INTERVIEW: Brie Larson discusses the emotional power of ‘Room’

maxresdefaultThere are times when you can just tell that an actor or an actress has something special to offer. Brie Larson is one such young actress, already a huge star on the rise due to Short Term 12, but this year she’s gone to a whole new level with the soon to be Academy Award nominated Room (not to mention a plum supporting role in Trainwreck). She gives one of the performances of the year in the film, which will not only have be scoring a nomination at the Oscars, but thoroughly in the mix to win Best Actress as well. A few weeks ago, I got on the phone with her for around 15 minutes to chat a bit about the movie, and it was a delight. Larson is just wonderful to interview, and you can see the highlights of our talk below. Room, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, written by Emma Donoghue (both of whom I interviewed here), and co-starring young Jacob Tremblay, is in theaters now. Don’t miss it…

Here now is the best of my interview with Larson:

On how the buzz has grown and grown for what was initially a small independent film but is now a legitimate Oscar contender with a phenomenal audience/critical response to its credit:

Brie Larson – I mean, you don’t do anything for a response. I think that’s why the movie is so beautiful, because it’s so unabashedly what it is. It’s so, I find it really inspiring the reaction that it has had, considering that if you just take it at face value of what the setup is for the movie. It’s not an easy watch. That’s one thing that Lenny (Abrahamson) and I did talk about a lot, which was, you know, we know how to tell this honestly, but is that what people will feel comfortable sitting through for two hours? Those are the movies that actually I like, I like hard to watch movies, but will it find an audience that will fill a theater? We didn’t know, but I think because we always came at it from a place of love, that the movie would not give us a chance to exploit these bizarre, sensationalized stories. Instead, it became a way to tell an allegory about growing up and parenting and love. So, when you see it from that angle, I think it makes the story so much more relatable, and we spent so much time really crafting this movie that with every new discovery about what would, as best as we could understand what would factually be happening in this space, we were able to find a comparable story that came from our live, so that nothing that was in this movie was outside of your typical suburban life. I think that’s why it’s hitting people so hard, because maybe you go into it thinking “oh man, I can’t even imagine what it would be like in this space”, and suddenly you’re watching it and you’re crying because you realize that it’s just like your life.

Talking about how the little unexpected moments set this film apart from what audiences and critics might have assumed it to be:

BL – Exactly. I think that’s why it’s becoming universally loved. It’s because it’s also I think just a series of images of closeness. There’s something in there, I think, for everyone, and the fascinating part has been now that the movie is out in the world and I’ve got to be on the receiving end of people seeing it, either doing interviews or being in a theater for a Q and A, people come up to you and starting telling you their story, like because they’ve seen Ma and Jack and their raw vulnerability, they have the courage to express their vulnerability. Everybody has come up to me with a different moment that made them cry. Some of them have been very surprising to me, and they always go back to a moment of closeness for them. The first time they made a friend, or the time that they realized that their parents weren’t gods, the moment where they had to grow up faster than they were ready to. All of these like very huge moments that we can relate to, and so I feel like it’s all there, like this movie has been able to somehow sum up such a huge portion of the story of our lives that it’s like the movie isn’t the same for everyone, but everyone feels the same passion about whatever it is that they see in it. I really like it. It’s like a living, breathing piece that grows with you and changes with you. Any piece of art that I love, whether it’s movies, or a painting, or a poem, they are things that as you go on and go through your days getting older, you reflect on it and it becomes something different to you, as you read into it more.

On how oftentimes the Oscar season is just littered with self important works that only seem to have been made in order to generate awards buzz and get an phony emotional response:

BL – Doesn’t that make you not want to talk about it? Like, I feel like we’re more perceptive than some movies think we are. I just always feel like we can smell it a mile away and then it makes you not want to go further with that conversation. I think for us, it was really hard, because you wish it was as simple as, you know, doing the thing that you know people are going to love, but you can’t know. You have to just do what feels honest and what’s available to you in this moment in time, and hope that there’s a timelessness to that honesty.

Responding to how I saw this movie at a press screening sandwiched in between two other screenings of would be awards players:

BL – (Laughing) I think the movie is kind of, it guts you in a way that I think makes it kind of hard to see anything else, and I mean that not even with just movies, I feel like it changes your perception of the world too.

On hearing director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue talking about Room in a whole new way during the press rounds:

BL – There’s so much that I’ve been hearing from them that I never heard while making the movie! I mean, that’s sort of the dance, is that there’s certain things that we talk about and stress a lot. I felt like such an active participant in the creative process of this movie, but there are just certain things that Lenny is doing behind the scenes or Emma is thinking about behind the scenes that are not meant for my ears while we’re in the process of making, you know? They just set it up so that I have this space and feel supported to create, but I don’t have to be thinking or have any of their thoughts in my head. So, it’s been such a treat at this point to hear them talk about the process from their side, and to hear all of these different things. For me too, I feel like I’m reliving the experience through different eyes, watching the movie. Even after the first time I saw it, you can’t help for me but to see it through Ma’s perspective. It takes three or four times and having these conversations…it was on the fourth watch where I was like, felt like I was on my knees and just so humbled, like wow, this movie is so much bigger than anything my one small mind could have ever thought about.

Discussing the collaborative process of acting with young co-star Jacob Tremblay and how different that is:

BL – (Responding to me calling it a symbiotic relationship between her, Jacob, and Lenny) Totally! That’s what it’s like on every movie, but with this because we’re also shooting in a small space, you pick up on the energies of everybody. And so, having Jacob there, he was the great equalizer, because it didn’t matter how stressed you were, you couldn’t be stressed around him, one because you never wanted to put any of the adult stresses on him, and two because it wouldn’t even be in a frequency that he registers. He’s just in his own happy world, so you just want to dance that dance with him. It’s so fun and playful to be around a boy that age. Like, we just kept saying that if we could bottle this and sell it, we’d be billionaires. It’s just beautiful.

How she decides on a role, since seeing her in a cast right now is like an early stamp of quality, and what interests her going forward:

BL – Ooh, that’s very nice! I’ll keep that in mind! Hmm, I don’t really know. I never have known. It’s always about the story and the character, since really what it all comes back to is I love folklore mythology, and I love the complexity of being a woman. So, those are the two things I try to look for in a project, but what I love about myth is that it can take so many different faces. We can take these old tales and re-tell them any way that we want. You can re-tell them in a horror film, you can do a giant Star Wars like movie, you can tell them in something intimate like Room. They can change faces, and I don’t really have any, like I don’t have any set goal, I’m just interested in what’s out there. I think of my future like this large horizon that’s just this great vista I’m walking towards, instead of it being any sort of a checklist or target that I’m trying to hit. That’s something that keeps me from working just to work. With every job you do, there’s like a little piece of yourself that’s out there more and, so I think finding ways to balance that or when something else is revealed you hide something else, so there’s always this sense of not knowing, losing your footing constantly and discovering it again. That’s really important to me and really important to the process.

There you have the very best of my talk with Larson. Again, Room is just terrific and is expanding into more theaters now. Be sure to see this one.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!