Updated on June 5, 2017 at 3:34 PM
Posted on June 5, 2017 at 3:04 PM
Kate Mara makes for a surprising Marine in ‘Megan Leavey'(BLEECKER STREET)
By Stephen Whitty
If there’s such a thing as football royalty, Kate Mara is a princess.
Her father’s family, the Maras, founded the New York Giants. Her mother’s family, the Rooneys, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But while she’s still a fervent fan, Kate, 34, eventually found she preferred movie sets to locker rooms. And since she’s been a teenager, she’s been building a body of work that ranges from a cheerleader in “We Are Marshall” to the ill-fated reporter Zoe Barnes on TV’s “House of Cards.” (And yes, it runs in the family — that’s her sister Rooney in “Carol” and “The Social Network.”)
Kate’s latest film, the based-on-fact “Megan Leavey,” is about a fresh young Marine and her bomb-sniffing dog, Rex. And while it’s the actress’ current fave, she also took time recently to talk about “House of Cards,” producing her first film, why she’ll never regret making “Fantastic Four” and, yes, football.
Q: One thing I liked about “Megan Leavey” is that both Megan and Rex have been kind of written off by people. They’re each other’s last best chance.
A: Yeah, I think that’s exactly what happened. They were both outcasts in a bit of a way and I think that’s why they both sort of connected so intensely, and she probably saw some of herself weirdly in his spirit. They needed each other, and they helped each other.
Q: Megan’s someone who’s definitely been underestimated, even by herself. Which I something I see in a lot of your characters, in “Stone of Destiny,” in “Captive,” even Zoe on “House of Cards” – they are often people who turn out to be a lot stronger than they appear, or than they even know.
A: I think it’s much more interesting and satisfying as an actor to find characters who aren’t fully aware of what their potential is, so you can go on that journey with them. Playing that, to me – that’s just much more challenging than playing someone who’s already got it all and knows who they are. We’re all constantly growing, constantly figuring it out, and I think that’s relatable in a lot of ways.
Q: Is that anything you ever had to face? Have you had to fight to have people take you seriously as a person, or for certain roles?
A: This role, I didn’t have to fight for. The producers just knew that they wanted me to play her, so I lucked out. But sure, I’ve had to fight for other things in my career, and I can relate to that aspect of these characters’ lives. I think almost everyone can. Most of us have had to push back and prove ourselves at some point.
Q: Did you have to push yourself to prepare for playing a Marine?
A: I had already been doing physical training, but I did more of that, and I had a sergeant major who taught me the basics of being a Marine – what you’d have learned in boot camp, how you’d react in a situation. And I had training with the dogs as well.
Q: Which was probably a lot more fun. You’re a dog person, aren’t you?
A: Yeah, I’ve had two Boston terriers for 14, 15 years now. But I’m an animal lover in general, and definitely an animal activist. I work for the Humane Society – who are amazing — in a lot of different ways, and sort of do everything I can to try and make a difference, and give these creatures a voice. There are a lot of things that need to be improved in the world… I mean, these dogs that go into war for us, they come home with a lot of the same problems our human vets come home with, including PTSD. Hopefully films like this will keep the conversation going, remind people that these animals need to be cared for, too.
Q: You’ve been in movies like “The Martian,” projects like “House of Cards,” that ended up being huge. Can you feel, even as you’re doing it, that something special is coming together? Or are you as surprised as anyone else when they succeed?
A: You really just never know. I mean, “House of Cards,” right from the start, you had a strong feeling that it would work out – you had (director) David Fincher, all these amazing actors, you had a pretty good feeling it was all going to work out well. But it’s quite hard to tell and I’ve been doing this a long time. You’re working on something, you’re sure it’s going to be amazing – and then it’s not.
Q: Like “Fantastic Four”? That had a solid cast, it’s based on a popular comic – and it just didn’t connect with audiences at all.
A: That’s putting it nicely! That movie was a massive failure. But I loved the cast – I must, because I’m marrying Jamie Bell.
Q: So you can’t complain.
A: Oh, no, you can still complain! We all worked really hard on it, and it didn’t work and it was a huge disappointment. But I wouldn’t regret it even if I weren’t marrying my co-star. I think you learn something from every project you do. And sometimes you learn more from the ones that don’t work out.
Q: You’re moving into producing now with “Mercy,” the project you did with Ellen Page. Do you think that’s a smart thing for performers, looking for their own material to produce?
A: I don’t know if it’s really smart; there are a lot of successful actors who never do it. But Ellen and I found this script and wanted to put it together ourselves, and act in it together and make it ourselves. Sometimes it’s just easier to get the roles you want and tell the stories you want to tell if you just take control.
Q: What kind of story will “Chappaquiddick” tell? You’re playing Mary Jo Kopechne in that and I suppose it would be easy to portray her as just a victim.
A: Right, so the decision from the start was that we weren’t going to do that. The writer and director made really sure to work on that, and I was adamant about it, too – to show the importance of who she actually was and the work that she put into her life. She was an amazing person — very, very, very smart and very involved in politics. I haven’t seen the film yet – it should be coming out in the fall – but she was a real person who had a lot going on and a lot to offer and hopefully the movie will show all that. But I’m getting the signal now that we just have time for one more question.
Q: OK. Are the Giants going to the Super Bowl?
A: I wish I had the answer. I don’t know, but I certainly hope so. Absolutely nothing would make me happier. And last question!