LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Look at this! There’s a line!” Brie Larson says, beaming and pointing at the queue outside Cinefamily, an artsy, single-screen theater in LA’s Fairfax district.
Weeks before its limited release Friday, Larson arranged a free screening of “Room” for the Women of Cinefamily group, which she helped co-found over a year ago. On the drive from the hotel, she was nervous about the turnout. Now she’s worried there won’t be enough seats.
It’s 7 p.m. and she’s been going full speed since a photo shoot 12 hours ago. Her day — the day before her 26th birthday — isn’t close to being over. When she’s done introducing “Room” at the theater, she’ll race over to her agency for a question-and-answer session with industry types, only to return to Cinefamily for the after-screening Q&A.
In the car, she takes off her sky high heels for a moment, joking that good professionals keep her looking fresh.
This is the life of an actress on the rise, and Larson has been working for almost 20 years for a moment like this.
She’s all smiles when she walks onto the patio in the back of the theater, where a small reception is well underway, and immediately runs over to a group of friends who are laughing and showing Instagram photos of their art.
“Room,” based on Emma Donoghue’s bestselling novel, is about a woman, Ma (Larson), who was kidnapped, imprisoned in a tiny shed and impregnated by her captor. She strives to create a beautiful world for her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who’s now five.
Larson prepared intensely for the role, which has been earning her critical raves and awards buzz. She whittled down to 12 percent body fat, avoided the sun, studied the effects of sexual abuse and shut herself off from people for a month to understand where the mind goes with that much solitude.
During this time, Larson realized she related to “Room” more deeply than she could have imagined. When she was 7, her mom packed up their old Mercedes and drove from Sacramento to Los Angeles with Larson and her younger sister. She thought they were only staying a few weeks for pilot season.
Before they left Sacramento, her father had asked for a divorce, a cold truth she’d learn years later. A studio apartment with a shared murphy bed became their home.
“It wasn’t much bigger than Room. We didn’t have much,” she said. “And yet I remember it being one of the greatest times of my life — just me, my mom and my sister all the time, doing whatever we wanted. (My mom) had such a strong imagination.”
She also remembers waking up in the night to her mom’s muffled sobs — the key to understanding her character. Larson even does the self-stifled cry in “Room.”
“Acting isn’t like being an athlete. There’s no real quantifiable measure. It’s just a bunch of people feeling things,” said Larson. “It becomes so impossible to imagine that anyone ever gets one job, let alone two. It’s like constantly winning the lottery.”
From “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” to “21 Jump Street,” ”The Gambler” and even this summer’s “Trainwreck,” she’s someone you always notice, no matter how small the part. A starring role in the 2013 indie “Short Term 12” helped her realize that she was capable of carrying a feature, too.
“She has that luminosity and that immediate presence that all stars have, but she also blends into her character completely,” said “Room” director Lenny Abrahamson. “She doesn’t have that problem that some real starry actors have that they’re implausible as real people.”
Her first acting coach told her to sit on her hands and act with her face. “He taught me to not add all these extra trappings. The smallest micro-expression is picked up,” she said.
Next, she’s taking a U-turn away from indies to star in “Kong: Skull Island” alongside Tom Hiddleston. She’s excited that there will be a bigger audience, but she’s mainly in it because of her interest in mythology. She’s got directing ambitions, too, and already has a few short films to her name. But for the moment, it’s all about “Room.”
It’s now 11 p.m. and the Cinefamily audience has sung “Happy Birthday” to close out the Q&A. Her official duties are over, but she doesn’t run to the car waiting to take her home. Still smiling, she stays to talk to the fans and friends who’ve rushed out to say hello.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.