Brie Larson has certainly flirted with big budget action movies before – her role in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is one example – but Kong: Skull Island is the first time she’s gone “all in,” if you will, as the bona fide star of one of these juggernauts.
After a plethora of memorable supporting roles in films like 21 Jump Street, Larson had her breakout moment in 2013’s Short Term 12 (if you haven’t seen Short Term 12, you should see Short Term 12) then followed that up with a Best Actress Academy Award win for her role in 2015’s Room. In fact, during last year’s awards season, Larson was often shuttling back and forth from filming Kong in the jungle of Vietnam, to red carpets around the world picking up accolades for Room.
In Kong: Skull Island, Larson plays Mason Weaver, a photojournalist who has been filming the atrocities of the Vietnam War who now finds herself on an assignment to document whatever it is her expedition finds on a newly discovered secret island. (Spoiler alert, they find King Kong.)
Ahead, Larson talks about the craziness that was filming Kong: Skull Island and looks forward to her next highly anticipated role as Carol Danvers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel.
I was wondering if I needed another King Kong movie in my life, but this one isn’t the same story we know. It’s not what I expected.
Oh, that totally makes sense. I think that’s great. That’s what we set out to do! So we accomplished it.
That’s the whole interview. Congratulations on doing that.
Thank you so much!
It’s set during the Vietnam War and then I didn’t know where it was going.
No, I think that’s great. In a world where there’s just a lot of movies in the world, it’s hard to come up with new ideas and to surprise people, and I’m glad you were surprised.
Were you surprised when you first read it?
Yeah, I was. I thought that it was such an amazing, bold take on it and I think it grapples with a lot of really big questions that I’m so proud that Legendary and Warner Brothers had the guts to do. I think that it talks about some real serious issues.
It’s a statement on war, too. There’s a lot going on.
Exactly. I know. And for a film that takes place in the ’70s, it’s incredibly timely.
I remember last year you were filming this while going through awards season for Room. What a strange back and forth. Having seen Kong now, it’s an interesting window into what you were experiencing…
I know. But I think that’s what was so healthy about it – and why I never got super freaked out by the awards season stuff. Because I would have these really magical, wild weekends in Los Angeles at an award show – and then I’d be back in Australia or back in Vietnam or back in Hawaii, and covered in dirt, running around, trying to run for my life. It was so awesome, and it kept me so grounded through all of that.
Was it actually fun to film? Sometimes movies look fun but that’s not reality.
No, it is really fun. I mean, it doesn’t mean that it’s not hard. It’s both. It’s both of those things. You are pushing your mind and your body to the limit every day. And we were filming over the course of, I think, five months in three different countries. And so over that time we dealt with 120-degree weather and then freezing cold and hail. And no matter what, it’s the same tank top and pants and boots. And through rain, through mud, through desert, whatever it was you just keep going. And that was pretty fun. I mean, it was wild. We were actually out in the jungle every day. We shot very little on a sound stage, so we were outside pretty much the whole time.
Coming from Short Term 12 and Room, and all of a sudden you’re in a movie like this where you’ve got to just trust the process, right? You’re still being told, “Okay, you can’t see him, but Kong is right there.”
Well, yeah, I mean you’re trusting them to actually put in a scary monster and not like a tiny bunny rabbit that you’re reacting to and make you look like a fool. But any time you watch the finished product of the movie, it’s usually a lot different from the script you read or from the movie that you think you’re shooting. And so, there’s this sense of excitement when you watch it for the first time because it’s just a new experience. And with this, it was really a new experience because there was just a huge part. I mean, the title character of the film, Kong, who I never saw. So it was exciting to see for the first time.
Rabbits can be scary.
Absolutely. I mean no disrespect to rabbits.
Have you ever seen an angry rabbit? It is a frightening thing. They yell.
I’ve never seen an angry rabbit. I’ve only seen Rabbids from Rayman?
Oh yeah, those are scary.
Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking of.
Real-life rabbits can be scary when they’re mad.
I didn’t know about that, but I don’t know if I’ve had a lot of encounters with rabbits in my life.
We had a pet rabbit when I was a little kid and I saw it get mad a couple times.
I think you need to meet another rabbit and see how that experience goes.
This movie wastes no time getting to King Kong…
Well, he’s an incredible character, so we kind of want to get him in there.
And then John C. Reilly shows up and it turns into a different movie…
Yeah, he’s amazing. He’s so funny in the movie. He brings a lot. Everything changes when John gets on set because he’s so funny and he’s so magical that I think that onscreen and off-screen. He changes the room by him just being there. He’s an amazing person.
Your character has one of the most eventful action movie sequences I’ve ever seen in my life.
She falls off a mountain into water where she almost drowns, then is picked up by a King Kong. And then your character is in his fist when he punches into the mouth of another monster, pulling out its tongue. That’s quite a couple minutes for her.
Yeah, it really is. I was mostly concerned that I was going to be covered in like slime or goo when he opens his hand, but it seems like he protects me pretty well.
Yeah, he does a good job of that.
I keep forgetting Captain Marvel is still two years away. It seems like something that is coming up sooner.
Because we’re hearing so much about it and there’s anticipation…
I feel the same way. Well, it’s going to come sooner than we think, though. It still feels just as abstract to me as it does I think to everybody else. I still can’t believe that I’m actually doing that and that I’m going to be like living this whole other universe. Like, that’s really exciting and crazy to me.
Were you excited about the reaction when you were announced? Because that was one of the most overwhelmingly positive casting experiences I’ve noticed from the outside looking in.
You know, to be honest, I just plead ignorance in those cases because I see announcements for people playing characters all the time and I just don’t really think about “what the world’s reaction is.” I didn’t even have social media until recently. So it wasn’t until I was backstage in Hall H, and it was like, all of those actors from all the movies were there. And I was super starstruck and talking with all of them. And then all of them were like, “Why are you here? Are you in the panel next, after us?” I was like, “Oh, no, I’m going to be part of this now.” And they were like, “What?” No one knew.
Oh, that’s great.
And then the reality of, oh my gosh, I’m going to walk out on the stage, and is this going to be okay? I’m being really launched out of a cannon right now. So I was very grateful that it was positive. That would have been a rough day. Or a rough year.
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