Kate Mara is in the midst of a Toronto Film Festival press blitz for her big-budget space movie, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, but as she curled up in an oversize chair for our interview, I couldn’t help but notice her adorable, deep-red pixie cut. It's a bold look that suits her, though it meant that she had to wear an incredibly obvious (yet oddly enjoyable) wig to play the blonde, long-haired Sue Storm when called back for Fantastic Four reshoots earlier this year. My colleague Kyle Buchanan wrote a loving homage to that blonde, shellacked hairpiece, in which he argued that spotting the wig during the film at least injected some fun into the otherwise dour proceedings. "I haven’t read that one, shockingly," Mara told me. "Hilarious. Did he do, like, drinking games? Like, 'There’s a reshoots wig! There’s not! There’s her real hair!'"
The use of a reshoots wig is common — Mara even explained that she’d worn one in a scene for The Martian, though no one seems to have spotted it. Still, the wig in Fantastic Four was uniquely bad. "Yeah, I’ve been told," said Mara, laughing. "Like, how did the wig not match? Yeah. That’s a great question. I wish I had the answer." Reviews were so rough that Mara hasn’t brought herself to see the movie yet, but she's glad people have found a way to have fun with it, with or without alcohol. "If anything good came out of it, I’m happy I could help."
At least Mara had better luck with The Martian: Not only does her hair look great as an astronaut forced to leave Matt Damon behind on Mars, she also convinces as a computer whiz, which she prepped for by visiting the NASA website frequently. "I have the science and math knowledge of a first-grader," said Mara. "I struggled with it in school, so as long as I remembered and understood what I was doing in the moment while we were shooting, that was the most important thing."
The most difficult part, according to Mara, was shouldering those 30-pound spacesuits, though wearing them actually brought the cast closer together. "When the helmet’s on, you can’t hear anybody else except your crewmates," said Mara. "So that bonded us very quickly, because we could only talk to each other and we’d just hear each others' voices all day." They got so tight that Mara's gang of astronauts — including Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie — had dinner together almost every night. "You can’t fake that," she said. "I mean, you don’t have to be spending time with the cast when you’re wrapping at night."
And whether or not it produces a sequel, she’s also still in constant contact with her Fantastic Four cast: Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller. "I love those guys. They’re so much fun," she said. "We have a group text chain that’s happening. It didn’t die down after the movie came out. We all love each other, and we all want to work with each other again in some way."
*A version of this article appears in the September 21, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.