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Brie Larson Wants Captain Marvel to Change the Film Industry

The actress opens up about stepping into character and demanding inclusion in film criticism.

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Disney

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s Asiate Restaurant is a swanky eatery with a killer view of midtown Manhattan. I’d never been to a place like this before and I was intimidated, but I was there to meet with Brie Larson to talk about Captain Marvel, and I needed to get my shit together. When I arrived for our chat on the 36th floor, I greeted her with a hug. “I read the book you gave me!” She said. “It’s an intense read.”

She’s referring to Octavia Butler’s Kindred graphic novel, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings. I gave it to her during an event for the film The Glass Castle in 2017. She and I had met in January of that year, when she was looking to use her Instagram to feature women of color expressing their thoughts about inclusion and intersectionality across different industries. I messaged her with a small blurb, not expecting a response, and she promptly published it on her Instagram page.

View this post on Instagram

"My name is Valerie Complex. I am a writer, military veteran, and intersectional feminist. I believe as women we cannot achieve full solidarity without INTERSECTIONALITY. More times than I can count, I have been asked to let go of intersectionality in order to unite under the banner of united womanhood. This isn't something women of color can afford to do. The idea that all women are united is a facade. There is much more work to do. Now is the time for those who aren't a part of marginalized communities to LISTEN when women of color are explaining their struggles and experiences to you — it is time for you to internalize! By keeping quiet, you will be surprised at what you learn. If you want to know more, ask. The empty promises of solidarity fall on deaf ears because the actions are contrary to what is said. How can you say you believe in solidarity when you stand silent as WoC are brutalized by racism (verbal and systemic)? THIS IS THE TIME TO SPEAK UP! Women of color are tired of putting in the work while others reap the benefits. They are sick of the disregard and the disrespect from your friends and family while you hang your head low because you’re too scared to check your peers. Until people start speaking up and showing us they mean business, we will be unmoved and disinclined to contribute to the larger cause." NOTE: I will be including links to Valerie's articles with deeper info on this subject in insta story.

A post shared by Brie (@brielarson) on

Larson and I would cross paths again during the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018. Angela Robinson, director of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, helped facilitate my connection to Time’s Up, in which she and Larson are heavily involved. They were interested in knowing more about improving access and opportunity for underrepresented film critics, and I was asked to create a proposal that would help these critics gain elevated access at film festivals. I worked with other entertainment journalists to create the plan, and festivals across the country used it to begin a huge inclusion push, which today can be seen at places like the Toronto International Film Festival, SXSW, and Sundance. While every festival has different requirements, the basis is to provide airfare, lodging, credentials, and sometimes a stipend to critics who qualify.

Brie Larson really helped spearhead this. Because of this, I can be in the same room with the biggest stars in the world, and partake in the biggest interviews of my career. I sat down with Larson to discuss the pressure that comes with taking on a role of this magnitude, her fondness for Rodarte, and ensuring film criticism is an equal playing field.

Harper’s BAZAAR: Were you nervous the first day you walked onto set as Carol Danvers? How did you ease into the role?

Brie Larson: I jumped in head-first. The first three days of shooting were all the stuff on the moving train, so it was mostly physical. I had been in pretty heavy training for nine months. [These scenes] bought me some time to get a feel for the suit before we actually got into dialogue.

Brie Larson in Captain Marvel
Brie Larson in Captain Marvel
Disney

HB: I can see how the physicality helped ease the pressure, because you could work off any anxiety pretty quickly.

BL: I think everyone on set was like, "This is insane. I can't believe she's doing a fight sequence on a moving train and it's day two.”

HB: My favorite aspect of the movie is the relationship between Carol Danvers and Maria Rambeau. Was it an instant connection between you and co-star Lashana Lynch?

BL: I am an introvert, but I'm super open in scene work. I don't hold back in that, and she doesn't either, so it was a really interesting experience. The two of us did a chemistry read together and it was pretty vibe-y from the beginning. Lashana's a badass and really special, so it was easy to connect with her. We were spending so much time together hanging out that we developed a real bond through it.

HB: What about the connection with Maria’s daughter Monica (Akira Akbar)? We get hints of a mentor role for Carol there. Is that something fans will see in the franchise going forward? Maybe a future appearance of Monica as a superhero herself?

BL: Honestly, I have no idea what’s in the future for these characters, but I would certainly love to see that. It was so easy to get on with Akira. She’s incredible, and so good in the film. Actually, one of my favorite moments with her is when we were filming in Louisiana. In those first couple of days we got rained out a couple times [for scenes] filming outdoors. Lashana, Akira, her younger sister Azari and I ended up jumping in my car while it rained. We were stuck in the car together for an hour goofing off and singing.

Brie Larson, Akira Akbar, and Lashana Lynch in Captain Marvel
From left: Larson, Akira Akbar, and Lashana Lynch in Captain Marvel
Disney

HB: Those are the moments that make filming most enjoyable, those intimate moments folks don’t see on screen.

BL: In that moment, I'm sure there were producers somewhere stressed about the rain, but they don't understand what kind of magic ends up onscreen from those moments.

HB: Any other fond memories from set?

BL: I've been thinking a lot about pre-production and working with the stunt team. We worked for a couple hours every day, and the camaraderie we built together helped build trust and a safe space for me. Learning how to punch, kick, and do judo throws when I’ve never done anything like that before [teaches you] to trust the people you’re working with. Learning these new skills totally changed my brain and changed how I played the character, too.

HB: ‘90s fashion is a big part of the movie. The Nine Inch Nails t-shirt, the flannel—was any of that in your closet growing up?

BL: [Laughs] Well, I was six in the early ‘90s, but I do remember wearing a lot of Old Navy during that time.

HB: Any favorite accessories come to mind?

BL: I had lots of fuzzy hair clips that had little feathers—and those stretchy choker necklaces. And small or clear backpacks like Jansport.

HB: You wore Rodarte to the Captain Marvel premiere. What is it about designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy and their clothing that keeps you consistently coming back to the brand?

BL: They always materialize my dreams into fashion. They're so feminine and I am proud of that. The dress I wore to the L.A. premiere, it was hand-beaded and just beautiful. Believe it or not, we’ve been talking about that dress for a year. Laura was at the premiere and held my train on the red carpet. Every stitch of that dress is made with love and to share that moment and environment with them made me feel strong and supported. Their energy is something I will always lean into because they are artisans, geniuses, and my sisters in arms.

Los Angeles World Premiere Of Marvel Studios' 'Captain Marvel'
Larson in Rodarte at the Captain Marvel premiere
Alberto E. RodriguezGetty Images

HB: In any business, forming a support system or a sisterhood is important, and your help and advocacy has changed a lot for marginalized critics in the entertainment space. Film festivals are making changes by diversifying their critic pool and giving them high-level access, but this is only the beginning. Where do you think we can go from here?

BL: Not to side-step your question, but I feel like that's more for you to answer than for me. You are one of the folks at the forefront of this movement.

HB: I mean, I have been brainstorming solutions...

BL: See, for me, I'm just trying to help other people. It's honestly been so rewarding for me to even have a greater understanding of my industry, and how I can shake the table. This whole ordeal pushed me in new directions and helped me see some of the roadblocks underrepresented critics are having. I felt the Captain Marvel press tour was a step in the right direction.

HB: This is absolutely a great starting point. I understand a lot of education will have to go into this, as so many are uninformed about what we go through, including the gatekeeping. The question I’ve been grappling with is how do we hold those who shut women and people of color out accountable?

BL: That’s the difficult part, right? Figuring out how to do that. I am grateful for progress, but like you said, this is just the beginning.

HB: I try to educate as many people as I can on what’s happening in our industry because so many are uninformed or just have no clue about what we go through.

BL: Maybe next step is to create a pipeline of sorts and using this to educate others on what's new, what’s available, who’s reliable, et cetera.

HB: That doesn’t sound like a bad idea, especially with a system in place, or a system that people on both sides of the table can look to for guidance. There definitely needs to be a conversation around that.

BL: Now that the press tour for Captain Marvel is winding down, I'm excited to do a little bit of a roundup to see how the press tour turned out—but now that you’ve brought it up, I’ll also be thinking about what happens next.

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