Patricia Rooney Mara was born in 1985 in Bedford, New York. She is one of four children of Kathleen McNulty (née Rooney) and NFL football team New York Giants executive Timothy Christopher Mara. Her grandfathers were 'Wellington Mara', co-owner of the Giants, and 'Timothy Rooney', owner of Yonkers Raceway, and her grand-uncle is Steelers Chairman 'Dan Rooney (I)', the former
Patricia Rooney Mara was born in 1985 in Bedford, New York. She is one of four children of Kathleen McNulty (née Rooney) and NFL football team New York Giants executive Timothy Christopher Mara. Her grandfathers were 'Wellington Mara', co-owner of the Giants, and 'Timothy Rooney', owner of Yonkers Raceway, and her grand-uncle is Steelers Chairman 'Dan Rooney (I)', the former Ambassador to Ireland. She is the great-granddaughter of 'Art Rooney (I)', Sr., the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers football franchise. Her father has Irish, German, and French-Canadian ancestry, and her mother is of Irish and Italian descent.
After graduating from Bedford's Fox Lane High school, she enrolled in the Traveling School, which took her to South America to study. She spent a year at George Washington University before transferring to New York University, where she studied international social policy and psychology. She took her degree from NYU in 2010. Her studies focused on non-profit organizations, as her family has a tradition of involvement in philanthropic causes.
She had thought of acting after watching old movies and attending musical theater, but did not think of it as a serious vocation and was afraid she might fail at it. As a result of her reservations, she appeared in only one play while in high school.
She began seriously focusing on acting when she was at New York University, appearing in student films. Inspired by her older sister, actress 'Kate Mara (I)', she began to pursue the craft, auditioning for acting jobs at the age of 19. She appeared with her sister Kate in the video horror movie Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005) (V), billing herself as "Patricia Mara". As "Tricia Mara", she had guest roles on TV and won her first lead in the movie Tanner Hall (2009), which was shot in the fall of 2007.
She originally auditioned for the supporting role of Lucasta in "Tanner Hall", a $3-million independent film, but director 'Tatiana von Furstenberg' was so impressed by the young actress, she had her return to audition for the lead role of Fernanda, which Mara won. Furstenberg was delighted with her nuanced performance, saying, "Still waters run deep".
Continuing to call herself Tricia Mara, it was during the making of "Tanner Hall" that she considered changing her professional name to Rooney Mara, soliciting the advice of the cast and crew. After premiering at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, her performance in "Tanner Hall" brought the rechristened Rooney Mara a "Rising Star" award at the 2009 Hamptons Film Festival and a "Stargazer Award" at the 2010 Gen Art Film Festival.
In 2010 she got her first lead role in a major feature, in the $35 million remake A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). The movie proved disappointing at the box office, grossing only $63 million domestically and racking up a world-wide gross of just under $116 million. However, that same year, she was noticed by critics in the small but pivotal role of the Boston University undergrad Erica who dumps Facebook founder 'Mark Zuckerberg' in The Social Network (2010). Director 'David Fincher' subsequently cast her as the lead in his The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) trilogy.
In the spirit of her family's philanthropic endeavors, Rooney created Faces of Kibera, a charity that provides food, medical care and housing to orphans in Nairobi, Kenya's Kibra district, a small slum that houses a million people. There are many orphans as AIDS is rampant in the slum.