Kate Mara's Man Down role inspired her to tackle Megan Leavey

The star insists the movie wouldn't be what it is without her canine co-star Varco.

Actress Kate Mara was drawn to new Marine biopic Megan Leavey after portraying a veteran's wife in 2015's Man Down.

The House of Cards star played Shia LaBeouf's wife in the war thriller, about a U.S. Marine whose family goes missing after returning from a tour of Afghanistan.

Kate admits the project opened her eyes to the struggles some veterans face after serving active duty, so she looked for a role which would turn the spotlight on a female soldier, and after landing the part of real-life war hero Megan Leavey, she was determined to get it right.

"That movie (Man Down) is what really made me want to find some sort of a female Marine story," she explained to The Associated Press. "We want Marines and families of soldiers to be able to watch the film and not just think, 'Oh yeah, the war stuff looks real but how about when you go home?' We wanted that to feel as authentic."

Kate's new movie chronicles Leavey's two deployments to Iraq between 2004 and 2006 with her military combat dog Rex, a bomb sniffing expert, and how the Purple Heart recipient, who was injured in combat, spent the five years following her retirement racing to adopt the animal and save him from euthanisation.

The actress and her canine co-star, real name Varco, really bonded during the shoot, and having the German shepherd by her side onset was a real joy for animal-lover Kate.

"I loved working with a dog," she smiled. "They're unexpected and constantly doing things that you're not expecting them to do. If you want them to just sort of sit there during a scene they will, but then they'll do some genius little movement or sound or whatever that will make the scene that much better."

Megan Leavey, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, also stars Edie Falco, rapper/actor Common, and Tom Felton. It opened in U.S. theatres last week (09Jun17).

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