Brie Larson, Oscar-winning star of Captain Marvel, talks about how exercise changed her life and the peculiar joys of mushroom foraging. But first, the basics:
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Top 3 superheroes:
- Wonder Woman
- Baby Groot
- Princess Leia
Men’s Journal: In Captain Marvel (out March 8), you’ll be the first female to headline a Marvel Comics superhero blockbuster. Were you into superheroes growing up?
Brie Larson: I read comics when I was a kid, mostly Wonder Woman and a little bit of Catwoman. There weren’t a ton of female-led comic books that I could find when I was younger.
And now there’s you.
It’s a big role to fill, but I just saw it as part of an ongoing conversation about female complexity onscreen, what females are capable of doing. I just really loved the character, and how brave and strong and complex she was.
Did it also matter to you that women were involved in writing and directing the film?
It’s incredibly important. But it wasn’t until I read the first draft of the script that had been entirely written by women that I really understood how important. It’s in every letter. I noticed that when the male characters in Captain Marvel describe Carol, they call her a woman; they don’t call her a girl. That was some- thing I had never thought about until I saw it on the page and went, “That’s right. She’s not a little girl.”
You also got really buff for the film. What was that like?
It was nine months of full-time training. I was completely transformed by the time the movie started. The interesting thing about working out is that it’s not like a video game that you can win. There’s maybe a 60-second period where you maybe lifted something heavier than you ever had before, and you can celebrate—and then you’re immediately put on another machine where you are a failure. I love that it’s just an ongoing process.
Have you always worked out?
No, no. I was not into working out before. I was an introvert with asthma. And now? I’m still an introvert with asthma, but now I can deadlift 225 pounds, do judo throws, hip thrust 400 pounds, and knock out 10 pullups in a row.
Did getting that strong change you mentally, too?
It really helped my self-confidence and social anxiety. Being able to push yourself to the limit and go outside of your comfort zone is where all of the good stuff happens. A lot of the conversation about my career has been so much about the clothes I’m wearing and what my body looks like. And because of that, I’d always wanted to just eliminate my body from the conversation, which is why I never got into exercise. I just wanted my body to disappear, so the focus would be on the work that I was doing. This training, this transformation, has allowed me to take ownership of my body in a way that I hadn’t before.
Has that changed your own standards of beauty?
In my day-to-day life, I don’t have the patience to do my hair and makeup; it’s just not how I want to spend my time. The first time a paparazzi took a picture of me with not-brushed hair and no makeup, I was like, “Well, I can either try to hide the fact that I’m just a human, or I can try to be an ideal at every moment of the day and be fearful that someone is going to take a picture.”
I’m still an introvert with asthma, but now I can deadlift 225 pounds, do judo throws, and hip thrust 400 pounds.
It sounds like you chose to be a human.
I realized that I just don’t have it in me to pretend. I don’t think there’s enough hair and makeup in the world to hide the truth of who I am. What gives me bliss and happiness is being in my own skin, and that means there’s got to be a time when I can put all of this down. I’m not going to live in fear of that.
In your Twitter bio, you describe yourself as a mushroom forager. How’d you get into that?
I signed up for these forays with a mycologist during which they take you out and identify the mushrooms for you, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally eating the wrong thing. I just fell in love with it.
What’s the appeal?
It’s like a scavenger hunt, and you never know what you’re going to get. And I just love the opportunity to be lost, wandering around in a forest.
You’re also a major scuba diver.
I started diving a couple of years ago, and it’s really changed my life. You can’t talk to anyone, so it’s like a meditation. You’re just floating around and discovering. I do a dive after every movie.
So in 2016, you won an Oscar—best actress for Room. Do you think this year will also be a big one, starring in a block-buster film and turning 30?
I’ve really enjoyed my life so far, and I feel like I’ve just always had a lot of ambition to do as much good as I can. But I don’t know. Thirty sounds cool.