By  on April 20, 2007

Passionately devoted to her craft—not the trappings that go along with it—actress Kate Mara is on the verge of breaking through into the ranks of major movie star.

Forget the critics. When it comes to seeking job approval, actress Kate Mara has her own high standards to live up to.

“It’s always flattering when someone says something nice about something you worked really hard on,” says the auburn-haired 24-year-old in her straightforward, matter-of-fact style. “But it’s more important that I feel proud and satisfied with the work I did without having to get approval from a critic or anyone else.”

Ignoring the critics may get increasingly hard for Mara, though. After steadily ascending the ranks of working actresses in Hollywood—over the past two years, she’s been in Brokeback Mountain, co-starred in 24 and received rave reviews for the otherwise tepidly received We Are Marshall—Mara has a full slate of films on deck. Early April saw the release of Shooter, a fast-moving action flick in which she costars with Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg, and she recently wrapped filming on Transsiberian, which costars Sir Ben Kingsley, Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer.

The former is an action film, the latter a dramatic thriller—and the fact that they have relatively little in common is exactly the point for Mara. “I like a challenge, something I haven’t done before,” she says. “Roles that scare you are always the best ones to take, because then you have to do the work and it’s so much more fun. It’s better for me when a role makes me nervous.”

Mara has been acting since the age of nine—although her family tree lends itself more to athletics. Born in Bedford, N.Y., about an hour north of New York City, she is the great-granddaughter of Timothy Mara, founder of the New York Giants, and Art Rooney, founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers. An avid football fan, Mara grew up singing the National Anthem at Giants games—a practice she continues today on opening day and other special occasions.

Though she began acting professionally at 14, she does admit to the occasional bouts of self-doubt when making a film. Take Brokeback Mountain, in which she played the daughter of Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams and was directed by Ang Lee. “The best word to describe him would be peaceful, but he’s also extremely focused,” Mara says of Lee.


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