautiful older customer (Blanchett).

During a 20-minute pre-screening Q&A moderated by journalist John Horn, Mara described herself as a "quiet person" who "worships" directors and acts only when the opportunity to work with a great one comes along — she's collaborated twice with David Fincher and once with Steven Soderbergh, Spike Jonze, Todd Haynes and Jim Sheridan — and/or her "self-loathing" dictates she must. Asked about the possibility of her reprising her highest-profile role, Lisbeth Salander, in big screen sequels to Dragon Tattoo, for which she received a best actress nom, she said, "I would love that, but sadly I'm as in the dark as anyone else." She also emphasized that she has no problem with nudity as long as it serves the character ("Everyone has seen me naked multiple times and you're about to see some more"). And she revealed that she watches her films only once, "out of respect for the others" who worked on them.

As Haynes joined her on stage, playfully boasting that it was he who thought of Mara for her part in Carol, Mara shared that what attracted to her to the film was its celebration of "The importance of being true to yourself."

The film itself, which will go into limited release on Nov. 20, was received warmly, if not effusively. Like most of Haynes' works — the most celebrated examples being 2002's Far from Heaven and 2007's I'm Not There — it is about mood and style as much as, if not more than, plot (Sandy Powell's costumes and Carter Burwell's scores are among its strongest elements); revolves almost entirely around matters of sexuality and gender; and features excellent performances.

Haynes, like George Cukor decades ago, is a great "woman's director," and Oscar noms for his films have historically gone to his actresses (Moore for Far From Heaven, Blanchett for I'm Not There), but not his films. I suspect the same outcome is likely for this film, although a best picture nom certainly can't be ruled out in the era of the expanded category. In the meantime, though, keep an eye on Blanchett and Mara: Blanchett is said to be pursuing a supporting actress campaign for the film in order to improve the prospects of her landing a lead nom for Truth, an upcoming film about "Rather-gate" — and to stay out of the way of Mara, who, if Cannes is any indication, has a stronger shot for best actress for Carol.