RISE & SHINE

OS­CAR NOM­I­NEE BRIE LAR­SON GIVES A HEART WRENCH­ING PER­FOR­MANCE IN THE NEW EMO­TIONAL EPIC ROOM

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - JANE MULK­ER­RINS

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.

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