What’s it like being the only girl in a darkly funny and violent movie about a bunch of people shooting at each other in an deserted warehouse? Brie Larson gives us the skinny on Free Fire.

Set in the ’70s and directed by Ben Wheatley, Larson plays Justine, a tough woman who is the one who puts this gun deal together. When it starts to turn south, she’s pretty much the only level-headed one in the bunch.

At a recent press day, ScreenPicks talked with Larson about her character, laughing with the guys and more.

Q: How does it feel to be the only female in a sea of men in this movie?

Brie Larson: Yeah, story of my life. It happens to every woman. It’s this weird thing that keeps happening. I don’t know when it’s going to change. But, yes, they were lovely. They were all gentlemen. This was like an ideal situation because every dude on this was married or engaged or have kids and so I was like everyone’s little sister. It was the safest I have ever felt in my life.

I just had the best time making this movie. Making movies is really, really hard. That’s just how it goes. But this felt like the time flew by and I think by the end of it all of us were like can we get this group back together every year for two months and do this over again? It was just like the perfect group. One of my favorite things too is that when I am making a movie it brings people from different walks of life together. All of us are from such completely different places hanging out together. We got along so well. I just had the time of my life.

Q: Who is the funniest?

Larson: The funniest? They are all so funny and I also think they are the funniest when they are all together. I really love Smiley [Michael Smiley] a lot though. I wish he was here for this press [junket] I miss him. He is very funny. All of them are.

Q: Any funny stories/comedy about the gun action that added to the comedy?

Larson: Gosh, I feel like we were laughing all day at the ridiculousness of what it was the we were doing. One thing that made me laugh really hard early on was basically we did a walk-through of the warehouse talking about where everybody was going to go. As Ben was talking he realized that Babou [Ceesay], because he gets shot so early on, and he falls in the center of the room that meant that for like a month in a half he was going to just lay there all day. Oh my gosh, that’s the worst. I can’t believe you are going to lay there all day for ten hours a day. That’s awful. So they ended up having to figure out how to hide his head behind a wall. So they can put some kind of manikin body thing there. But those are the things you don’t think about till you are at the space with your actors, and you’re like oh my gosh, that’s bad.

Q: Was keeping the continuity of the set/outfits difficult to keep track of?

BL: It wasn’t because we shot in order. It was really easy actually. Part of it was when you put those squibs on and they explode, you don’t really know what it’s going to do to your costume. So we kind of had to [shoot in order]. We couldn’t plan ahead and shoot something before we knew what was going to happen. Although Ben had really well thought out that whole plan of where everyone was running to. Like with Babou, there was a moment where I had to run from one part of the warehouse to the other and as I was doing it, Jack [Reynor] was like, I would shoot you. You’re totally right here, I would totally get you. And Ben was like, sorry you are getting shot again. Part of it was trying to finagle with Ben. Maybe I can go this way? I won’t get shot if I go that way. He was like no. We were all playing a really long game of laser tag. Trying to avoid it. It was really fun. It was very interesting. I remember at one point I was climbing and as I was crawling on the ground there was a piece of cardboard. I was like, oh that’s interesting. Maybe I can get on this cardboard and use it as a sled and I won’t have to drag my body across all of these rocks. Your brain starts changing and it gets really savvy as to like what you can use of those materials that are there to get you from one part to the other part.

Q: Have you have any firearm training prior to shooting the movie?

Larson: No. I didn’t, I had to just learn for safety reasons how to hold the gun when it has the little explosive that comes out. I haven’t really handled a gun and I don’t really want to. That’s not really my thing.

Q: But do you think you could get out of a firefight like that if you had to now?

Larson: Oh no, not gracefully. Definitely not gracefully. I don’t think I was very graceful over the course of this movie at all. That’s the funny part.

Q: You are currently involved with many action films. How do you prepare for those?

Larson: It depends on the role really. It depends on what the role calls for. For this, I exercised to be a healthy person but I didn’t do anything special when it comes to that side for this because she [Justine] doesn’t know she’s about to be in an action movie. She just thinks she is going to get some money and leave. It was important to me to put all of that out of my head and just focus more on being confused and not knowing what was going to happen next.

Q: Do you like the ’70s?

Larson: I think the seventies are just so beautiful. It was such an iconic period of time in the world and also just in cinema, and a lot of my favorite movies are from that period of time. Being able to be a part of something like that. I’m pretty sure all of the special effects were done in camera so it just felt like we were back to basics.

I’m fascinated by where we have come and where we have been as women in action movies. I think it’s a tricky line to balance because the easy way to do it is just to be a man, act like a man, but be a woman. But I don’t think that’s where this conversation ends. I think it’s much more complicated than that. I think women can bring a lot of different things to the screen that are also interesting and are innately female. I think what Justine brought to that whole film was yeah, she’s a badass but she’s also really compassionate and really empathetic. That’s pretty cool.

Q: For your character, was there a deeper back story for her role?

Larson: Some of it was on the page but didn’t make it on screen and some of it was talking with Ben about the same thing what you’re asking. Which is like, why is she there? Part of what I love about the movie is that question in the very beginning of the movie. Everybody else makes sense expect for her. Why that? Why her? Why now? And that sort of unfolds in the end. I just love that part. I love coming up with a back story and kind of thinking what her main objective is. Especially with how [director] Ben Wheatley shoots one scripted and one improvised and one scripted and one improvised. Everything sort of starts to bleed together. Especially during improve, you have to know the core of your character, where I am and where I am trying to get to. Just that simple fact leads the improve.

Q: She seems to be the connection to everyone there.

Larson: Whether she wants to be or not. She is kind of the quiet leader of that group in a way. Every other dude in that is peacocking and so much ego and they are all fighting for power and fighting to be the most amazing, the most interesting, the funniest, the coolest, the strongest in the room. And she is like, have fun, I’m out. I’m not playing that game. But in her head I thinks she’s like, but I’m the coolest and the smartest. She’s just not saying it out loud. She thinks she got them all fooled.

Q: What’s your interest in mythology and how deep is it?

Larson: My interest in mythology is kind of never ending because there is so much of it. The amazing part of your brain is that you are gaining and forgetting things and then relearning things over and over again. I’m always reading mythology and that’s kind of my roots to how I connect to material. For me, it goes back to that. What are those ancient stories? What did they mean and what were they trying to represent? How can I make movies that put a new face to those stories? I think my favorite films are those. Are the ones where I’m like, oh I recognize this, that’s Osiris, or that’s Onondaga, or Rapunzel. It doesn’t have to look like that. It’s just the metaphor that’s I there.

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