It’s always fun to catch a star on the rise, and sooner rather than later we will see big things in store for one Brie Larson.
Co-starring in The Gambler available on DVD, Blu-Ray and all digital formats today. I got the chance to sit down with her and talk about what attracted her to this engrossing thriller where she says very little but carries a big emotional stick opposite Mark Wahlberg as a man bent on self destruction in order to find himself again.
We talked about her experiences on set, what drew her to the material and what she defines as her watershed game changing moment as she carves out a very successful career as an actress.
Dave Voigt: For me as a fan I think I really began to notice you as an actress in things like The Spectacular Now & Short Term 12 that took you away from some of the comedy that you had previously been doing and allowed you to show a little bit of an edge and I’m curious to know what it was about The Gambler that ultimately drew you to this project?
Brie Larson: The overall story of it all was truly interesting and I mean this is just my perspective on it, but the character of Jim (played by Mark Wahlberg) and these seven stages of hell that he kind of had to walk through was a really fascinating journey as had had to strip a piece of himself down and leave it behind as these seven days went by was amazing and my character Amy in particular kind of holds space in a rather stoic way. She really doesn’t need to speak all that much and just has this unique wisdom in the piece. She just exists in her own kind of bliss and just is and there was such an interesting opportunity in that to see what can come of it and playing the role was just an absolute joy.
DV: Your role has an almost surreal straight man quality to it all as like you say as Mark’s character takes this decent into hell and it has an almost comedic sense to it all as your character is watching all of this unfold.
BL: Oh exactly, I mean the idea was that she sees him and what he truly is and what it he is getting up to and it all plays to those uniquely weird and interpersonal ways that we as humans really can get in the way of one another and for themselves and create drama, problems and complications that are actually rather simple and where other people let go, these characters just go deeper and for me I think that is where the movie truly started as she had already gone through her seven days and now is watching it happen to someone else. She can’t interject herself or change his journey in anyway buy trying to remove any of these obstacles that are in his way, but she can just be there for him with love and some good humor along the way as she serves as observer to it all.
DV: How was the dynamic on set between you, director Rupert Wyatt and Mark since this is such a unique interpersonal kind of story.
BL: We had such a beautiful working relationship. Rupert is a very sensitive person and we really did discuss every line of dialogue which was interesting because it is this film that is really made of one character, Mark’s character who almost has too many lines at times, with such flowery and deliberate explanations of things versus the parallel with my character who says almost nothing, but who I think is actually saying so much more by saying far far less. The three of us all were all psycho analyzing it all and trying to determine what any of it really means to us and playing into very simple things like when I am reading the book and trying to determine what she thinks of it. What is her thought process? I mean we spent hours on all of this, trying to get it all nailed down to the smallest detail and Mark as an actor is just one of the hardest working people that I have ever met. He’s almost like Beyonce! (laughs). He’s so prepared, I mean he was off book about six months before we started shooting while he was in the middle of Transformers. He could jump between different revisions and drafts while everything was being worked on and it was amazing. I got to watch him for about two days straight, in that scene towards the beginning of the movie when we are in the class room and it was a VERY long scene, but every take was fresh and dynamic and this guy is just a master at what he does. To play a character who really just gets to observe him was just such a treat.
DV: Is it important for you at this stage of your career to be able to find roles that have a little more substance where you get to tear into them a little more.
BL: Oh for sure, I think that every role and every movie that I take on has to have some kind of meaning to it. For intense, some like Scott Pilgrim which was such a fun and exciting film was also really rich in mythology and its own moral story and I think that a lot of my films have had that moral story to it in their own way. Although it doesn’t have to be that solely on the surface, there is nothing wrong with being entertained and laughing all the way through it but being able to pull something from it that changes you just a little bit by the end of it all. I enjoying exploring places where we get to laugh and to cry while getting something out of it, but now that I am a little further on in my career I feel like that I am at least able to have the chance at some bigger roles which gives me a little more room to maneuver and paint to play with while I am crafting a character. I mean when you are just doing a scene or two it is like you are only allowed to have the primary colors on the palette but when you have more pages and more scenes it gives you that much more to work with.
DV: When I saw Short Term 12 it really hit me on a raw emotional level as your character is going through this horrible journey but you still made her empathetic and fascinating as well. Do you find that if you parallel the roles that you are taking against the arc of building a career that you are able to find the meat of it all in the roles and determine your own destiny?
BL: Oooh, that’s REALLY interesting. Yeah! I really do. I really think that Short Term 12 really was a pivotal point for me because there is this truly simple transaction that happens in my job. There is the director, who I am hired by as the actor and we shake hands agree that I will entertain them at that is all I really knew about that working dynamic, it’s just what I expected and I always felt the need to prove myself because until Short Term 12 I really was unproven as an actor. The interesting thing about that experience is that when I met Destin Cretton (the writer/director of Short Term 12) on our first or second day, I had to do this scene where I had this emotional breakdown. I really wanted to show him that I understood the emotional weight of this character and I started pounding my fists against the wall and getting really upset. Then he yelled cut, and I was like “Wait, I can do much more!” because my instinct was that he had given up on me but then he said “No, it was great, we got it, I don’t need to sit here and watch you torture yourself”. That was such a game changing moment for me because it was then when I realized that it was so much about the “doing” as it was about the “being” and that was what I was missing and it is where my interest in Amy really grew because before I would feel the need to do these larger over the top things but now I feel like it is those smaller, subtler moments can engage and audience in such a deeper way which just makes it a lot more dynamic rather than just obvious and through that confidence I feel more interested in tackling deeper stuff which just adds to my life experience and makes me as good as I can be.