Oscar nominee Rooney Mara has admitted that she feels “bad and embarrassed” about being caught up in the ‘whitewashing’ debate in Hollywood after her role in Disney’s Pan last year, but has kept quiet until now because she doesn’t want her opinions to be “reduced to a soundbite”.

Mara, 30, played the role of Tiger Lily in the ill-fated live-action origin story last year, and it was a casting that drew a lot of criticism as it constituted a white woman portrayed a native American princess. However, she’s up for Best Supporting Actress for her part in Carol at The Oscars on Sunday, and was asked about her feelings on the diversity debate in Hollywood.

Rooney MaraRooney Mara has spoken about her casting as the native American princess Tiger Lily in 'Pan' last year

She felt that it was “tricky” dealing with controversy, with 100,000 people signing a petition protesting against her casting, telling The Telegraph: “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.”

In a separate discussion with Deadline, the American actress, famously reticent and not a great fan of interviews, was asked about the same issue. Having seen the reactions to Charlotte Rampling’s and Meryl Streep’s (possibly badly argued) defences to the all-white acting nomination list at the Oscars, Mara is wary about being potentially misquoted.

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“I think that there are two sides to it,” she said. “Yes, I do think [whitewashing] curbs art and creativity, and I also think that if you’re going to go by that, you have to be able to… it has to go both ways.”

“Is there whitewashing in Hollywood? Absolutely, and I feel really bad and embarrassed to be a part of that. In J.M. Barrie’s book, the natives were not Native American. That was something later attributed and there’s probably racism behind even that attribution. In the book, they’re called the ‘Pickaninny’ tribe, which is wrought with racism. But it was never my intention to play a Native American girl. That was never an option to me.”

She went on to say that she still felt that Pan director Joe Wright’s intention to “make the natives a conglomeration of many different cultures and indigenous people” was a “beautiful and pure” one.

“To make them people of the world. He wanted them to be natives of planet Earth,” she said by way of explanation, before admitting that she understood why people saw that as ‘whitewashing’.

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