The untold truth of Brie Larson

Brie Larson caught her big break when she landed the lead role in the critically acclaimed indie drama Short Term 12 in 2013. At that point, she'd been steadily working in the entertainment industry for well over a decade, scoring notable supporting roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 21 Jump Street, while portraying the rebellious teen Kate Gregson on the United States of Tara. However, the actress became a bona fide Hollywood "It girl" in 2015 for her celebrated performance as Ma in Room, which earned her a number of accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Actress. After conquering the realms of comedy and drama on the big screen, the actress next transformed into a superhero for 2019's Captain Marvel.

Larson has already had quite the career throughout her 20 years in showbiz and shows no signs of slowing down. But how much do you really know about this movie star's real life? These facts might just surprise you.

She was destined to be a star

Larson always knew she wanted to act, and she told her mother as much when she was just 6 years old. "Mom, I know what my dharma is: I'm supposed to be an actor," Larson recalled saying to her mother (via The Guardian). "'Whoa! Where did you learn the word dharma? Where did you learn the word acting?' She thought I was just repeating something off the TV." However, as the actress told Glamour the following year, "I was relentless about it … The creative arts was just something that was always in me."

Not long afterwards, her parents split up and her mom moved the family from Sacramento, Calif. to Los Angeles to make her daughter's dream a reality. However, the journey was anything but easy. "We had a crappy one-room apartment where the bed came out of the wall," Larson told The Guardian. "And we each had three articles of clothing."

Brie Larson isn't her real name

Brie Larson was born Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers, but, when she first began her acting career at the ripe old age of 7, she naturally chose her stage name with the help of a childhood inspiration.

"My last name is French and very hard to say," the actress explained on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2015 (via Today). After showing the audience an adorable throwback photo of herself holding her favorite American Girl doll, Kirsten Larson, she added, "I was sick of it, and as a result, [I was] like, 'I'm changing my name! I'm changing it to Larson, so Kirsten can be in our family.'" She also explained to Glamour, "Larson is a family name from my great-grandmother."

The name change made all the difference for the young star. After landing her first gig — a commercial sketch for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno — she saw her "fake name" on her dressing room door for the first time. "I remember thinking, I've made it," Larson told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "I had no idea that I wasn't even close."

Her strange stress reliever

Larson has struggled with social anxiety since childhood. "You could put me on a stage in front of 100 people and I could do a tap dance, but one-on-one was really difficult for me," she told BuzzFeed in 2015. "And it took me most of my life to learn how to work with that anxiety, to embrace and be comfortable with it."

Part of this process led to discovering a unique coping mechanism in her teens that worked as both a hobby and stress reliever: designing typefaces. "I made three or four different fonts during Short Term 12," she told The Guardian, explaining that it helped her relax during the drama's intense shoot. "I have graph paper and gel pens and I would do the alphabet: just do 'a' over and over again until I got it perfect and then go to 'b' and then 'c.'" 

The activity struck the perfect balance between creativity and keeping Larson's mind active, allowing her to easily jump back into character. As for the actress' favorite font creation, it's one where each letter of the alphabet is made to look like a 3D mouse hole.

A quiet engagement

After spending most of her life working in Hollywood, Larson is understandably guarded when it comes to keeping her personal life out of the spotlight. She and Alex Greenwald, the lead singer of Phantom Planet (a.k.a. the band that did the theme song for The O.C.), quietly became engaged in 2016. However, apart from brief mentions over the years — Larson thanked him during her Oscars acceptance speech — the private pair have kept their longtime romance largely under wraps. "I'm not hiding him away in a tower — I'm just trying my best not to…" Larson attempted to explain to The Hollywood Reporter, but didn't finish the thought.

Ultimately, completely losing her already-diminished anonymity is what seems to truly worry the actress. "Because we put ourselves in a movie or on TV, then it must mean we want to be completely open to the world," she told BuzzFeed, adding, "I understand their point of view, but it's difficult to explain how terrified it makes me. I'm so nervous."

Elle parle français

Born in the United States to French-Canadian parents, Larson spoke French fluently before she began speaking English (via Vogue). "French was my first language. And it's something that as I got older and I started learning more English, I started losing more and more of my French speaking," she told The Film Stage in 2013. "But it is in there and I do know some of it still." 

This is something the actress has connected with her lifelong love of foreign films, as she went on to say, "They've been very influential to me and I think have helped me in defining more of who I am and the stories that I like and what kind of actor that I want to be." Around that time, Larson began taking a number of online classes, including French. As she told The Guardian, this was part of her "half-a**ed attempt" to relearn her first language.

Playing favorites

Brie Larson has raked in critical acclaim and accolades for her on-screen work, but her decades-long career began with her genuine fascination with films as a kid. While her favorite movies back then included the likes of Gone With the Wind and Fried Green Tomatoes, her enthusiasm for the art form culminated in 2012 when she published an article listing her top 10 Criterion Collection films.

However, these movies weren't just a form of entertainment during her childhood; they actually played a number of other important roles. "I didn't really have friends," she told The Guardian, adding, "I wanted to think outside of cultural norms even at that age." As Larson explained to The New York Times in 2016, "I know how important they've been to my life. Before I was old enough to have the money to travel, it was how I saw the world. It's how I saw different people. It was how I saw different countries. It was how I saw different eras. And I believed them."

Struggling to get by

While Larson has an impressive net worth of $10 million at the time of this writing, it wasn't too long ago that the actress felt the financial strain of being a struggling artist. "I have no problem talking about how hard it's been, how broke I've been and how broke I was not even that long ago," she told The Guardian in 2013. "I was freaking out around this time last year because I thought, 'This is it. I've really screwed myself because I did three independent films. I didn't do anything for money and now I don't have anything.' I was eBaying stuff for Christmas presents."

However, her dedication to her craft and to the art of filmmaking is what got the movie star through the difficult, frugal years. "I won't do things for money. I can't," Larson continued, adding, "I don't have kids and I'm fine eating cereal if that's what it takes."

From actor to activist

Larson is a longtime activist devoted to using her platform to foster change in the world. In addition to playing an active role in the 2018 Time's Up initiative to combat sexual misconduct and inequality in the workplace, the actress spends much of her time and energy advocating on behalf of sexual assault survivors.

"I'd put it all on the line and be an activist for the rest of my life because it doesn't feel right to me to be quiet," she said during a Net-A-Porter conversation with Jane Fonda in 2017, adding, "When I started acting I told people, 'Filmmaking is my form of activism.'" While explaining how her activist work is closely tied to her on-screen endeavors, Larson told Vanity Fair, "There is a sense of joy and exhaustion that comes with every film, but the hope is that all the exhaustion pays off and you end up getting to share it with the world. That's the reason why I make movies. You hope that it reverberates outward and that it changes people's opinions and hopefully for the better."

A pop princess past

Larson isn't just an award-winning actress and philanthropist — she was also a teen pop star for about a minute in 2005. At just 15 years old, the multi-hyphenate released her debut album, Finally Out of P.E., shot a music video for her single "She Said," and even spoke with Kidzworld about her songwriting process: "I just write about what I am actually going through in my real life."

The actress-singer went on to tour with teen heartthrob Jesse McCartney, but, according to Vulture, her record totally flopped. If you ask Larson, that was for the best. "Singing is an incredible expression and something that is important to me," she told MTV News in 2012. "But where I feel comfortable with how much I reveal about myself is acting." 

While her pop princess days seem like another life to Larson, the Internet has yet to move on. "I haven't done music in 10 years, but if you Google my name, my music video is one of the first things that pops up," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's this weird story that keeps coming back."

Life of the (Mario) party

Considering Larson's induction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's not too surprising to learn that she's an avid, lifelong lover of all things nerdy. In addition to her passion for mycology, the scientific study of fungi, she and Room co-star Jacob Tremblay famously bonded over their love of Star Wars. Oh, and she's obsessed with gaming.

"My 15th birthday was a Nintendo party," she told IGN in 2005. "It was awesome! I had a bounce house and I had all my friends dress up as their favorite Nintendo character and we played video games and had these giant blow-up hammers and whacked each other in the bounce house." While gaming is undoubtedly a popular pastime, it also seems to be a way for Larson to ground herself after a long day of acting or doing press. "I know what I'm like when I'm at home, in my PJs, playing Zelda," she told BuzzFeed. "I know that person really well."

Not just an actress

Brie Larson is mainly known for being an actress, but she's just as comfortable taking on behind-the-scenes roles, like those of writer and director. Her first project in this vein was the short film The Arm, which won the jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. Five years later, Larson made her feature film directorial debut with the coming-of-age comedy Unicorn Store, in which she starred alongside the likes of Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, and Samuel L. Jackson. As she explained to Vanity Fair, "I felt like, What better time for me to direct than now, when I don't have a stigma attached of this extra scrutiny, like, 'Oh, she's an actor — now she wants to be a director?'" 

Whether she's focusing her efforts on camera or off, Larson just hopes she can continue to create. "This is nice for a moment," she told The Guardian. "Maybe it goes away, but this is the way I've chosen to live: I want to go down or rise up as an artist. I don't want to get swept up in lipstick or whatever the hell."