Making Room for Fame
Brie Larson steps into the spotlight as the next big actress
BY BONNIE SIEGLER
All eyes are on the best actress Oscar winner Brie Larson for her performance in the Academy Award-nominated film, Room, an intense drama that tells the story of Joy “Ma” Newsome and her son Jack who, after years of living in a garden shed, escape to explore the outside world.
Larson’s performance in Room has also given the actress a list of accolades that include Best Actress wins at the Critics Choice Awards as well as the Golden Globes. The actress was the talk of the town during last year’s Toronto International Film Festival where Room won the Audience Award. One of Hollywood’s fastest rising stars admits she’s totally out of her comfort zone, but relishes the zone after a 20-year climb to stardom.
RISE TO FAME
At age six, Larson became the youngest person to ever attend San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater’s training program. One year later, Larson was cast in her first TV role on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, enabling her to receive the coveted Screen Actors Guild card.
Larson moved from Sacramento, California, to Los Angeles with her mother and sister after her parents divorced. The shy youngster was often cast in TV shows until she got her big break playing the defiant daughter on Showtime’s The United State of Tara. Feature films quickly followed—21 Jump Street, Trainwreck, and then along came her challenging role as a young kidnapping victim in Room.
In person, Larson gives off a quality of maturity and knowledge far beyond her 26 years. She is slightly heavier than the person she portrays in Room, having lost 15 pounds to give herself a more lean and sunken look of a longtime hostage.
“I talked to doctors about the depletion of sunlight, what that would do, not getting enough Vitamin D, and not getting the right nutrition,” explains Larson on her preparation for the role. “I followed a very specific diet. I stayed at home for a month. Whatever I did, nothing could compare to the real life stories I read.”
In Room, Ma was alone for two years before giving birth to her son, Jack. Larson secluded herself from society to gain a small understanding of how Ma must have felt living in a garden shed.
At the beginning, Larson thought she could disguise the month-long preparation as a vacation. However, the seclusion soon started to bother the talented actress.
“I hit this point where I felt so depressed that I cried a lot,” admits Larson. “It didn’t help that I was on this incredibly restrictive diet to get me into character.” Larson coped with the still and quiet by becoming a voracious reader—despite having no phone or Internet access.
Larson has shied away from speaking to any victims of abduction. “I’m a very private person and there was no way I was ever going to invade someone’s privacy like that.”
In fact, Larson prefers not to discuss much about her private life and remains tight-lipped when it comes to her musician boyfriend Alex Greenwald.
NEXT BIG ROLES
Room is now in Larson’s rearview and she is currently focused on her next major role in the new big budget film Kong: Skull Island, which is presently shooting in Australia.
“It’s nice that I don’t have to concern myself with a deep, affecting storyline,” says Larson. “In Kong, I’m climbing mountains and hacking through forests and getting attacked by insects.”
Besides Kong, also in the pipeline is Free Fire, alongside Armie Hammer and Basmati Blues, a musical shot in India.
ROOM FOR REFLECTION
Larson admits she’s not sure that all this attention, fame and stardom is her ultimate goal. However, the actress doesn’t want to turn away from becoming an A-lister either.
“One thing I remember vividly from my childhood was me, my mom and little sister living in a studio apartment not much bigger than the garden shed in Room,” says Larson. “I had very little in the way of possessions—two pairs of jeans, two pairs of shoes, a headband and a couple of shirts.”
The actress continues, “Instant noodles was every meal—we had nothing, we lived on nothing but it was the happiest time of my life. My mom had this wonderful imagination, which made the apartment seem magical. She went with me on all my auditions because I wanted to be an actor. So hopefully, I can do this for as long as I can.” VM