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“It’s equal parts: absolutely the most exciting time and the most exhausted I’ve ever felt,” says Brie Larson, the 26-year-old star of the festival hit Room, when I ask her, as we record the eighth episode of the Awards Chatter podcast, what it’s like being the “It” girl of the moment. She continues, “I have very little time for myself, just giving, giving, giving — and I’ve realized, from talking with my friends who have newborns, that that’s the same! And when I think about it that way — that my career is this fresh little newborn that I’m nurturing — it feels lovely.”
If Larson’s onscreen abilities and offscreen likability, not to mention her striking beauty, remind you of another in-demand American actress in her mid-20s, Jennifer Lawrence, well, you’re not alone. Like J.Law, B.Lar began her career as a child actress; proved her bona fides in a critically acclaimed, if not especially commercially successful, indie (Lawrence in 2010’s Winter’s Bone and Larson in 2013’s Short Term 12); and just two years later, returned to the spotlight in a deeply moving, somewhat bigger film that was catapulted into the center of the Oscar discussion after winning the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival (2012’s Silver Linings Playbook and 2015’s Room, respectively).
But make no mistake about it: Larson is — as you can see on the big screen and hear on this podcast — her very own brand of wonderful.
(You can play the full conversation below or download it — and past episodes with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Danny Boyle, Eddie Redmayne, Jason Segel, Ramin Bahrani, Michael Shannon, Ridley Scott, F. Gary Gray, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Ian McKellen — on iTunes.)
As we discuss, Larson, who was a painfully shy kid, except when she was playing someone else, moved to Los Angeles at a young age and quickly found herself on the Selena Gomez trajectory: appearing on the Disney Channel and signing a record deal. But she took herself off of it, desiring more serious acting opportunities, yet frequently finding herself coming up short for the roles she wanted most, including turns in Thirteen (2003) and Juno (2007). The dissection and rejection of the business really got to her — until, that is, she “just became sick of caring so much about what I was perceived as” and adopted a different attitude when she went in for auditions. “Suddenly, I started working.”
A breakthrough opportunity for her came in the form of a principal role on United States of Tara (2009-2011), the Showtime TV dramedy created by Juno scribe Diablo Cody and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Though the show was canceled after three years, it did provide Larson with a lot of experience and exposure, and during and after its run, she could be seen on the big screen in Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg (2010), Edgar Wright‘s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Oren Moverman‘s Rampart (2011), Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 21 Jump Street (2012), James Ponsoldt‘s The Spectacular Now (2013) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s Don Jon (2013).
But it was Short Term 12 — my favorite movie of the last few years — that accorded Larson her first leading role and slowly but surely captivated the industry. “It’s had this very long echo,” she acknowledges. In its aftermath came prominent roles in studio pics of varying quality, including parts opposite Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler (2014) and Amy Schumer in Trainwreck (2015) and, most significantly, the role of Ma in Lenny Abrahamson‘s Room, which was coveted by many of the finest actresses in her peer group.
Larson talks about a variety of topics including: her discovery of Emma Donoghue‘s novel; Abrahamson’s discovery of her and the audition process; her pairing with Jacob Tremblay, a phenom who was just 7 when he was cast as her son (she proved she could work beautifully with kids on Short Term 12); the sequence and setting of the shooting; the differing demands of the scenes in the first and second halves of the film; and, most poignantly, her outlook for the future in the aftermath of the film’s — and her performance’s — very warm reception, as she prepares to embark on her highest-profile project yet, the big-studio blockbuster Kong: Skull Island.
Room, which is being distributed in the U.S. by A24, now is playing in select theaters. Awards voters are being asked to consider the film for best picture and Larson for best actress.
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