Actress Brie Larson took home the Oscar for Best Actress on Sunday at the 88th Annual Academy Award for her role in ‘Room.’
The film is based on a novel of the same name and was also nominated for several other Academy Awards including Best Picture.
‘Room’ tells the story of a young woman named Joy who was kidnapped by a man, held inside a tool shed for 7 years and used as a sex slave from the perspective of the child she bore from the brutal abuse. Larson, 26, portrays Joy and went to great lengths to make the audience believe that she was person who had not seen the light of day in 7 years, according to ‘Room’ director Lenny Abrahamson.
He discussed how Larson prepared for the role of Joy in an interview with R0R’s Vin Funaro at the time of ‘Room’s’ theatrical release. He also revealed how he and the crew were able to make the tool shed that Joy and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live inside in the film feel like an entire world on screen.
R0R: How were you able to make Brie Larson and child actor Jacob Tremblay who plays her son Jack in the film look like trapped people?
Abrahamson: Brie was very dedicated. For 7-8 months she kept out of the sun. She reduced her calories to fit the not so great food that she gets in the room. She lost any excess weight so she would be lean. We [also] just didn’t put any make-up on her. Maybe just a little darkening under her eyes. It’s just how she held herself. She’s such a good actress. She just was able to take the energy out of herself.
With Jake, we did a little bit of work on his complexion. We tried to keep him out of the sun. We put a little bit of make-up on him as well. But obviously he’s a kid so we’re not going to put him on a strange diet.
R0R: Jake has such long hair in ‘Room,’ and when the film starts you’re not sure whether he’s a boy or a girl. Even when someone tries to rescue him later on in the movie they are confused as to what his gender is. Was this done intentionally?
Abrahamson: That was in the book. We never thought about it in terms of whether people thought he was a boy or a girl. It was just the idea that they didn’t have sharp knives or scissors so they just let the hair grow. When you see Jake and Brie first, [you see] an amazing and unusual pair. And anything that made them seem like they were from another world we thought was good and that’s why we kept the long hair.
R0R: In beginning of the movie you see this mother and son in this room. You don’t know where the room is or why they’re in this room, but at the time this room feels so big. How were you able to make this small room (tool shed) look like its own little world?
Abrahamson: We didn’t employ any big tricks. We didn’t make the place bigger for particular shots. We always worked with the right dimensions. And we always kept that camera lens inside the [walls of the shed]. By just concentrating on the [mother and son], shooting their faces, following their interactions and sort of being in that interpersonal space between them you can have the audience forget about the constraints of the room and its smallness.
We [also] shot the room in closer shots [instead of using big lenses typically used by real estate companies to make rooms look bigger] with shallow depth or feel [so] the background would sort of go out of focus. That tunes the audiences mind into the characters.
The third way we kept it feeling big was just by respecting the little boy’s subjective point of view. His feelings about the place. [He believes] it’s a complete world for him. He doesn’t think of it as a small place. He thinks of it as the whole world. His interest is in every little detail and by tracking that interest, and by hearing him talking about it in voice over by identifying different parts of the room as he discusses them you kind of get this feeling yourself that it’s a whole universe.
R0R: With such dark subject matter in the film including the woman being kidnapped and held in this shed for 7 years, how were you able to make ‘Room’ feel so light hearted?
Abrahamson: I agree with you [with that statement]. I feel like in the beginning of ‘Room’ particularly there’s a great warmth, and actually all through the first half there’s clearly such love between the mother and the son and she’s so good at protecting him from the darker aspects of their lives. He remains kind of unaware.
R0R: She even protects the audience from it.
Abrahamson: That’s a good point. Some people think the film’s going to be really scary. But if you go into it with an open mind and you don’t know anything about it, that first phase of it is very full of love and the wonder of a child. By bringing the information slowly to the audience, you give them a chance to understand that this is actually quite a warm environment. It’s a safe environment for the boy and he’s this healthy curious little kid. That protects [the audience]. Once [the audience] understands what the real situation is [they might say] I’m not watching a film about [kidnapping]. I’m watching a film about a parent child bond and the love between a mother and a son and about a child’s capacity to make even really small and meager things into a complete world.