Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers (born October 1, 1989), known professionally as Brie Larson, is an American actress and filmmaker. Noted as a teenager for her supporting work in comedies, she has since expanded to leading roles in independent dramas and film franchises, receiving such accolades as an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe.
Born in Sacramento, California, Larson was homeschooled. At age six, she became the youngest student admitted to a training program at the American Conservatory Theater. She soon relocated to Los Angeles and began her acting career in 1998 with a comedy sketch in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She appeared as a regular in the 2001 sitcom Raising Dad and briefly dabbled with a music career, releasing the album Finally Out of P.E. in 2005. Larson subsequently played supporting roles in the comedy films Hoot (2006), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), and 21 Jump Street (2012), and appeared as a sardonic teenager in the television series United States of Tara (2009–2011). Her breakthrough came with a leading role in the acclaimed independent drama Short Term 12 (2013), and she continued to take on supporting parts in the romance The Spectacular Now (2013) and the comedy Trainwreck (2015). For playing a kidnapping victim in the drama Room (2015), Larson won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 2017, she starred as a photojournalist in the adventure film Kong: Skull Island, which emerged as her highest-grossing release.
As a filmmaker, Larson has co-written and co-directed two short films, The Arm (2012), which received a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and Weighting (2013). She made her feature film directorial debut in 2017 with the independent comedy-drama Unicorn Store. Larson is also an advocate for sexual assault survivors and is vocal about social and political issues.
Room and beyond (2015–present)
Larson had three film releases in 2015. Her first appearance was in Digging for Fire, a largely improvised ensemble comedy-drama featuring Jake Johnson in the lead role. Filming took place without a script and Larson made several on-set decisions regarding her character’s choices, including the removal of a planned romantic subplot involving her and Johnson. She next played the sister of Amy Schumer’s character in the comedy Trainwreck, which was loosely based on Schumer’s own life. Larson modeled her role on Schumer’s sister, who served as an associate producer on the film. Tim Grierson of Screen International labeled the film “a deft blend of laughs, romance and poignancy” and found Larson to be “lively, [but] slightly underused”. Trainwreck earned over $140 million against a $35 million budget.
Larson next starred in Room, a film adapted from the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue. It featured her as Ma, a young woman held in captivity, who bears a child of rape. The role was physically and emotionally taxing for her, and she modeled it on her mother’s struggle as a single parent. A large portion of the film was shot inside a 10 ft x 10 ft shed created in a studio, and Larson prepared herself by spending a month isolated in her apartment. She interacted with specialists on sexual abuse and researched the lack of nutrition that a person in captivity would suffer. To achieve the look, she stayed away from sunlight, modified her diet, and exercised extensively to lose weight. Larson collaborated closely with Jacob Tremblay, who played her son, and spent time performing activities that mirrored those of their characters. Room received acclaim, particularly for Larson and Tremblay’s work. Los Angeles Times’s Kenneth Turan called her performance “astonishing”, adding that the “reality and preternatural commitment she brings to Ma is piercingly honest from start to finish, as scaldingly emotional a performance as anyone could wish for”. She won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress, as well as a Golden Globe and BAFTA in the same category.
Following the success of Room, Larson played a leading role in Free Fire (2016), an action-comedy about a shootout in a warehouse. She agreed to the project to bring attention to gun violence. Eric Kohn of IndieWire remarked on how different Larson’s role was from that of Room and added that her “businesslike demeanor once again proves her ability to command a scene with a single glare”. Commercially, the film failed to recoup its $7 million investment. She had filmed a part in Todd Solondz’s comedy Wiener-Dog, but it was cut out when Solondz found her character inessential to the story. The following year, Larson starred in the second installment of the MonsterVerse franchise, entitled Kong: Skull Island, co-starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hiddleston. Filmed in Vietnam, the film featured her as a photojournalist in the 1970s. It marked her first big-budget project, and though she was glad to play a role not defined by her looks, she bemoaned the lack of female co-stars. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post praised the film’s visual effects and thought that “Larson manages to hold her own with very little to do”. Kong: Skull Island earned over $566 million to emerge as her highest-grossing release.
Later in 2017, Larson portrayed Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle, an adaptation of Walls’ memoir, which reunited her with Destin Daniel Cretton. It tells the story of a successful young woman who was raised by dysfunctional and nonconformist parents (played by Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts). Larson was attracted to the complex depiction of a parent-child relationship and identified with its theme of forgiveness. She collaborated closely with Walls and her siblings and observed their mannerisms. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian disliked the film’s sentimentality but noted that “it is saved, just a little, by the robustness of Brie Larson’s presence”. Larson made her feature film directorial debut with the comedy-drama Unicorn Store, in which she also starred. She played a disillusioned art student who becomes fascinated with unicorns. Larson had unsuccessfully auditioned in 2012 to star in the film when Miguel Arteta was attached to direct. After the production was stalled, Larson was offered to direct and star in it. She was drawn towards the fanciful narrative and found a connection between her character’s journey and her experience as a director. Peter Debruge of Variety labeled it a “creative misfire” and found her “directing style [to be] entirely incompatible with whimsy”. Larson’s final appearance that year was in the India-set musical romance Basmati Blues, a project she had filmed back in 2013, which received criticism on social media for its white savior narrative.
In 2019, Larson will star as Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel in superhero films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the character will debut in the origin film Captain Marvel and subsequently be featured in Avengers: Endgame. She was initially skeptical to take on such a high-profile role but agreed after viewing it as a platform to empower young women. In preparation, she underwent nine months of physical training and interacted with servicemen at the Nellis Air Force Base. Larson will team with Destin Daniel Cretton for the third time in Just Mercy, an adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s memoir of the same name, co-starring Michael B. Jordan. She is also attached to serve as the producer and star as Victoria Woodhull, the first female presidential candidate in American history, in an eponymous biopic produced by Amazon Studios.