CATEGORIES Movies
As we reported earlier today, one of the most hotly contested and thoroughly debated casting decisions in recent film history was finally confirmed as Rooney Mara has been tapped to play Lisbeth Salander in the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of Stieg Larsson's blockbuster novel 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.' Now millions of fans have just one question left: Who the heck is Rooney Mara?

Not that being an unknown is necessarily a bad thing; after all, Noomi Rapace, who played Salander in the Swedish adaptations of Larsson's trilogy, was equally unknown and has since gone on to become one of the hottest actresses on the planet. But with James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, already signed to play opposite of Mara as investigative journalist Michael Blomkvist, the pressure will be on Mara just to keep from being blown off the screen, much less live up to the sky-high expectations that 40 million books sold have created.

So will Mara hold up under the scrutiny? And just where did she come from? To give you a better idea of just who will be playing Lisbeth Salander for the next three (or more) films, here's a look at the life and career of Rooney Mara. As we reported earlier today, one of the most hotly contested and thoroughly debated casting decisions in recent film history was finally confirmed as Rooney Mara has been tapped to play Lisbeth Salander in the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of Stieg Larsson's blockbuster novel 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.' Now millions of fans have just one question left: Who the heck is Rooney Mara?

Not that being an unknown is necessarily a bad thing; after all, Noomi Rapace, who played Salander in the Swedish adaptations of Larsson's trilogy, was equally unknown and has since gone on to become one of the hottest actresses on the planet. But with James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, already signed to play opposite of Mara as investigative journalist Michael Blomkvist, the pressure will be on Mara just to keep from being blown off the screen, much less live up to the sky-high expectations that 40 million books sold have created.

So will Mara hold up under the scrutiny? And just where did she come from? To give you a better idea of just who will be playing Lisbeth Salander for the next three (or more) films, here's a look at the life and career of Rooney Mara:

Family Ties -- No, we're not talking about the classic '80s sitcom; considering Mara was born in 1985, Alex P. Keaton and company were a bit before her time. But Mara (whose full name is Patricia Rooney Mara) does have family connections: Her older sister is actress Kate Mara ('Brokeback Mountain,' 'Entourage') and two of her great-grandfathers, Tim Mara and Art Rooney, Sr., founded the NFL's New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively.

Charity Work -- Before becoming an actress, Mara attended NYU, but not to study film; instead, she focused on studying international social policy and nonprofit organizations, eventually founding her own charity, Faces of Kibera, in 2006. The organization, which she still oversees, provides aid to the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, where over one million impoverished people live in a single square mile.

Television Guest Star -- Finally succumbing to the pull of stage and screen, Mara followed in her sister's footsteps and soon landed guest roles on a number of television shows, including 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,' 'Women's Murder Club,' 'The Cleaner' and 'ER.' She also decided to stop going by her given name of "Tricia" in favor of her middle name, the more memorable "Rooney."

Sundance 2009 -- After co-starring in the little known indie flick 'Dream Boy,' Mara snagged roles in two other independent films: 'Dare' and 'The Winning Season,' which also featured Emma Roberts and Sam Rockwell. Both movies played at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, leading to Rooney being named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker magazine.

Mainstream Actress -- Mara capitalized on the buzz from Sundance by taking parts in two very different films this year: the offbeat critical favorite 'Youth in Revolt' and the highly anticipated horror remake 'A Nightmare on Elm Street,' in which she played the lead role of Nancy opposite Jackie Earle Haley's Freddy Krueger. The film may not have been a critical smash, but with over $109 million earned worldwide against just a $35 million budget, it established Mara as a bankable actress.

The Future -- Rumor has it that Mara will soon be starring in a sequel to 'A Nightmare on Elm Street,' a project that may now face some unexpected scheduling issues what with Mara's commitment to 'The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo.' In the meantime, though, fans of Lisbeth Salander wanting to get a good look at their new leading lady can head to the theaters on October 1 to catch her in one of the most buzzed about dramas of the year, 'The Social Network.' Not a bad start to a suddenly meteoric career.