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Rooney Mara Regrets Playing Tiger Lily in Pan, Particularly in Light of #OscarsSoWhite

Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in Pan

Rooney Mara, who has received an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in Carol, has hesitated to weigh in on the ongoing #OscarsSoWhite controversy in part because of her regrets about taking the role of Tiger Lily in Pan. Warner Brothers’ 2015 cinematic adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan didn’t do well at the box office, but even before its release, the film came under fire for the casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. (The character is Native American in the original story, and in most adaptations, but Rooney Mara and Pan screenwriter Jason Fuchs said at the time that their adaptation would have a different “vision.”)

Mara told the Telegraph that she has “very strong opinions” about the #OscarsSoWhite situation, but that she doesn’t want her quotes to be reduced to a “soundbite.” In light of that, here are her full statements about the Tiger Lily situation:

[It was a] tricky thing to deal with. There were two different periods; right after I was initially cast, and the reaction to that, and then the reaction again when the film came out.

I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation. I really do. I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.

Although Mara thinks that Pan‘s creative team had “genuine” intentions at the time, she went on to say,

Do I think all of the four main people in the film should have been white with blonde hair and blue eyes? No. I think there should have been some diversity somewhere.

Rooney Mara doesn’t apologize for having accepted the role at the time, but her statements do seem to indicate that she would think twice about taking a role like Tiger Lily in the future. It would be nice to see her take a more personal ownership of the problem — she was in her late 20s and already quite successful and well-known before accepting the role in Pan, so it’s hard to argue that she somehow “needed” to take the role or that she might have been pressured into taking it in order to advance her career. Perhaps it did not occur to her at that time that there would be any controversy after the fact. The fact that this did not occur to anyone involved is a pretty serious problem, though, and although it seems to be changing now, that change seems to be happening at a depressingly slow rate.

(via Independent, image via Time)

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (