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Tanner Hall

Lose your way. Find yourself.

Rooney as: Fernanda Rooney
Genre(s): Drama | Romance
Written by: Francesca Gregorini, Tatiana von Furstenberg
Directed by: Francesca Gregorini, Tatiana von Furstenberg
Other Cast: Georgia King, Brie Larson, Amy Ferguson, Tom Everett Scott
Release Date: September 9, 2011 (Limited)
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross: $5k
Filming Locations: Newport, Rhode Island

  • As Fernanda (Rooney Mara) enters her senior year at Tanner Hall — a sheltered boarding school in New England — she’s faced with unexpected changes in her group of friends when a childhood acquaintance, the charismatic yet manipulative trouble-maker Victoria (Georgia King), appears. Shy and studious, Fernanda is usually the voice of reason among her friends — adventurous and sexy Kate (Brie Larson) and tomboy Lucasta (Amy Ferguson) — but when she begins a complicated friendship with Gio (Tom Everett Scott), an older family friend, she decides it’s finally time to take some risks. Jealous of Fernanda’s exciting relationship, Victoria begins to sabotage Fernanda’s plans and plots to publicly humiliate her. Meanwhile, Lucasta struggles with her newfound feelings towards another classmate, and mischievous Kate is too preoccupied with making her teachers nervous to pay much attention to her actual classes. However, as each of the girls flirt with adulthood, they realize they still need each other to help get through their first grown-up decisions — and the consequences they bring.

    Production Info

  • Rooney Mara originally auditioned and secured the supporting role of Lucasta, but co-director/writer Tatiana von Furstenberg was so impressed, she had her return to audition for the lead role of Fernanda, who Mara went on to play. Furstenberg was delighted with her nuanced performance, saying, “Still waters run deep”.
  • When Rooney Mara was cast in the film, she was still billing herself as 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. She won a Rising Star award at the Hamptons Film Festival in 2009 for her role as Fernanda.
  • The director-screenwriters modeled Fernanda’s wardrobe after Tatiana von Furstenberg’s own style, right down to having actor her wear von Furstenberg’s own shoes during filming. In fact, there were several days on set where the two were dressed almost identically, including once when both were in yellow dresses, bright tights, and the very same tan heeled boots.
  • Despite premiering two years earlier at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, the film wasn’t released until September 2011. Limited to just five theaters, the film made a box office total of just over $5000.
  • Character Quotes

  • Everything worth anything is both terrifying and beautiful. Like the first time you do something that you know is wrong. You know it’s wrong and yet you do it anyway.
  • Every year my mother hopes this five-hour drive to school will be something that it never is. What I share with my mother is silence.
  • My heart exists within the stone walls of that building. That’s where I live. Tanner Hall is majestic but crumbling. It’s just a fact, as true as the uncertainty of the year ahead.
  • The loneliness of Victoria’s pain was unreachable, so I did nothing.
  • And there it was. With that exchange, Gio would remain out of reach. Victoria was right. Mrs. Wallace did want to protect Peter. And so we were allowed to stay on at Tanner Hall, but we were confined to school, even on the weekends. Time became blurry and without form. We longed for the outside world and I longed for Gio.
  • Knowing each other’s darkest moments somehow connected us and redeemed us. The way two negatives make a positive. The way your eyes adjust to the dark.
  • Fernanda: Is this my shirt?
    Lucasta: No.
    Fernanda: What are you doing to it?
    Lucasta: Victoria found these in the lost and found. She said they were too plain, so I’m restyling them for her.
    Fernanda: No, these are my shirts. She borrowed them from me.
  • Fernanda: Oh my God. You’re not putting that blue on me.
    Kate: Fern, you have a very tough palate. I’m just trying to make you brighten up a little bit.
    Fernanda: Thanks, no. It’s blue.
  • Gio: You like this song?
    Fernanda: I’ve never heard it before.
    Gio: Really? You like music, don’t you?
    Fernanda: Yeah. It’s not my life or anything though.
  • Victoria: Hank, why are you always here?
    Hank: Oh. I’m sorry. I was actually just leaving.
    Fernanda: He’s just delivering a pizza. Mind your own business.
    Victoria: Well, I was just returning your jacket.
    Fernanda: It’s dirty. You can’t return my things dirty.
  • Gio: Are you here by yourself?
    Fernanda: No. I’m with my friends. We snuck out.
    Gio: I used to sneak out of my parents’ house all the time.
    Fernanda: Really?
    Gio: Mm-hmm.
    Fernanda: What would happen when you got caught?
    Gio: The threat of boarding school.
    Fernanda: [Laughing] So basically my life is your worst-case scenario.
  • Fernanda: If Peter didn’t give you the key, then how did you get it?
    Victoria: Who cares how I got it? The point is that I did. Whatever. Don’t turn this into a big deal.
    Fernanda: It is a big deal. You’re a liar. None of us would’ve come here tonight.
    Victoria: What’s a little white lie amongst friends, hmm?
    Fernanda: We’re not friends.
  • Roxanne: Whatever that was, we are gonna talk about it.
    Fernanda: It’s a little late for that, Mom.
    Roxanne: What does that mean?
    Fernanda: It means that all year you trust me to take care of myself. That’s what I’m doing.
  • Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Co-director Francesca Gregorini: Like all the other girls we auditioned, we brought Rooney in based on her head shot, which did not do her justice, because she was much prettier in the flesh. We were looking for natural ability, a certain essence, a certain genuineness that sometimes is best captured in a young actress that has not been through the Hollywood mill. She is a very interesting mix of sweetness, depth, vulnerability and bravery. Her obvious beauty is really just the tip of the iceberg, what lies beneath is really the magic. She came in and read for Lucasta and landed the role. We continued our search and cast all the other parts but were stuck as to the lead role of Fernanda. It is an important part because she is the narrator, the girl who takes us on this coming-of-age journey. Once we’d been through pretty much every young girl in Hollywood, Tatiana and I circled back to Rooney, as someone we could see in the role, someone whose essence was truly compelling. We knew she was the girl. There is just something to her, something going on at all times in her eyes that draw you in, in such a way that you don’t want to look away, you don’t want to miss anything. And that can’t be taught, that is just something magical that she has and we were fortunate enough to discover and capture on film.

    Co-director Tatiana von Furstenberg: Rooney is such a witch, she has a such a wealth of internal life. We cast her as our lead and she had never been in a feature before. She was very nervous about taking the part, she was like ‘Just give me a smaller part, I don’t know if I can carry a whole movie.’ But the thing about Rooney is she’s so strong, and she’s so brave. She did the storyline with Tom Everett Scott the first week. She is not a ‘Look at me’ attention starved actor at all, it really all does come from within. She’s like a conduit… she doesn’t care about whether she gets camera coverage or not–she’s inspired by what she’s doing, and she’s absorbing everything in the world around her and she’s recycling it back.

    Critical Response

    Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: See the film, if you must, for Mara, who will be starring in the upcoming Hollywood remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. She’s a sharp, vigilant actress whose career bears watching.

    Alison Willmore, The A.V. Club: Mara is, at least, promising as a girl in over her head who’s also sophisticated enough to never seem victimized in her ill-advised romance.

    Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: Most of the actresses are appealing, but ultimately not even the gifted Mara can keep the film from feeling like a gauzy portrait of privilege.

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Rooney has received for her role in the film.

    WON: Gen Art Film Festival – GenArtist Emerging Actress Award
    WON: Hamptons International Film Festival – Breakthrough Performer (Rising Star)