Brie Larson on her momentous role, keeping secrets and transforming her body
Oscar winner Brie Larson makes history as Marvel's first female superhero to get a standalone film. She tells Laura Harding about her momentous role, keeping secrets and transforming her body
There is a montage in Captain Marvel when the titular character falls down and then stands up, again and again and again. The shots vary from her as a child, to a pilot in the US Air Force and as a superhero, falling to the ground and getting back up again.
Watching it in a darkened cinema, several women around me quietly choke back tears.
Such is the significance of this film, Marvel's first about a female superhero, with Oscar winner Brie Larson in the title role of Carol Danvers.
"For me, movies make me feel less alone," she says. "Whenever I see myself on screen, I feel understood, but I can't expect that's what it is that I'm doing for other people.
"I'm just telling what feels like the truth to me and hoping that other people relate to it.
"There are certain times when you're doing scenes and you can feel it and you know there is magic in the air, but a lot of the time you don't know because you're shooting everything out of order.
"Even that montage, we aren't doing it all in one day - we are doing it over the course of a whole movie. So, you never really know how it's going to cut together, or what is going to be the thing that lands.
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"We are all just digging and searching every day, trying to find it."
Larson (29) knows how significant this moment is, not just for the film franchise, but for an audience anxiously awaiting a woman to take centre stage, but is adamant she doesn't feel pressure from the weight of expectation.
"I don't know if I'm crazy because so many people have been like, 'You must feel pressure, you must feel responsibility', and I'm like, 'I don't, is that bad?'
"I just don't think that it's helpful to me or helpful to this story or helpful to the work to feel that way. For me, it's just that I really love this character - I love Carol, and I think there is a lot of value in it.
"I just wanted to focus on the best job I could. I know, especially with a movie this big, it seems like it's like this public thing, but when you're on set it's super private, so that is how it felt - it felt like we were making a small movie."
But a small movie it is not. Set in 1995, with a toe-tapping soundtrack to match, the film follows Danvers on her journey from Air Force pilot to become one of the most powerful heroes in the history of the Marvel comics.
It pre-dates any of the films about the Avengers, including 2008's Iron Man, and unites her with a younger Nick Fury (a de-aged Samuel L Jackson), when he still has both eyes and is pushing paper as a low-ranking member of S.H.I.E.L.D.
When we meet her, Larson's character is far from Earth and a member of Kree's Starforce, but we soon learn she was a history-making member of the military at home long before her life on another planet. "There is a through line highlighting the incredible women that we have in the air force, but the other thing for me that I love about that is that she is incredible in breaking barriers and doing amazing things even before she had super powers," Larson says.
"That is an important fact to this too. It's not like these powers were the thing that made her remarkable. They just highlighted what was already in her."
Preparing for the role meant Larson had to verge on superhuman herself, completely transforming her body from one that couldn't do a push-up to one that was deadlifting weights that would make The Rock break into a sweat.
There is even video evidence of her pushing a Jeep.
"My goal was to train really hard for nine months and see what happened. I didn't think it was possible for me," she says.
"The reason why I did it was basically for this, for these moments, for these conversations, when we are discussing what it feels like or what it looks like to be a female, a self-identified female, and be strong.
"I want to start those conversations and highlight that I went from not feeling like I was capable of that to really being able to embody this in a new way."
During her preparation she did intensive weight training, as well as taekwondo, judo, and boxing, which Larson says it was "as tough as training can be".
She pauses and adds: "But it was really helpful because it conditioned my mind more than anything else.
"I got physically strong and was able to deadlift 225lbs, but more than that it made me mentally strong, so I feel more ready for things like this."
For an actress who cut her teeth in smaller films such as Room, which landed her the Oscar, Short Term 12 and The Spectacular Now, there was a lot to get ready for.
"It was all new to me in terms of dealing with visual effects and stunts, but it was the challenge that I was so excited about, about stepping into this new way of storytelling," Larson says.
"There were so many things that were specifically new to me, like doing a ropes course sequence 50ft up in the air or learning complicated wire kicks, even learning how to fly. Those are things that required a lot of rehearsal time."
But the biggest challenge of all must surely be keeping all of Marvel's secrets and not accidentally giving away any major plot points?
"Part of why I'm very excited for the movie to come out is so I can finally speak knowing that I won't spoil anything!"
Captain Marvel is in cinemas now