Rooney Mara in talks to play Mary Magdalene in a bio-pic: yay or yikes?


I’ve heard people say time and time again that Rooney Mara is extraordinarily beautiful and very, very talented. I just don’t see it. I think she’s pretty, of course, but she always looks/seems so sour and haughty to me that it’s difficult to see anything else. As for her talent… I was thinking about this the other day: Rooney is getting the same scripts as Brie Larson, Margot Robbie, Emma Stone, Dakota Johnson, Emma Watson, Mia Wasikowska, probably Jennifer Lawrence too (I think J-Law sees #AllTheScripts). And in that field… Rooney seems like a difficult actress to cast. Ponder that when you hear this new casting choice: Rooney is in talks with Universal Pictures to play Mary Magdalene. THE Mary Magdalene. In what sounds like a straight-up bio-pic.

Rooney Mara is being pursued for the role and engaged in discussions to play Mary Magdalene in a new biopic from The King’s Speech producer See-Saw Films. The project, backed by Universal Pictures International Productions, was first announced last month and is set to be an “authentic and humanistic portrait” of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history.

Garth Davis — currently in post-production on See-Saw’s Lion, also starring Mara — is directing the film from a script written by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett. Production is set to begin next summer for an anticipated release in 2017.

“Rooney’s raw, brave approach to performances, coupled with her deeply magnetic inner life, holds all the dimensions needed to bring to life one of history’s most misunderstood woman — Mary Magdalene,” said Davis. “Having worked with Rooney on Lion, I know she is a once in a life time talent.”

[From THR]

“Deeply magnetic inner life”??? I don’t understand that reference. Like, is he saying Rooney will be good as Mary Magdalene because she “seems” like a deep, intellectual person? That’s how I’m interpreting it. While I don’t hate the idea of a Mary Magdalene bio-pic, I absolutely loathe the idea of the insipid, dour Rooney in a Biblical epic. This just seems like really odd casting. And while we have no idea what the real Magdalene looked like – in classical artwork, she’s usually portrayed as very fair and light – I’m sure some people are going to take issue with a white American actress playing a Jewish woman in Palestine in this time period. Perhaps we should be grateful that they aren’t casting Blake Lively.



Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet and WENN.

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85 Responses to “Rooney Mara in talks to play Mary Magdalene in a bio-pic: yay or yikes?”

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  1. Amelia says:

    I think I’m in the minority insofar as I really like Rooney and her work, but did no-one approach Natalie Portman?

    • GlimmerBunny says:

      She was probably approached and declined. She was my first casting thought too. But there’s LOTS of other jewish actresses, I don’t think they should have chosen Mara (and I like her as an actress).

      • qwerty says:

        I think I read somewhere a long time ago that Portman is kinda over reading scripts for Jewish characters. Not sure.

        Mara is a great actress.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      I also think she’s stunning and a really good actress. From the actresses mentioned, she’s much more talented than most of them, apart from Brie and maybe Emma Stone.
      Will she be a good Mary Magdalene? We’ll see. It could be interesting.
      I don’t think there was a need to approach a specifically Jewish actress.

    • malvina says:

      I like her too. I find her shyness endearing and I don’t think she’s aloof as other people say.
      I do think she’s a bit stuck up but who wouldn’t be with her upbringing, beauty and talent?
      Sometime I wonder if people who don’t like her is because she is not bubbly and in your face like JLaw and it makes me think that those so called feminists that champion women’s rights and equality are the first ones who bring Rooney down for not being “easy”.

    • cristinel says:

      You’re not in the minority. She is wonderful. No wonder she was highly praised at Cannes, her demeanour, grace, subtlety and elegance are more european or asian to me. American girls with a few exceptions are just too ‘loud’ and lack mystery, everything is out there in the open. Nothing left for the imagination…

  2. savu says:

    I like the idea of Mary Magdalene having such strong bone structure. That is all.

    • Sarah01 says:

      I agree.
      Also I think she’s a good choice as she can still look beautiful with minmal makeup look.
      However if they wanted to be authentic they could have hired a middle eastern actress.

      • Liz says:

        It seems a very odd choice after doing Pan.

      • Johny says:

        Who cares about Pan? What about Carol, her latest incredible performance. She has this quality of being mysterious, fragile but still resolute. And she’s able to express a whole range of emotions without talking or overdoing. That’s why they chose her, not because of her bone structure. Grow up, kids…

  3. Kate says:

    Mary Magdalene was basically from Jordan. She may have had Roman influence bc the Roman Empire had such a far reach back then but that’s as “white” as she would have been. Monica Bellucci played her in Passion of the Christ and I was fine with that bc a Roman woman prob would be appropriate and it’s not like Bellucci is getting cast for regular “white people” roles. (Italian women rarely ever get to just play regular white people….they almost always get stuck having to be “ethnic” but that’s another rant for another day.). But Mara is just totally offensive casting. This role should have gone to a woman of color or, at the very least, an actress of Mediterrean background. It’s white washing.

    • ell says:

      “Italian women rarely ever get to just play regular white people”

      that’s also usually because italians rarely speak english decently and have such strong accents. i’m italian myself but moved to england as a child, and literally nearly no one in my family in italy speaks english as a second language the way germans or scandinavians do.

      i agree it’s whitewashing though. monica bellucci is white, but she has olive skin and dark eyes so while it’s still problematic it could make sense. rooney mara has blue eyes and looks 100% white. she needs to stop taking on these roles.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      Anyone not from Western/Northern Europe doesn’t get to be a regular “white” person.
      As for the accent – most Eastern Europeans can learn to speak Engkih without an accebt yet that doesn’t stop Hollywood from stereotyping them. There’s more to this than just the accent.

      • Nagia says:

        “Anyone not from Western/Northern Europe doesn’t get to be a regular “white” person”
        Can you please explain? Ι’m assuming u are being sarcastic right?

      • Locke Lamora says:

        I meant in movies. In Hollywood movies everyone who isn’t from Western or Northern Europe is pretty much defined as a character by their birhtplace. Like, a character might have a British girlfriend and that’s it. But if he has and Eastern European girlfriend her birthplace is usually a part of the story and she’s a prostitute or a war refugee ( I’m using Eastern European as an example because being from that area so I notice those things the most). I know I’m explaining it horribly.
        Of course people who are not European have it even worse.

    • Leen says:

      Whitewashing continues… you know it would be refreshing to cast a Middle Easterner in a role that is not only historically accurate but it would be a nice change from the constant ‘terrorist’ castings. Whatever, hollywood is completely out of touch.

    • cz says:

      Mara gave one of the best non-apologies for her Pan casting:
      “It wasn’t great, I felt really bad about it,” Mara told PEOPLE at the NYC premiere of Pan on Sunday when asked how she coped with the criticism.

      “It was something that I thought about before I met with Joe,” Mara, 30, told PEOPLE at the film premiere. “When I met with Joe and heard what his plans for it were, it was something I really wanted to be a part of,” she added of her decision to star in Wright’s retelling of J.M. Barrie’s beloved classic Peter Pan, out Oct. 9.

      “But I totally sympathize with why people were upset and feel really bad about it,” she added.

  4. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I find Rooney Mara very homely. I don’t understand how anyone can find her beautiful. Part of it is her styling, part of it is her extreme thinness, part of it is her constant frowny face, I just don’t get it at all.

    • I Choose Me says:

      I think she has great, strong bone structure and pretty eyes. There are pics of her smiling, she has a beautiful dimpled smile, but you’re not likely to find them on here.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        She does have strong bone structure and pretty color eyes, but somehow, to me, they don’t create any beauty. I have seen her smile in interviews, and she looks better, but she reminds me of an old, weathered pioneer woman from Texas. There’s something very weathered and dried up looking about her. I’m not criticizing anyone who finds her pretty. I just can’t see it.

      • Kitten says:

        “she reminds me of an old, weathered pioneer woman from Texas.”

        lol YES! Between this and Vauvert’s description of her as looking like she has a permanent toothache, I think we can all go home now.

      • Original T.C. says:

        I think she is an excellent actress but even with the good bone structure, pale eyes and smiling it just doesn’t add up to beautiful. She just comes across as looking very plain.

        I actually think she would look better if she went back to her regular weight and have full cheeks again like her sister. But after starving herself for Dragon Tattoo she decided to stay thin and sour faced. No problems with others who like her look just not my personal cup of tea.

        Casting someone as pale as her for a Biblical character that was most likely darker makes as much sense as casting her for Tiger Lily. It’s pretty much her White privilege telling her she can play any White or ethnic character SHE wants. And I knew her apology about “not knowing” she would offend people by playing Tiger Lily was B.S. Next: Rooney Mara as Rosa Park.

      • amunet ma'at says:

        @Original T.C.

        I love this comment “Casting someone as pale as her for a Biblical character that was most likely darker makes as much sense as casting her for Tiger Lily. It’s pretty much her White privilege telling her she can play any White or ethnic character SHE wants. ” because it is so spot on. A character/person from that area and region should look completely different, there is no way someone of her bone structure, body type, and skin tone should play someone of biblical historical context. I know there is some debate how “black” people were during those times in those regions, but surely getting a pale woman is still antithesis to what they should do.

    • vauvert says:

      I agree. I think she looks “pinched”, like she’s always suffering from a toothache. I don’t see beauty, she just has a very insufferable air and every quote of hers I have read just reinforced that opinion. I find her miscast mostly because I can’t imagine her playing the part, more than anything else. While I generally have no interest in Biblical stories, this one would have great potential – but if they start with Rooney being cast as Magdalene, forget it.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      She just has that something to me. But then again, I find women like Margot Robbie qute boring looking. Rooney’s style also helps to make her more interesting.

      • Fatou says:

        Both are boring IMHO, but Margo Robbie is much more forgettable looking while Rooney Mara is less generic.

    • Kitten says:

      I am so with you, GNAT. I find her….really really not
      that’s the nicest way that I can say it.
      She also annoys the hell out of me, so there’s that.

    • Holmes says:

      Yep. I’ll freely admit that I have unconventional taste as to whom I usually find attractive, but I can usually at least see why a person would be considered appealing to others. I can’t understand what’s appealing about her at all.

    • tracking says:

      I think she’s beautiful in the way some models are–unconventional, interesting, great cheek bones–but not the “full package” kind of beautiful.

    • Johny says:

      I think she is classically beautiful, beautiful features and bone structure,, big expressive eyes and a nice smile, amazing skin, and a general vibe of ‘nice’.

  5. Esmom says:

    I think she’s lovely but I don’t know about this project. And yes that “deeply magnetic inner life” description/justification is cringeworthy. Really cringeworthy.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Yeah, it’s one of those phrases where the person saying it thinks they’re being all deep and ‘arty’ sounding but everyone else thinks its pretentious, eye-rolling bullshite.

    • INeedANap says:

      I’ve often found that “mysterious” people are just plain old-fashioned boring.

    • CL says:

      Don’t forget, she has described herself as “super self possessed”. Very mysterious!!

  6. Selma says:

    I agree with you Kaiser. JLaw is the first choice for every script/movie

  7. Skyblue says:

    Is she beautiful? I can’t tell. I’ve never seen her smile.

  8. Naya says:

    This girl is extremely pale. Do they plan on buying out a spray tan company because theres no way somebody like this would survive Palestine circa 30 AD.

    • TrixC says:

      I imagine she’s going to be fairly covered up, consistent with how women would have dressed in that period.

  9. BengalCat2000 says:

    She was great in ‘Carol’ but, as Kaiser said, she seems like a strange choice for this.

  10. I Choose Me says:

    I guess I’m one of the few on here who likes Rooney and don’t find her dour or insipid. She’s shy and reserved in person it seems but on film she comes alive and is imo one of the best actresses among her contemporaries.

    No idea what the real Mary Magdalene would have looked like (Has it been established she was a real person?) so I don’t know if it’s whitewashing or not. She’s always been an interesting figure to me though, whether she really existed or not so I’m interested in seeing this film.

  11. Elba says:

    Her eyebrows are to die for… serious girl envy here

  12. lovemesseg says:

    Whitewashing continues.

  13. Chinoiserie says:

    How can this be called a Bio-pic when almost nothing is known of Mary Magdalene? She is barely in the bible and I do not think any information is revealed of her there. The rest that is known of her is bacically just ancient gossip and things that artist have imagined, the way this films screenwriter will.

    • Naya says:

      They’ll probably use the gnostic gospels as a base and then (as with all bio films) apply artistic license.

    • Malificent says:

      Exactly. Anything detailed about her would have to be classified as fiction rather than a bio-pic because it will be totally speculative. The common story that she was a prostitute was created by a bishop more than a thousand years after she lived, so it will be interesting to see if they try to resurrect (pun intended!) that old chestnut.

    • Ethelreda says:

      That’s what I was thinking. She’s basically a mythical character – like someone said above, we don’t know for sure that she even existed. And all we have are a few referencees to her. So I don’t see how it can be a ‘bio-pic’ and in any case, I’m sick of bio-pics. It seems Hollywood can’ think of anything other than bio-pics and franchises. If I never see another one, I’ll be quite happy.

    • ichsi says:

      Exactly. Call it a bible flick if you want to but not a bio pic (then again, why are there so many bible pics as of late? And terrible ones too?) Also why does this pale, tiny thing constantly get cast in roles that should have gone to WOCs?

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Such a good point.

  14. Mia4s says:

    I don’t have anything against her as an actor, but that magazine interview she did with David Fincher creeped me out (sorry, trying to find a link). The “he tells me what to eat”, “muse” thing or whatever. Whether it was genuine or pure PR I found it (and her in that case) really repulsive. I find it hard to watch her now.

    Plus taking on the role of TigerLily tells me she’s not very bright.

  15. Pansy says:

    One of middle-Eastern (or near-Eastern) descent would’ve been nice though. Since that’s historically where Mary was from.
    And in the Christian church, she’s a pretty big deal. She’s mentioned more than some of the apostles and was said to have followed Jesus around (wasn’t a prostitute) and been present at his death. She’s not a minor player, so this should be an interesting retelling.

    • Fatou says:

      I think any actress of Eastern Mediterranean descent would have been a good idea. Not someone so obviously and stereotypically WASP-y.

  16. ShinyGrenade says:

    Biopic? Hum…. They know that lady probably never existed, right? So…. biopic?

    Plus, FFS, why whitewashing?

    If you seen Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies, if it possible to have a successful movie without whitewashing…

  17. serena says:

    This.. after Tiger Lily? Is she dumb or what? Same with the casting directors.. who are the geniuses trying to fool us into believing Mary Magdalene had pale skin and blue eyes? Is this what makes it ‘authentic ‘ ? Oh right, I forgot Jesus was white, blonde and with blue eyes too. Please! I’m not even a religious person or anything, but this makes me so angry, it’s complete BS.

    • Fatou says:

      Agree. She must just not give a damn, despite her earlier platitudes about regretting the whitewashing of Tigerlily.

  18. lila fowler says:

    I can’t believe that Kaiser and I actually agree on something. Count me among those who does not see any beauty or exceptional talent in Rooney Mara. She has a very small, mean mouth and ever since someone pointed out her very asymmetrical face, I haven’t been able to see anything else. She has no acting range — she can only play tortured characters. Put her in a comedy or a romance and she’ll fail. Yeah, I’ve seen Carol and I can see why she’s been losing awards to Winslet and Vikander. WTF at that basic, does-nothing performance? lol

  19. Crumpet says:

    She has a face that is a bit of a blank canvas. I think that is why she does well in movies – she morphs into different looks fairly well, unlike someone like Julia Roberts.

    • Mitchie says:

      If anything ever happened to Tom Hiddleston, she could easily fill the role of Loki. Minus his cheekiness of course.

  20. Hannah says:

    I have nothing against Rooney but they should at least cast a Jewish or middle eastern actress if they want to avoid this whole diversity row.

    • Fatou says:

      I think any actress from or with heritage from any of the Eastern Mediterranean countries, from those in Europe like Greece, Italy and Malta; North Africa (Egypt, Libya, etc.) and the Middle East (Jordan, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, etc.) would have been a good pick.

  21. Breakfast Margaritas says:

    Lately these casting choices have been starkly glaring against the backdrop of #Oscars so white. It’s pretty easy to see how the entertainment industry and history has become whitewashed. I like Rooney as an actress in general though. There’s something about her.

  22. lower-case deb says:

    a biopic of which Mary Magdalene?
    i suppose the Mary who sits to have her portrait painted by sundry Renaissance artists? very pale etc.

  23. Saks says:

    How did Rooney ended up being the go-to actress for other races roles?

    Anyway, I’m more concern about the script. Whether a Christian or not, Mary Magdalene is a very interesting character, she was consider a disciple and called by name in the bible. All that prostitute thing was an invention to weaken her figure and keep her below the male so they could justify in religion the perpetuation of the patriarch model.

  24. kri says:

    Ugh. I find MM to be a very interesting person in the Bible, mostly because very little is known of her. A film might have interested me, but not with her as Mary. I find her off-putting and boring.

  25. TrixC says:

    I think she does a great job of playing slightly awkward or outsider characters, perhaps because she comes across as awkward in person too. I’m not sure about her acting range, but I don’t hate the idea of her in this role. I agree that she is difficult to cast compared to most of the other actresses mentioned in the post.

  26. Jasmine Warfield says:

    Lol. That’s all I got for this story

  27. Mitchie says:

    Was Mary Magdalene allergic to smiles too?

  28. CK says:

    They’re not even trying anymore.

  29. tracking says:

    Holy temperamental miscasting! The thought of this aloof woman playing a character who should embody the full range of carnal (converted) to spiritual passion? Um, no.

    • SOCHAN says:

      Agreed. The actress should be Jewish, middle eastern, older, and capable of accessing a wide range of emotions on many levels.

  30. TreadStyle says:

    I just don’t get the hype about her at all. The only movie I thought she was good in was dragon tattoo and that’s bc she fit that role (for better or worse). Everything else I’ve seen her in I’ve been completely unimpressed. And I don’t think she’s pretty but I think she could be if she wanted to. Her severe look and quietness in real life is how she appears in all her roles as well. It just baffles me. The other Mara seems to have a much broader acting range and more personality (in my opinion).

  31. manta says:

    If Barbara Hershey, also a white american actress not exactly known for having mediterrranean or middle eastern origins could do it, why not her? Sure, it won’t be accurate on a historic level, but I’ve never expected Tinseltown or any film industry from any country to be my source of information, especially about a book which is NOT history.

  32. PennyLane says:

    Does hiring an elf count as proving your commitment to diversity?

  33. Lrm says:

    Okay well Sicily and other areas in southern med have blonde and light eyed and light skinned folks too. Lots of historical co-mingling as it were,also mentioned as far back as Phoeniciaa as well as Carthage etc. As someone else mentioned, the mythic nature of this character is more central to most than race or ethnic background. Also Mary magdalen isn’t talked about much or talked well of, LOL, at least in the Catholic church. She is referenced but not revered. So mythic fits the storyline IMHO

  34. QQ says:

    wait she is playing THEEE Mary Magdalene??

    J/k idgaf, she’ll be the saddest sourest looking prostitute in all of Bethlehem

    • Sarah01 says:


      But I can just say historically speaking she was not a prositute she was branded by an oversexed Catholic Pope ( can’t remember his name off the top of my head) as a prostitute. He felt women were to blame for his sexual desires and they entice men towards evil and wanted to destroy female empowerment.

      I hope they depict her as she was and not who she was made to become.

  35. SOCHAN says:

    More whitewashing.

    The actress should be be not only Jewish, but middle eastern.

  36. Knitnwine says:

    QQ – you are the best.

    This chick. All this talk in the comments about her cheekbones and bone structure – um, no, she’s just deliberately underweight. Gaunt makes any of us look like we have cheekbones.

    And the whitest wasp looking teenage boys shaped woman to play a middle eastern Jewish woman? Just stop already.