Note to self: Be. More. Mysterious. Actress, writer and director Brie Larson, 26, is difficult to read. Five minutes into our interview in the Corinthia Hotel in central London, she tells me it’s deliberately so. ‘I think my mystery, or any person’s mystery, is the thing that makes them most interesting. I try to be as conscious as possible of keeping that alive.’
It’s a captivating hook – and it might explain why you may not know her name, or even recognise her face yet. But that is all about to change thanks to her Oscar-tipped performance in new film <Room>. As an actress, she’s so far been an agile shape-shifter, made evident by her versatile body of work and a TV career dating back to 1998. Then recently, Trainwreck (written by the taboo-smashing, awe-inspiring Amy Schumer and directed by comedy wizard Judd Apatow) proved Larson’s comedic poise – she played Schumer's polar-opposite sister and nailed the humour-heavy potential of that jarring dynamic. And now <Room> – an intense drama based on Emma Donoghue’s bestselling book (published in 2010), in which Larson plays a kidnapped woman raising her child in captivity – showcases Larson’s razor-sharp emotional intelligence. It's the kind of film that grabs you and holds you in a vice grip for 118 minutes.
(Above: Brie wears a Céline Spring 2016 shirt and trousers to a Golden Globes party in Los Angeles, January 2016)
So, who is Brie in real life? Well, Portlandia makes her laugh, she keeps a fresh pot of hibiscus tea in her fridge (as well as broccoli, apples and raw-sprouted hummus) and she once had an expert decipher her spirit animal (by reading her animal cards) they were, much to her disappointment, ‘mostly rodents – small burrowing animals’.
ELLE: What does 'fame' mean to you?
Brie Larson: It’s always complicated and contradictory. I am becoming more recognisable in some ways, and some aspects of my privacy are going. But there’s an upside: I have more opportunity to tell bigger stories and connect with more people. And I really relish that responsibility.
ELLE: From Trainwreck to Room, you've played a diverse range of women. How do you choose the roles you take on?
BL: I’m fascinated by all the contradictions in women. [I enjoy] showing all the ways that we are flawed and beautiful, unconventional and different. As I watched American cinema growing up, I never felt like I related to those women. I never felt like they represented me. I always assumed there must be something wrong with me because I don’t look that beautiful when I get up in the morning, and I don’t get the guy in the end. It fuelled me with a desire to tell stories that were different.
ELLE: You were snort-inducing hilarious in Trainwreck>. Is humour something you admire?
BL: Laughter is the best way to get over something, orget closer to something. It’s one of the things I respectmost about Amy Schumer. She’s found a way to get us closer to ourselves and see the ugly side of humanity, but not in a way that’s pointing a finger, or that’s angry. She does it in a way that makes us see the absurdity and laugh at it.
ELLE: What is your mantras for success?
BL: I feel grateful every day for all the times I was told no over the years. The thing I appreciate the most is the darkness I’ve experienced in my life, because I wouldn’t know how to play Ma [her character in <Room>] or Grace [from 2013's Short Term 12] if I hadn’t have experienced loss or sadness. I wouldn’t know how to express it. It’s such a valuable part of our experience: to not become afraid of the pitfalls, but to instead become curious about them.
ELLE: What possessions do you most treasure?
My two papillon dogs, Bowie and Jonathan, and my notebooks – I write a journal entry every day.
ELLE: Describe your style.
BL: I like to be comfortable. I’m not one to wear things that are exposing. I don’t mind being adventurous, but I like simplicity; things I’m not going to look back on cringingly in 20 years' time. But I don’t know if that’s possible. Maybe no matter what, you always look back and cringe.
ELLE: What websites do you have bookmarked?
BL: My number-one website is brainpickings.org. It opens you up to different authors and gives insights into the literary world. Reading about the love letters novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote to his wife Véra blew my mind. Fascinating.
ELLE: What album are you playing on repeat?
BL: I can’t stop listening to Currents by Tame Impala. Lyrically, I feel like [Kevin Parker] has it so figured out; I relate so much. It’s music that keeps you moving and thinking.
ELLE: What is your worst habit?
BL: I can be quite abusive to myself, mentally. I find myself sneakily looking for perfection. I can get through a whole day with ease, doing things in a way that feels right, and then I’ll say one thing and loop on it for the next 16 days. But I’m getting better, being kinder to myself.
Room is out 15 January, you can vote for Brie for EE Rising Star Award at BAFTA now
Words: Georgia Simmons