At the 2016 Oscars, a reluctant star was born. So how is Brie Larson doing three years on? As she takes the lead in the Marvel franchise’s most anticipated movie, she talks to Keah Brown about vulnerability, finding inner strength and her plans to diversify the film industry
When Brie Larson won an Oscar for the 2015 movie Room, I jumped for joy as if I knew her. I hadn’t even seen the film yet, but I’d just finished the moving novel by Emma Donoghue that it was based on (about a mother and her five-year-old son held captive in a room), and felt certain she had done the role of Ma justice.
I wouldn’t get to know her until 2017, when we started following each other on Twitter. I was feeling insecure about being vulnerable, so when I heard her talking about her own vulnerability, I decided to reach out to her. What would follow were messages about work, life, self-care and cross-stitching. These messages were sporadic in nature. After all, we are both busy people. She is an actor, producer and director; I write about pop culture, disability (I have cerebral palsy), blackness and womanhood. But the consistent, overriding impression I always got was that Brie Larson is a person who cares about the world and the people in it.
Aside from Room, the 29-year-old has starred in Trainwreck (2015), the critically-acclaimed indie film Short Term 12 (2013) and the blockbuster Kong: Skull Island (2017). Last year, she made her directorial debut in the indie comedy-drama Unicorn Store. It’s an impressive body of work in a relatively short space of time, but most people might not realise that far from being the ingénue, Larson – who was born in Sacramento, before moving to LA with her mother and sister – has been working since she was a child. Best known stateside for the sitcom Raising Dad (2001) and Disney Channel movie Right On Track (2003), she also had a stint as a pop star, signing a record deal at 13. These days, as a Time’s Up activist and advocate for sexual-assault survivors (she famously refused to clap when presenting Casey Affleck with an Oscar because of allegations against him), the actress utilises any power she has to be vocal about social and political issues. I can’t wait to see what she does with the power that comes with her latest role – Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in Captain Marvel, the 21st (and first female-led) film in the multimillion dollar franchise.
It was a tad surreal waiting for Brie Larson at a dimly lit, rustic Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills. I’m a Marvel comic-book editor, as well as the co-creator of Kamala Khan, a Muslim-American hero whose idol happens to be Captain Marvel, the very role that Larson, 29, is playing in movie theaters around the world this month. Meeting the star of Marvel’s first female-led superhero film felt, well, a touch meta.
As far as hero origin stories go, Larson’s began quite early. She says her first “Aha!” acting moment came when she played the Energizer Bunny at the age of 4 during her family’s Christmas talent show. “At one point I had to walk across the living room in the costume, and my whole family laughed,” Larson says, smiling. “I didn’t know that was something that could happen, and I didn’t understand why it happened, but I liked it.”
As a young girl, she would pull at her mother’s shirttails in her childhood home in Sacramento, Calif., to tell her it was her “dharma” to be an actress. “It was a way of learning how to be a person,” recalls Larson, dressed in a black sweatshirt, a jeweled choker, and jeans as she sips a Campari cocktail. “This is how you make eye contact. This is how you talk. This is how you hold a conversation. This is how you connect with your feelings. This is how you express yourself. I’d be in a completely different place if I hadn’t found acting so early on, because I think I really would have found comfort in my extreme shyness.”
Inclusion strategies have sprung up aplenty, but how to really move the needle? The organization’s trio take the next step by revealing how to activate Hollywood’s female networks: “I’m not interested in changing hearts and minds anymore.”
Since joining the USC faculty in 2003, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Stacy Smith has published annual reports on the state of race and gender representation in Hollywood. Year after year, the shouts into the void had gone unheard. “For 15 years I was floundering,” Smith tells THR. “Then I found my people.”
Enter Brie Larson, 29, and Tessa Thompson, 35. The trio first met at an early Time’s Up meeting in 2017 at Larson’s house, where Smith broke out her trusty PowerPoint presentation. “When everything you’ve studied is finally delivered to the audience that it’s intended for, they’re able to take flight with the information in a whole new way,” says Smith. She and a group of actresses presented her statistics and strategy suggestions to leaders at UTA, which represents Frances McDormand, leading to the Oscar winner’s onstage declaration heard around the world: “inclusion rider.” It’s a concept first introduced in a 2014 THR op-ed by Smith, who developed the language with producer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni and attorney Kalpana Kotagal.
Smith, Larson and Thompson also have been on the front lines of pushing for greater inclusion in media. It was an idea sparked at a Sundance gathering hosted by Thompson in January that led to, in June, Smith’s first study analyzing the gender, race and ethnicity of film critics; Larson used her Crystal + Lucy Awards acceptance speech to draw awareness to the issue. A database for studios and publicists, Critical, was launched with Time’s Up: “We have 400 critics on there already,” says the future Captain Marvel.
THR gathered the trio for a conversation about action beyond awareness and how to enforce the proposals put forward.
What was the significance of coming together for the first time?
BRIE LARSON Until we were having these meetings, most of us had never met one another, because there aren’t a ton of films that star that many women at once. Most of us had been dealing with these issues alone, not understanding that if we stood together, we had the leverage to actually get things done.
Bonjour, Brie fait la couverture hivernale du magazine Porter. Avec cette nouvelle couverture vient un nouveau photoshoot. Les photos ont été réalisées par Camilla Åkrans et elles sont vraiment magnifiques. Vous pouvez les retrouver dans la galerie !
Studio Photoshoots > Sessions & Outtakes – Camilla Åkrans [Porter] – 2017
Here’s a new photoshoot by Kurt Iswarienko of Brie and the cast of Kong for the ‘Kong: Skull Island’ promotion. The photos are gorgeous, Brie is really stunning on them! Enjoy!
Studio Photoshoots > Sessions & Outtakes – Kurt Iswarienko [Kong Promotion] – 2017
Studio Photoshoots > Sessions & Outtakes – Mary Ellen Matthews [Saturday Night Live] – 2016
Television Series > Saturday Night Live  – Stills [S41;Episode 19]
Candid Appearances > Candids From 2016 – May 07th – Spotted out in the Big Apple, New York
Candid Appearances > Candids From 2016 – May 07th – Leaving a local sports bar ‘Professor Thom’s’ with friends, NY
“I felt like if I keep everything plain in front then it brings my mind to the forefront,” says the Oscar winner on why she previously rejected being a fashion star. She credits her stylist Christina Ehrlich with helping her embrace fashion saying, “you can wear something that actually makes someone understand you better and want to get to know you better.”