Since winning the Oscar for best actress for 2015's "Room," Brie Larson acknowledges her sudden jolt to worldwide fame — as well as the constant job offers that come with it — has taken some getting used to.
Along with her anticipated entry into the Marvel universe — she'll play the lead in a Captain Marvel movie slated for 2019 — Larson laid the groundwork for another potential franchise earlier this year by starring in "Kong: Skull Island." (She also found time for her feature directorial debut, "Unicorn Store.")
Now she's coming out with the ensemble shoot-'em-up comedy "Free Fire" (opening Friday). Larson plays Justine, the only woman in a gang in 1978 Boston that's going to a deserted warehouse to buy guns. When shots are fired, they start a chain reaction that will leave no one safe.
Larson talked to Business Insider about what keeps her grounded, the roles she instantly passes on, and how she sees the industry being more accommodating for women — and where it needs to improve.
Jason Guerrasio: Did it attract you that in "Free Fire" the Justine character is in a lot of ways smarter than all the guys?
Brie Larson: Kind of. I mean, to be honest, I don't know if I think she's a lot smarter than them. She's got a plan, and it doesn't work out so well. I think the one thing she has over them is the fact that she's not trying to assert power or dominance outright. She's surrounded by all these dudes with their crazy suits and mustaches and with tons of ego and she's actually muted and understated and is trying her best to just keep everyone calm and kind of go under the surface, and that's what I really found interesting. Being in a film where you have all of these crazy personalities and then there's this one kind of sneaky, secretive, quiet one who is playing everybody was fun.
Guerrasio: So for you right now, what does a role need to have for you to consider it?
Larson: The main thing for me is just the length of time it takes to make a movie. It's at least a year of just talking about it, talking about it with yourself or your director or your other castmates or the press, so you just want to make sure it's a film that although you initially feel this pull or this drive to it, you don't really have the answers to why you're drawn to it. Part of it is being interested in the character and part of it is being interested in the movie or what it means and the exploration of it. But it's more about not knowing the answers to certain questions but wanting to go on the journey of discovery to find the answers.
Guerrasio: How about roles you would instantly say no to?
Larson: Clichés. Anything that's a cliché.
Guerrasio: Like, a cliché female role?
Larson: A cliché of the female character or a cliché film. Like a film where you know exactly what's going to happen. One of the reasons I love making movies is because it's an opportunity to share with the world a different way of being or a different way of living or seeing the world. If it's something you've already seen before, if I have too many reference points for it, then it's not exciting for me to make.
Guerrasio: You have been working nonstop since "Room." And not just making movies but doing press for them.
Larson: Yes. I feel the same way. [Laughs]
Guerrasio: What's been the biggest thing to adapt to in life after your Oscar win? When suddenly work and attention are both constant.
Larson: I don't think I'll ever be able to grasp this — I just don't really understand why anybody would care what I have to say. I'm just a person figuring stuff out. That's the thing I trip out on all the time when I do days and days of press and you're like, "Who cares what I think?" [Laughs]
Guerrasio: And I would guess you have a similar feeling when it comes to posting things on social media.
Larson: Yeah. I think you just get sick of your own voice and one of my favorite things in the world is just to people-watch and to listen. Interviews aren't about that. Very few interviews are a conversation. It's usually a question and I have to answer for two minutes. By the end of the day, I kind of feel gross. It's like you go to dinner with a friend and then you get home and you're like: "Ugh, I dominated that conversation too much. I wish I let them talk more." That's how it feels for me every day I do press.
Guerrasio: So when was the last time you got to just sit back and people-watch?
Larson: Oh, all the time.
Guerrasio: You can still pull it off in public?
Larson: Yeah. I don't really get recognized much.
Larson: I'm so serious. And I'm very paranoid about my privacy so I would be the first to tell you if it's all gone. It's not. I'm grateful for that.
Guerrasio: You've been very outspoken about women's rights and equal rights within the industry. Are you feeling any shift in the industry in regards to women being heard?
Larson: The way that I'm feeling the shift is that we are allowed to be part of the development process. So I do feel like things are changing because I'm allowed to option books or write an original screenplay or direct. Those possibilities are really wide open. I think that males still struggle to write for females, which is totally fine because I don't think I could write a really impactful male role because that's not the life that I lived. So we'll just keep shouting and say we need more opportunities for not just women but people that are just different.
I think sometimes I feel saying this is about women or this is just purely a male/female gender issue is only scratching the surface. We need to have points of view from lots of different types of people. People who have different backgrounds, different parts of the world, who maybe perceive gender differently. We're in this time where we have social media, we have the ability to share so much, that I think that we need to create more space and more opportunity for people that are just outside of the typical cliched binary roles.
Guerrasio: You've definitely taken those opportunities to have a voice. You recently wrapped on directing a feature film, "Unicorn Store." You directed a few shorts before that. What was the biggest takeaway from making your first feature?
Larson: There's a lot that I'm still pulling apart from it. I just felt so excited about it. I really just loved every second of it. I loved assembling a team of people that I really enjoyed being with every day and I continue to be in awe of every person on set that has a very specific gift and you need all of them to make a movie. It's this amazing opportunity to be with all these real-life superheroes that have very specific skills and you need all of them to make one thing.
Guerrasio: When will we get to see it?
Larson: I don't know. It's in post right now. I just don't know when the end will be.
Guerrasio: So who's the female director you would kill to work with right now?
Larson: Oh, I would say either Kathryn Bigelow or Ava DuVernay.
Guerrasio: Both are great.
Larson: I know.
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