This is the first Academy Award — and nomination — for Brie Larson, who already had garnered numerous awards heading into tonight and was considered the odds-on favorite to win Best Actress for her portrayal of a kidnapped girl imprisoned by a psychopath in Room.
The powerful film has been a critical favorite since premiering at Telluride, and Larson thanked the festival in her acceptance speech — along with distributor A24, which acquired the film at Cannes in 2014. Already having won a BAFTA, SAG, Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award, Larson’s Oscar win cements the actress’ bona fides. The Academy Award nomination this year catapulted her career much in the same way that a nomination did for Jennifer Lawrence in 2010 with Winter’s Bone. Like Lawrence, who went on to star in the Hunger Games tentpoles, Larson next will star in the tentpole Kong: Skull Island.
The 26-year-old California native had been acting since she was about 10 years old, but it was her role in the indie drama (and festival favorite) Short Term 12 that grabbed the attention of director Lenny Abrahamson to cast her for the lead in Room. He heard about Larson’s performance in the indie film from an assistant in his office.
Meanwhile, Larson — who was given the book on which the movie is based by her manager Anne Woodward — was emotionally hooked after reading Room, which she did in one day, she told Deadline. She has said that she had no idea that she would be able to land such a plum role, however.
Room, which was adapted for the big-screen by Emma Donoghue from her own book, was based on a news story that the author-turned-screenwriter came upon about an Austrian woman named Elisabeth Fritzl who had been raped by her father for decades and lived locked in their basement. The book rose to prominence when President Obama was seen walking out of a bookstore with it while on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.
Once Larson came aboard, the actress started researching and even living the role. She spoke to a trauma specialist and isolated herself almost completely to understand the mind-set. She cut down on the amount of calories that she took in to look more malnourished. The character was an athlete before being kidnapped, so Larson kept that in mind. She learned about PTSD and how that affects behavior and thoughts to help her through the second half of the film — a transition from victim to survivor. The performance was one that many victims of crime could relate to.
She has said that the trust that she and her young co-star Jacob Tremblay built was key to her performance. It was a special relationship, not unlike one between mother and son, as she tended to his every need on the set as a strong bond was formed. In her acceptance speech, she called Tremblay “my partner through this in every way possible.” He was was only 7 years old when the movie was shot.
She also thanked her director who led a crew that was a mix of nationalities: Abrahamson is Irish, the DP Danny Cohen was British, the production designer Ethan Tobman was Canadian.