Brie Larson on the making of a feminist icon

Fresh from her turn as Captain Marvel, Brie Larson talks intersectional feminism, the need for more authentic emotion on film, and becoming a Shero for International (super) women's day
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Brie Larson on the making of a feminist icon

Brie Larson is the hero we didn’t know we needed. From her work as a women’s rights campaigner and her Oscar-winning portrayal of abductee Joy in Room to her most recent lead role as feminist icon, Carol Danvers in new action film Captain Marvel, consciousness-raising seems to be in her blood.

Speaking to Grazia, Brie explains why she thinks the new film will resonate with many women. “I think because it’s 2019, and what 2019 is about, really, is intersectional feminism,” the 29-year-old actress reflects. “And that’s definitely a theme that was important to me when filming the new movie. This idea that we don’t just have one female experience, and we need to show what it means to be all different kinds of women.”

Despite how passionate Brie is about the new project, it’s a role that she almost didn’t take. “I really needed time to sit with myself and see if this was a choice I should make and a life I should live,” she reveals. “It wasn’t about the piece itself – more about all that comes with it after the movie comes out.”

Although Brie has had a successful career so far (with an incredible 62 awards under her belt) she has enjoyed relative anonymity outside work, particularly by Hollywood standards. “Accepting the role was about whether, as an introvert, and someone who really enjoys anonymity, whether I could handle that,” she admits openly.  

Ultimately, her decision came down to the fact that she believed the opportunity to be part of a film with such an empowering message for young girls was more important than her own personal fears: “The very nature of this film means that I’m having conversations that I’d like to have about what it means to be a woman.”

Brie had flight training for the new movie

She continues, “What strength looks like, the complexities of the female experience, female representation. It’s surprising and cool that in my first giant movie I get to be having those kinds of conversations. But that’s also why I’ve waited and been particular about what jobs I do.”

Her character, Carol, is a member of the US Air Force, so Brie took part in flight training to fully understand the impact of g-force on the body. “We got to 6.5 Gs. It was just amazing to feel all of that, especially once we were back on set. I was able to recall exactly what that feels like, what your body feels like, how hard it is to breathe. It’s all of those little nuances that I hope will come through in the movie,” Brie adds. The desire for authenticity is also what led the actress to do most of her own stunts in the film, a record shared only by Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise (it’s important that the action “feels real,” she insists).

Brie also strongly believes that just because a film like Captain Marvel is driven by CGI and fast-paced action it doesn’t make character development any less important than with a film like Room. “The car chases and the explosions are super fun. But, really, what sits with you and makes you think and makes you rewatch it are those interpersonal relationships and the conflicts between these characters,” she observes.

“If it was just about spectacle and CGI you don’t need to hire me,” she declares resolutely. “You could hire anybody to do that. You’re hiring us because of who we are as artists, because of our minds, because of what it is that plagues us, and keeps us up at night and what drives us.”

Brie tells Grazia that one of the most interesting parts of her that character is her struggle and conflict between rational and emotional thinking. “I think she’s incredibly relatable… We [all] have the left and the right brain. We have the logical, and we have the emotional, and we have the war between the two of them. Which one is of most value? And which one we should bring to the table? So that internal struggle for her is what keeps the movie, and keeps playing her, so interesting for me.”

She concludes, “We need more complicated female characters. I want to see myself [on screen], we are not one dimensional. So hopefully, that’s what comes out on screen. One of the best parts about playing Carol is that we see her as strong before she becomes a superhero. We see her fall down repeatedly while human and get back up, time and time again.” And surely that’s exactly the type of hero we need in 2019?

  • Captain Marvel is cinemas across the UAE from International Women’s Day on 8 March 2019

Photos: Supplied