RISE & SHINE
OSCAR NOMINEE BRIE LARSON GIVES A HEART WRENCHING PERFORMANCE IN THE NEW EMOTIONAL EPIC ROOM
Despite an acting career that already spans almost two decades, you’d be forgiven for not spotting Brie Larson were she to stroll past you in the street.
Fans of independent film might be familiar with her from her acclaimed role as a careworker in Short Term 12, or for playing Amy Schumer’s level-headed sister in the ribald comedy Trainwreck; but Larson, 26, can still go out to dinner in Los Angeles untroubled by the paparazzi.
That, however, is likely to change. Larson is being tipped as “the next Jennifer Lawrence”. Her emotionally wrenching performance in the new film Room has earned her an Best Actress Academy Award nomination (up against Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan). It adds to her Screen Actors Guild nomination and Best Acress Golden Globe award.
“It seems so far removed from my reality,” Larson says modestly of all the Oscar buzz.
Adapted from the bestselling novel by Emma Donoghue, Room was influenced by the case of Josef Fritzl, and the film is far from an easy watch.
Larson plays Ma, a young woman who has been kept prisoner in a garden shed for seven years. She has given birth to a son, Jack, now five (played by Jacob Tremblay), the result of sustained rape at the hands of her captor.
Ma creates a world so vivid, so normal, and so full of love in the tiny shed, that Jack is entirely unaware of their horrifying circumstances.
Wearing a white lace shirt and fuchsia skirt, Larson’s sunny appearance and manner seem at odds with the dark places the character Ma demanded of her. But go there, Larson definitely did – preparing for the role by subjecting herself to a month of isolation in her apartment.
“A lot of old memories resurfaced, things about my childhood that I had forgotten,” she recalls.
“I remembered moving from Sacramento to Los Angeles with my mum when I was seven and my sister was three or four.
“We moved into a studio apartment, that was not much bigger than (the shed in) Room, with a bed that pulled down from the wall.”
Unbeknown to Larson and her sister, Milaine, their parents had separated, and her mother was struggling to make ends meet.
“I just had two pairs of jeans and a few shirts and a pair of shoes, and we ate Top Ramen noodles every night,” she says.
“But my mum has this incredible imagination, and she instilled so much life into that space that I didn’t realise we didn’t have anything.”
Larson has spoken of how she talked to different trauma specialists about sexual abuse and what would happen to a mind after you’ve been stuck in that space for seven years.
“You’d start to normalise some stuff,” she says. “Then I spoke with a nutritionist about the lack of vitamin D, about not having a toothbrush, not being able to wash your hair or face, (the) lack of nutrition.”
Larson was a fan of the book long before the chance to play Ma came along.
“I loved it and devoured it in a day,” she enthuses.
Filming it, however, brought many challenges. The first half of the 10-week shoot – which, unusually, was filmed chronologically – was done entirely in a 3m x 3m shed-like room inside a Toronto studio.
“It was exhausting for the crew to shoot in so confined a space, and you could really feel the momentum in the room, of us all desperately wanting to get out,” Larson recalls. “That sense of confinement was real.”
Brie and her co-star Jacob, 9, quickly formed a close bond, playing with Lego and making several of Jack’s toy props together. They spent the majority of those first five weeks, just the two of them, together in the studio-shed.
“He’s like my best pal, we did everything together,” says Larson. “To the point that when Ma comes home and is reunited with her mother, I realised I myself felt incapable of talking to another adult.
“I didn’t know how not to talk about Star Wars, or which animal would beat which other animal in a battle. I felt fragile and afraid.”
Room opens today
I JUST HAD TWO PAIRS OF JEANS AND A FEW SHIRTS AND A PAIR OF SHOES, AND WE ATE TOP RAMEN NOODLES EVERY NIGHT
Brie Larson and co-star Jacob Tremblay in the emotionally wrenching drama Room.