Brie Larson gets used to taking the lead

Brie Larson is winning accolades for her role in "Short Term 12."
Brie Larson is winning accolades for her role in “Short Term 12.”

Brie Larson is winning acclaim and accolades — including taking the Best Actress prize at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland — for her portrayal of Grace, a young woman working with troubled youths who has her own problems to deal with in “Short Term 12.” And Larson herself is still grappling with some issues — like referring to herself as a lead actress.

This film is wonderful at highlighting how you tend to view others’ situations through the lens of your own experiences.

Totally, it is that. Also, the whole film [my character] is struggling with something and therefore it’s coloring the entire experience that you’re watching. It changes everything. If she wasn’t going through this internal thing, or if her internal struggle was completely different, you wouldn’t even have the same story. It’s more about how she’s reacting to these things that are happening to her because of what’s happening internally.

Was that part of the appeal for you?

Yeah, that’s absolutely it. It was a fun line for me to play, that there was the script that had one world that she’s dealing with and then there’s a completely separate one that wasn’t necessarily on the page but was something that was very alive inside of my head that was created, and then the two worlds were kind of conflicting and colliding. I’d spent a lot of time along listening to Norwegian death metal and getting really amped up. I think the more complex it gets the more I enjoy it. If it wasn’t complex, I’d just make it complicated.

Have you had roles where you’ve had to complicate it for yourself?
I do it with all of them. I mean, this was my first… lead. I feel uncomfortable saying that, it feels self-centered, but you know. It was the first time I didn’t have to create all of these scenes in my head that were never in the movie in order to create a well-rounded character.

I think you’re allowed to refer to yourself as the lead.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. I feel so strange. That’s not like a negative word? Every time I say it I feel like I want to jump under the table. Like, “Oh God, I hate myself.” (laughs) As if it matters to anyone but myself that I went from having a few scenes in a movie to more than a few scenes in a movie. Like, no one cares, really. It seems silly to put importance on that.

On a movie with so small a budget, how nerve-wracking is it to do a scene where you break something?
You know there’s no other option if it doesn’t work. The lamp was pretty easy because we had the budget for three. It was still scary, though. It was more scary for Brett, our [cinematographer], because he was the one following me, and it was really dependent on him capturing it. But that was fun. I think the second take we were actually happy with, but since we had the third lamp we just did it anyway.

But then you have to smash a car windshield later in the film.
Apparently I was only supposed to hit the windshield three times. It was a very specific thing because they were worried about getting damage to the car in other ways. They just rented the car, and it’s a real windshield that we smashed. And then we had a company come out and replace it. They were very confused as to what we were doing. (laughs)

I’m sure there were other safety considerations.
The problem with me, too, is that I get so focused on it. There will be a stunt guy who will repeat things to me and I’ll be like, “Yeah yeah yeah. I’m just going to do it.” That was one thing, “Don’t look at the windshield. Please don’t look at the windshield while you’re doing it.” If you watch the movie, I am just staring right into it, the glass if flying into my face, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I think I just thought that it was candy glass or whatever. It wasn’t until afterward that they were like, “No, that was a real windshield.” I had no idea.


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