BY DONNA FREYDKIN
So your movie has a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You're one of the names being thrown around as a best actress frontrunner come awards season.
If you're Brie Larson, you don't obsessively check Oscar prognostication sites. Or even fixate on all the accolades being thrown your way.
"No. I can't. What am I to do about that?" she says, when the O word is brought up.
Larson broke through in 2013's "Short Term 12," playing the supervisor of a teen group home, and this year played Amy Schumer's upbeat, supportive sister in "Trainwreck." But with "Room," a deeply emotional, haunting and strangely uplifting adaptation of Emma Donoghue's talker of a novel, Larson has hit the acting major leagues. She's Ma, the resentful, protective, loving, tormented mother of Jack (the brilliant Jacob Tremblay), the child of her rapist and captor Old Nick, who has only known the confines of the garden shack where he and his mother are imprisoned -- until one day, he breaks them out.
It's what you don't see that's the most impactful. By design.
"Being in that space, because it's told from Jack's perspective, there's a lightness and innocence to it that makes it palatable. My worry the whole time was whether people could stomach it. (Director Lenny Abrahamson) always shot everything in a way that we could show as little as possible," says Larson. "You see Old Nick drop his pants, and that's all you need to see. You don't need to see anymore. We can piece together the rest. It's perhaps worse what's going on in our imagination."
For Larson, it took reserves of endurance to play Ma.
"Strength became the biggest key. It took a lot of stamina for me personally to get through that shoot. It was a lot of emotion. I was Ma all day. It was very taxing. It's a huge piece of the movie, too," she says, pausing for a beat. "It's interesting how life starts to imitate art."
In the physical sense as well.
"It's the first time I gained muscle in my life. I put on 15 pounds of muscle. My days in the morning, I was learning how to do dead lifts. I was recognizing the physical weight I could carry," she says.
That translated into something of a personality shift for Larson, who's thoughtful, firm and self-contained in person.
"I felt sort of immovable in some ways for the first time. I came from the world of women are fragile and delicate and (with) pointed toes. Instead I became this sturdy, stocky warrior. It changed my perception of myself. It changed my relationship to my body," she says.
And she learned the power of not agreeing to everything, to speaking her mind, to expressing her feelings: "It's not a big deal to say no."
So we have to know: What was the first thing Larson ate after months of culinary deprivation? After all, she was playing a woman who'd been robbed of sunlight, nutrients, and basic grooming products for seven years.
"When I wrapped, when I could have whatever I wanted? I broke it with the Momofuku Crack Pie. Having not had carbs or sugar for four months – or butter -- imagine what that Crack Pie must have tasted like. There were ten people around me watching me when I ate it. It's equivalent to when Jack sees the world for the first time," she says.
Next up for Larson: "Kong: Skull Island," which opens March 10, 2017. All she'll say about the project is this: "I'm not King Kong. I am not pulling an Andy Serkis."
For a cool look at last year's Oscars, check out these amazing photos.