If you've read our review of Short Term 12 - or if you've just watched Short Term 12 - you'll know that its star, Brie Larson, is excellent in it. A tale of a foster home carer, her boyfriend and the children they look after together, SS12 one of the best films you'll see this year - should you go to see it this weekend, November 1, that is.
We caught up with Larson over the phone for a piece in this month's issue of Empire, and here below is the extended edition, which manages to not mention her turn as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but does touch on her role as Rachel in Community...
How are you brushing off the fawning? I'm certainly not bored by it. The reality is that the best part of my job, and the thing I am constantly looking for is to make film that transcends and causes these shared experiences. That, I am amazed by. The power that this film has held, across the board, with people of every shape size and colour, has been so life-affirming for me.
It even took me to Switzerland! That was really surreal, because a lot of people didn't even speak English and they were still able to feel so much from these characters, so I have questioned myself so much, my whole life, as to why I have chosen to take the path of being an actor, and not something else that could possibly be more helpful to the planet, and I am happy to say that through this experience, that there is a true power to film, and I just want to respect it.
How were you first approached with the role?
I don't really like most scripts that I get sent for many different reasons - I'm just picky, I guess!
I had been told there was a script coming my way that was what we call 'an offer pending a meeting', which means they are interested, but I still have to do my homework and show up, and though I don't have to audition, but we have to talk and get into it.
I don't really like most scripts that I get sent for many different reasons - I'm just picky, I guess! But this is one that my representation said that I had to read right away. 'You're just going to devour it.' And it was true, and within about 30 pages I called my representation and said that I had to meet on this. It was just very clear to me, and it doesn't happen very often. A script can be so much, but it was just sparking my imagination. I have no idea what any director is going to do, I'm just battling the world that I'm creating in my head, and it just made perfect sense to me. I knew who grace was, I felt such a pull towards the material and I just knew I could get it.
I still don't understand. I watched the whole thing together and you wonder how it all happened, but there was just something inside of me that knew how to tell that particular story. And so I was in Georgia at the time, shooting another film, and I was scared to meet with Destin [Daniel Cretton, the first-time writer-director of the film] because I thought I was just completely underquaified for the role. I thought it would be a real uphill battle for me, because it was so well written, and so strong and complex female role that everybody would want it, and I'm of no name value, so I really had to do my homework.
We just video chatted and all of my fears melted away instantly over the most simple thing: he popped up on the screen and he was in his bedroom, and his bed was unmade, and I instantly wanted to work with him. Because not only was this a very subtle and complex script, but this was somebody who was not trying to impress, but was just a human being, and that's what I am interested in.
So we talked for maybe thirty minutes, and by the end of it, he said, 'I want to do this with you, you've made me excited about this.' I couldn't believe it. I just pushed the button out of the Skype call and stared at my computer, going 'No... no way...'
And then it was a whole new experience of excitement and fear because I've never carried a film before, and I had never done something I had been offered straight-up and hadn't auditioned. I always had to work so hard. And through the audition process, you find things and refine them, and I didn't do that, so I had certain fears that I was going to show up on set and they'd be like, 'What did we do?'
What would you say this film is about, at its heart? It's just dealing with human connections, and struggle. There was one aspect of it which I had to be aware of, which is what the foster care facility looks like and feels like, and what those relationships are like, to be honest within the rules of this world the movie is about.
I've watched the movie probably ten times at this point, and I find that there's something new for me every time I watch it. The biggest human struggle that I see, all the times that I watch it, is love, and the fear of love, and the fear of being unloveable. Of being so broken that no-one could love you, and the isolation that goes along with that.
The true freedom of loving yourself, and then being loved by others. That's such a huge thing for every character. We've all had someone in our life who's made us question ourselves, whether we're worthy of anyone's time or love, and I think this is a film that questions it and overcomes all of it.
Do you define it as a comedy or a drama or a dramedy?
I've watched the movie probably ten times at this point, and I find that there's something new for me every time I watch it.
We as human beings love to put things in our mental filing cabinets. It's a thriller, it's a comedy, it's a drama... The thing that is reality, which is what I am interested in, is that it's everything. There's no genre you can fit into it. There have been times in our family where there have been some serious conversations, and all it takes is for someone to fart to break all of the tension. How do you classify that? I'm not going through every one of my days in my journal and writing, 'Well, today was more of a psychological thriller...' It's everything!'
I think it's surprising when you watch it, mostly because you expect it to be some sort of issue movie, but it's, in its way, it's a very delicate parent. The whole film is. That we can find lightness, and a way of dealing with issues, that is so much more healthy, and makes things easier to talk about, than if we really indulged in all of the sad dark parts, and all the hard things that are hard to talk about.
Was there a fun atmosphere on set? Everyone got nailed with that water pistol. One of my favourite days. It was really light... it was just laughing, and fun, the whole time. There were maybe a handful of moments - there was one day in particular that had a lot of heavy scenes in it for Grace, and that was an exhausting day, but there was no tension. You'd never walk on set and go, 'Something's going down here...'
Destin spoke to both John [Gallagher Jr., who plays Larson's characters boyfriend] and I before we started shooting and he encouraged us to take on the role of leader on and off camera. We became this kind of little family. It became important for everybody that if you were going to do a crying scene, it became important to feel totally comfortable with to be around. That way you don't have to prove anything, you don't have to indulge in anything more than you need to, and I think that's where the honesty of the film comes from.
I had this thing in my head that because I was the actor, and the other person on the other side was the director, and the transaction was, 'I'm here to entertain you.' But with Destin I found that cord was completely cut and he just wanted me to be and I didn't have to try to be anything for him. The littlest thing was enough, and that was empowering.
Have you been thinking about working with Destin again? Of course! We've talked about stuff. We have some ideas.
Short Term 13? We've definitely thought about that. In fact, we're calling it Short Term 12 Part 2. Or Short Term 12 Chapter 2 - The Shortening.
Seriously though, a lot of people ask about the continuing story of Grace. It's interesting that in the promoting side of this movie, me and some of the kids have been going to do Q&As after the movie, and I've never experienced something like this. People are so relieved to see us in the physical self afterwards, smiling and pushing each other like siblings, it's like they get this wave of relief that we're okay. It's very funny. It's a really interesting thing, that after just an hour and half of time with these people, they feel very emotionally connected.
Will we get to see you again in Season 5 of Community? Have you thought about how the date went between Rachel and Abed? That's a very interesting question, because I don't know how I am supposed to answer it... I'm going to say... Hmm. How do I answer this? I'm gonna say... I have thought about how the date went. Whether that's for my own personal enjoyment or not I can't really say. (Laughs)
In Don Jon, you have just one line, and you spend most of your time on your phone. What was the casting process for that? (Laughs) If you can imagine, usually for an audition you go in and you perform a scene from the film, that's what I did. So I drove about an hour and a half to sit in a room while Joseph talked and I texted on my phone. And then I left, and I drove another hour and a half back home.
My presentation called me up afterwards and asked, 'How did it go?' I was like, 'I have no idea.' It was so strange. It was a lot of fun. On the day of shooting, it was flattering that Jo thought my face was expressive enough that I didn't need to do all that much.
It was very strange. I had these weird anxiety attacks all the time when I was driving to work because I kept thinking, just like in a dream, 'Oh my God, I didn't learn my lines!' and then I'd realise I didn't have any to learn. I had the best job ever. I just sat there and got to watch this weird show happen.