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Rooney Mara Has One Reason She Loves Working With Guillermo Del Toro - Exclusive

Over the years, director Guillermo del Toro has assembled a small group of actors with whom he's worked many times. Chief among those is Ron Perlman, who starred in del Toro's very first feature, 1993's "Cronos," and has subsequently appeared in "Blade II" (2002), "Hellboy" (2004), "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008), "Pacific Rim" (2013) and the director's latest, "Nightmare Alley" (2021).

Like Perlman, Doug Jones has been a reliable go-to for del Toro as well, often playing creatures like Abe Sapien in the "Hellboy" movies, the Faun and Pale Man in 2006's "Pan's Labyrinth," and the Amphibian Man in the director's 2017 Best Picture winner, "The Shape of Water." Meanwhile, "Nightmare Alley" is the second del Toro entry for acclaimed character actor Richard Jenkins, whose work in "The Shape of Water" earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Del Toro also brings in new collaborators all the time for his films, and one of those is Rooney Mara, who plays the innocent carnival performer Molly Cahill in "Nightmare Alley." Molly has led a sheltered, protected life inside the carnival, with her fellow performers acting as a surrogate family. This changes when she falls in love with new employee Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), who pulls Molly into his scheme to take an old mentalist act and use it to fleece wealthy patrons.

Mara's already sparkling career includes the lead role of Lisbeth Salander in the English-language version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," plus featured appearances in movies like "Her," "Side Effects," "Lion," "The Social Network," and "A Ghost Story."

Looper spoke with Mara about working with del Toro for the first time and she was effusive in her praise for the director, calling the experience "very unique" and "special."

Guillermo del Toro's passion is contagious

After appearing in a Guillermo del Toro film for the first time, Looper asked star Rooney Mara what it was like to work on a production helmed by the famous director.

"Working with Guillermo is such a genuine pleasure," she says enthusiastically. "He is so passionate about what he does and he's so knowledgeable about cinema, and also the story that he's trying to tell. He's just so excited to be there and he loves his characters so much. He loves all of his monsters and his props, and he's so involved in every single minute detail of the filmmaking."

While del Toro's complete immersion in every aspect of the movie he's making may lead one to think he's something of a control freak, Mara says that nothing could be further from the truth. "At the same time, he's totally open and collaborative and excited to discover something that he hadn't thought of or wasn't expecting," she says. "It was a very, very unique, special experience working with him."

It's been almost exactly four years between the release of del Toro's last picture, "The Shape of Water," and his most recent one, "Nightmare Alley," and we're hopeful that it won't take another presidential term before the director releases his next one. With any luck, Rooney Mara may well show up in that film, too, and become another talented member of del Toro's unofficial repertory company.

"Nightmare Alley" is now playing in theaters.