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Brie Larson On the Kind of Roles She Never Wants: ‘I Won’t Take the Job If It’s Like That’

The Oscar winner gets candid about the kind of roles (and films) she's just not interested in making.

Brie Larson

Brie Larson

Daniel Bergeron

Oscar winner Brie Larson’s wide-ranging resume speaks to her interest in never doing the same thing twice — this is, after all, a talent that bounced from her Best Actress win for “Room” to a blockbuster turn in “Kong: Skull Island,” a former singer who first found fame with the bubble gum pop album “Finally Out of P.E.,” a serious star that has flexed her comedic chops in films like “21 Jump Street,” and a newly minted Marvel superhero — and the actress spoke to that aim at a recent tea held in honor of her upcoming film, “The Glass Castle.”

“I don’t know why I pick the jobs that I pick,” Larson said when asked about her process. “And I don’t want to know why. Usually, by the time I’m on the press tour and I’m asked questions and suddenly you’re put on the spot, it’s interesting, like your brain pulls things out and you’re remembering things and you’re like, ‘Oh, maybe that’s why!’ The more I watch the film, the more it sort of grows with me and I learn what it is.”

“The Glass Castle” reunites Larson with her “Short Term 12” director Destin Daniel Cretton, who previously cast Larson in her breakout role in the sensitive drama back in 2013. Based on Jeannette Walls’ bestselling memoir of the same name, the film follows the fractured Walls family through the years, as they attempt to marry their impoverished, itinerant lifestyle (lorded over by alcoholic patriarch Rex, played in the film by Woody Harrelson) with a strong sense of familial pride and shared creativity.

The film includes four different time periods in the Walls’ family life, and Larson plays in two of them, both in her late teens and twenties. While the film offers up plenty of lessons on the meaning of family, survival, and self-expression, Larson is still working through her takeaway. Turns out, that’s exactly how she likes it.

“If I know what my goal is or what I want it to be or what I’m trying to say or what’s important for me to learn, it’s boring,” she said. “I won’t take the job if it’s like that. I want to feel like I’m in the mystery still, that I don’t know what’s happening and that I’m still grasping for something. That there’s tons of room for surprise, that I can still surprise myself.”

Larson’s interest in keeping her work compelling isn’t just about choosing different roles, and there’s actually one major similarity between all of them: they feel like real people.

“I think for me though, ultimately the through-line for every film that I want to make is just like, ‘complicated’ and ‘contradictory’ and that’s what life is,” she said. “Those are the characters that I enjoy watching, those are the characters that I want to see on screen, because that’s the people that I know.”

She added, “I don’t need to be clear and understood all the time, and I’m not making a body of work to be understood, I’m making a body of work to be confusing.”

Larson has a busy next few months ahead of her — in addition to preparing to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s “Captain Marvel,” she also recently jumped behind the camera, and her feature directorial debut, “Unicorn Store,” is reportedly set to bow sometime later this year. Larson will also produce and star in Amazon’s “Woodhull,” a biopic about the suffragette Victoria Woodhull and her journey in becoming the country’s first woman to run and be nominated for President.

“The Glass Castle” opens nationwide on Friday, August 11.

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