Brie Larson’s directorial debut Unicorn Store is streaming now only on Netflix. The movie is one of my favorite Brie movies so far, I felt so connected to this character. It was a truly blessing seeing Brie’s debut as a director, even thought I know she had written and directed some short movies before. Our gallery was updated with HD screencaptures of Brie as Kit. Enjoy!
Our gallery was updated with HQ stills from Unicorn Store.
The 2017 comedy flick Unicorn Store tells the story of a woman who is offered a unicorn by a mysterious man. According to the Metro, the film marks the directorial debut of the Academy Award-winning actor Brie Larson, who also stars in the movie.
Unicorn Store’s impressive cast also includes the legendary Samuel L Jackson, and is available to enjoy on Netflix on Friday, April 5.
Brie Larson’s directorial debut, “Unicorn Store,” is a replica of your teenage mood board: It has glitter, splashes of pink, annoying parents, vibrant ribbons and, of course, a shiny white mythological beast.
Larson always wanted a unicorn. It was her childhood wish, which helps to explain her attraction to this movie. She first auditioned for “Unicorn Store” five years ago, before “Short Term 12″ provided her breakout flash and long before “Room” made her an Oscar winner. Rebel Wilson got the role instead. But, in typical Hollywood fashion, the project fell apart ― until about two years ago, when producers approached Larson with an offer to direct it herself. Now, Larson wants to embrace the anything-is-possible phase of her career.
After spending a year shaping Samantha McIntyre’s script using inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s theories about the archetypal hero’s journey, Larson cast herself in the lead role. (She initially wanted to find an unknown actress.) Larson plays Kit, an emotionally stunted 20-something with splintered dreams of becoming an accomplished artist. “You guys still like me, right?” Kit asks the teddy bears in her childhood bedroom.
After moving back in with her parents (Joan Cusack and Bradley Whitford), Kit finds a dull desk job at a marketing agency. It’s there that she receives a mysterious envelope containing an invitation to something called The Store, where a pink-suited Samuel L. Jackson offers Kit the chance to own her very own unicorn.
When I was coming up I would scare people at auditions because I would be too intense.Brie Larson
“The main thing was thinking about the metaphor of the unicorn and allowing the story to read as many different interpretations,” Larson told HuffPost last week at the Toronto Film Festival, where “Unicorn Store” premiered. “So, what is the unicorn? Is it your ultimate dream? Is it connecting to your childhood self? Is it almost spiritual? Because the unicorn does have almost a religious connotation to it. It’s the third eye and a vortex, and pure light is the color of the rainbow.”
As Kit gets closer and closer to that unicorn ― Jackson’s industrial genie has a lot of prerequisites before it can be hers ― her borderline pervy boss (Hamish Linklater) takes a liking to her. She is given a chance to pitch an ad campaign for a vacuum cleaner. Finally, an avenue to artistic glory! During her noisy presentation, Kit splashes the boardroom with glitter and, in a supervisor’s words, “rainbow-magicalness.” It is, simply, a lot ― which is something else Larson relates to.
“It was somewhat metaphorically autobiographical because when I was coming up I would scare people at auditions because I would be too intense,” she said. “I’d be too much and push things too hard. I was so interested in doing things real that it was a lot. I look back on it and I think it’s kind of like a superhero origin story. You have the powers, but you might accidentally hurt someone. You can’t quite form your fireball right, and everything blows up in your face. When I look back on it, it was like that — I had something, but it wasn’t refined. It was much more animalistic. I think that was hard for me. It was a very painful thing to come to terms with: ‘Oh, I’m too much for people. I have so much I want to give to this, but it’s too much.’”
Now that Larson has calmed down enough to become an A-list actress-turned-director ― she’s also helmed a couple of short films ― it’s only up from here. She’s embracing a superhero origin story of her own, playing the title role in 2019′s “Captain Marvel.”
How about directing one of those little comic-book ditties next?
“Oh yeah, that’s my plan,” she said. “Why not? My new life philosophy is I’m not going to tell myself no. I’m just going to do stuff until someone else tells me no.”
Brie Larson is an actress who has given standout performances in films such as “Short Term 12” and “Trainwreck.” In 2016 she won an Oscar for her turn as a young mother willing to do anything to protect her son in “Room.” Now she’s premiering her feature directorial debut, “Unicorn Store,” at TIFF. Larson also stars in the touching film, which follows a young woman whose childhood dream is unexpectedly fulfilled when she begins receiving invitations to “The Store.”
We recently spoke to Larson about “Unicorn Store,” how she learned to direct herself, and the much-anticipated “Captain Marvel.”
“Unicorn Store” will premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11.
This interview has been edited. It was transcribed by Kaidia Pickels.
W&H: Talk a little about your description of the logline of the film.
BL: That’s a tough one, because you have the plot points, which are that we have a young woman who’s questioning her creativity because for her whole life it’s been critiqued and pulled apart and for her, it’s part of her identity. Once she has this final blow — this professor shatters her completely — the course of the film is then her trying to choose between what feels right in her heart, which looks crazy to everybody else, or what everybody else is doing, which feels wrong to her.
The film questions why we as a society have an obsession with making everybody the same. I think that’s a part of growing up, too. I think so many people who are growing up hit a certain point in your preteen years when you become self-aware, and with that self-awareness, it becomes safe to just suppress yourself and be like everybody else and play it safe. I’ve always struggled with that, and struggled with knowing what I’m supposed to be and then ultimately having some sort of breakdown and realizing that it’s not possible for me. I can’t actually do things like everybody else.
I sometimes wish that I could, but as I’m growing older, I’m realizing that it’s the thinkers that are looking for things outside of cultural norms who are the ones changing society and helping it grow. They’re great teachers of this earth, and I hope that as we’re continuing to grow, we can start to nurture those people more. The film is in some ways a film directly for those people who are maybe going, “This world feels wrong to me and I feel like there’s another way to do it, but I’m afraid to, and I think it might just be easier to be myself.” This film is calling to you, saying, “We need you. We need you more than ever.” Those are the real superheroes of the world.
W&H: You seem so comfortable playing this part. What was it like directing this film and acting in it? And, were you able to get this film going because in the five years since you originally auditioned for this role, your status in this industry has changed?
BL: Yeah, totally. I think that part of why I didn’t get the part the first go-around was because I wasn’t as “bankable” or whatever term industry people would use. That’s kind of the tricky thing that we’re always dancing with here — finding a way to keep artistic integrity but also making sure that this is an investment that feels safe to people. It’s just part of it.
Having the opportunity to direct “Unicorn Store,” at first I had no intention of playing Kit myself. Then, after working on the script for about a year with the writer Samantha McIntyre, she kind of coaxed me into it. She said, “There’s nobody who knows this character better than you. You’ve lived with this character for so many years. It spoke to you, and you’ve been working on writing it and shaping it. I can’t imagine anybody else doing it.” It took me a little bit to wrap my head around it — I thought, “It seems too hard, it’s impossible!”
But then, I realized that although it was going to be difficult, there was a real asset to it, that, for my first go at this, it was a little bit more contained for me in that I knew exactly what my lead actress was going to do. I knew how she was going to play certain scenes, I knew how to cover it because I knew how she was going to play it. I knew she was going to show up on time! I knew she wasn’t going to have a problem with the blocking that I’d set up ahead of time. There were a lot of things about that that were really helpful.
From my past experience being on set, I know that a huge part of directing actors is actually giving direction to their partner that they’re playing off of. It’s not always giving it to the person that’s on camera, it’s giving it to the person who’s speaking the lines. Because of that, I could fluidly direct. When you’re on somebody else’s coverage, for pretty much every scene Kit is in, I was able to redirect my actors through my own performances off camera. It just made everything feel quite easy, actually.
W&H: You’ve said, “I love that we’re seeing stronger women on-screen, but I don’t think that’s the end of this conversation. I think that the best place to start would be more female directors, more female filmmakers of every type of race, and we need to get out of these binary ways of thinking and we need more intersectionality and unique voices.” What is your inspiration to direct, and has that always been there? Can you talk about your passion for this conversation about having more women behind-the-scenes?
BL: My obsession with film has been all-encompassing since I was really young — even when I was four years old, I made storyboards of “The Lion King” to take with me on a trip to Disney World so I could get critiques on them. I’ve always loved every part of the process. When I was in school, every summer vacation I would write a script and direct it. I’d get my cousins to be in it, and I’d build sets in our garage out of sheets and tape. This idea of creating new worlds has always been really fascinating to me. I started with some shorts and really loved the experience that I had doing that. Now with this continued conversations and this lack of change that’s happening still, I’m very grateful that we continue to be talking about. I feel like there’s a ton of progress happening for at least as much as I’m asked about it or that we talk about it.
Because of that, it turned into thinking, “Well, all of change starts with me.” I feel afraid to direct a film, because it’s truly terrifying — you’re saying, “This is how I view the world, this is what the world looks like to me” and you’re hoping that there’s some other people that agree with you. It just felt like with having won an Oscar for “Room,” it allows you to have these open doors for a brief period of time and you get to choose, you’re rewarded with that. For me, I thought, “Well, I just want to put more pieces on the board.”
Whether or not this movie is successful or whether people like it is kind of irrelevant, to be honest. In my opinion, if women go to see this movie, or people who are of a different race or identify with a different sexual orientation, who don’t feel like their stories are being told on-screen and may be afraid to step up and do it, I hope that they can watch this movie and think either, “Wow, she did it! I want to do that and I can! I feel like I can now,” or “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but if she can do this, I can definitely do this.” Either way, it’s putting something out there that’s allowing for more conversation about this, to say, “Let’s do this. It’s totally terrifying, but let’s jump in the water and do this together.”
With that, there was a very specific choice in making this movie in this way — even in the way that I handled the end credits. I felt like softness and innocence were something that we’re not seeing on-screen right now because we have an obsession with taking male characters and making them female [gender-swapping characters]. That’s not to say that that’s not incredibly valuable or that I don’t enjoy watching it — I love it, but we can’t say that we’ve solved anything then, because it’s all still about women needing men in their space.
The cliche of men is that they’re masculine, they’re tough, they don’t mess around, they’re straight-shooters. For decades now it’s been about women kind of acting in that male space, saying “We’re here, we’re tough, we’re strong, we can go toe-to-toe with you,” and of course we can go toe-to-toe with them — but can men then meet us in our softer spaces? Is that possible? Are we allowed to now challenge them and say, “We’ve proven ourselves time and time again. I don’t know why we’re still having this conversation. Can you prove it to us?”
W&H: It’s like when women wore ties to go to work in the ‘80s.
BL: Yeah, and you know what? If you want to wear a tie in the workplace, then that’s your own prerogative. It just shouldn’t be that that’s the only way that we’re doing this. It needs to be a two-way street. By continuing to have conversations like, “Do I feel pressure as a woman to do this?” or “Do I feel like I have something to prove by doing this?” the subtext is still, “Do you reallybelieve that women could be equal to men?” To me it makes me laugh, because why should I believe that I am less than? Just because somebody invented a patriarchal society doesn’t mean that I have to believe it.
The other thing about this is that I am a woman, so it’s very easy for me to speak my truth from the space of being a woman. I do think that as women, and having taken a backseat for so long, I think that we can very much relate to others who have also had to take a backseat for many, many years. Part of this is opening up our space, even though we’re still trying to find our own space in here. Part of it is creating opportunities for others who’ve been left in the dark as well.
W&H: When you got the role of “Captain Marvel,” did you say, “I want to make sure that we have a woman director as part of this?”
BL: That was actually part of what they said to me, and that was part of why I was excited about doing this. They said, “It’ll be female screenwriters, a female director, as many females on the team as possible.” That’s part of why I felt comfortable making the leap into that field, because these movies are huge and they have such a major platform. Being able to give a message to people on this global scale is an interesting opportunity, but what are we saying? How are we saying it?
That all comes from the collaboration of a team — it comes from the script, it comes from the director, it comes from the editor, it comes from even costume and production design. There has to be a real awareness of what’s progressive for us. What’s interesting for us to see? What’s the new way that we can show the world that we’re dynamic, interesting, complicated beings? We’ve never been just one thing.
W&H: What made you decide that you wanted to play Victoria Woodhull? She’s a woman who’s such an important piece of history, but lots of people don’t even know who she is.
BL: That’s part of it. It’s one of the most incredible true stories that I’ve ever read that most people don’t know about. She had extreme conviction and a real belief system, and an interesting dynamic in that the things that are her strong suits are also her weaknesses. She’s incredibly savvy and kind of a genius when it comes to things like publicity, but it’s also the thing that continues to get her in trouble. She saw through the veil that existed at that point — there weren’t many people who were thinking the way that she was.
As the same time, she was struggling with her past, struggling with where she came from. There are so many parallels still to where we are today versus then. A lot of the hurdles that she was going through, a lot of the obsession that the public had with certain aspects of society are exactly the same. I think it’ll be interesting for audiences to see that, to see the cycle that we’re in and how we can move forward.
But what she’s always wanted to do is direct. For Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, moving behind the camera wasn’t the sort of career change she envisioned only after years in the business — it was something she grew up doing. Her own opportunities just had to catch up to her first.
“I’ve just made movies my whole life,” Larson recently told IndieWire. “Every summer, I would write and direct a film that I would direct my cousins in. It mostly took place in the garage, and I would just hang up different sheets and use our storage containers as different heights for things. I had a disco ball that I put outside the garage door, and when I turned it on, it meant we were rolling.”
She added, “I guess this has been part of my way of expressing myself for a very long time.”
Larson also stars in the charming new feature as recent college grad Kit, a failed artist who believes the only way to succeed is to shed her creative dreams and become an entirely different person in the process. While her parents (Bradley Whitford and Joan Cusack) are heartened by what they perceive as perennial kid Kit finally growing up, she suffers — in often drily amusing fashion — to discover the kind of person she really wants to be. Oh, and then Samuel L. Jackson shows up and offers Kit her very own unicorn, as long as the conflicted character can prove herself worthy. Straitlaced Kit? That’s not going to cut it.
The film is Larson’s third trip behind the camera, having previously co-directed the shorts “The Arm” and “Weighting,” which bowed at Sundance and SXSW, respectively. Those films helped fuel not just Larson’s relentlessly creative expression, but her sense of self. It seems only right that “Unicorn Store” tackles those same themes.
Taking Back Control
“Doing shorts was part of my way of taking control back from waiting around to get the next job,” she said. “Anything that I could do to make me feel like I had a life outside of acting, so that when I didn’t get jobs, it didn’t feel like my whole world was over. It just felt like one piece was kind of ending.”
Larson initially auditioned to star in the film about five years ago, but the production, later set to star Rebel Wilson and be directed by Miguel Arteta, never got off the ground — and the actress never really got it out of her head. When it was offered up to her after her big Oscar win for her turn in “Room,” complete with a directing gig too, she knew it was finally right.
“I always felt like I was supposed to tell that story,” she said.
She worked on the script for a year alongside scribe Samantha McIntyre, further fleshing out characters and readying it to share with potential producers. Larson, who has worked in the industry since she was a kid, was prepared for a long wait when it came to financing. “I thought, ‘well, we’ll put it out there, it could be years before I actually end up doing it and start wrapping my head around this,’” she said.
24 hours later, it sold. (Larson produced the project alongside the District’s David Bernad and Ruben Fleischer, Paris Kasidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas, and Lynette Howell Taylor.) Larson worked on the earliest pieces of pre-production while filming Destin Daniel Cretton’s “The Glass Castle,” a process made easier by the fact that both films shared a number of department heads, indie synergy at its finest. That doesn’t mean that she was quickly able to shake off first-time nerves.
“There’s a real vulnerability that comes with directing a film, that comes with saying, ‘This is my point of view, this is how I view the world, and it’s meaningful to me and I hope it’s meaningful to other people,’” Larson said.
Assembling the Team
While she acknowledges the creative process that goes into her acting, directing “Unicorn Store” tapped into something deeper, and perhaps something scarier. “I do understand why we don’t have a ton of new voices,” she said. “Because it’s really hard for new voices to get through this process, getting a financier, getting the right cast, getting the right team, selling it, getting it into a festival. It’s a very difficult process. It’s a very hard on you mentally.”
But plenty of good things happened along the way.
Larson’s starry cast came together with surprising ease, and co-stars like Whitford and Cusack were “the perfect people for it” and signed on after early offers. Jackson actually approached her first, while they were filming “Kong: Skull Island,” offering her a point of view and passion that Larson wanted to see reflected in the final film.
“The hardest part for me was wondering if people would trust me to do this,” Larson said. “And realizing how much as an actor, it’s an act of trust to sign on to any film.”
Another actor who trusted Larson from the jump: Mamoudou Athie, best known for his work on the series “The Get Down” and the recent Sundance hit “Patti Cake$.” For the role of Virgil, a hardware store employee first roped into Kit’s getting-ready-for-unicorn process who becomes someone even more important to her, Larson wanted to snag a fresh face to portray a different sort of masculinity.
Athie sent in a tape after hearing about the part from fellow “Get Down” star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (who had already recommended him for his “Patti Cake$” performance), one that was apparently good enough to get him a Skype interview with Larson.
“I was a little bit nervous about how it would go,” Athie admitted. “She had just won an Oscar! And she was so cool. Immediately, I was like, ‘Oh, this is one of my people.’ We had a conversation. I feel like we went through the gamut, we talked about stereotypes and the industry, hope and humanity. We talked for like 45 minutes.”
The connection between the pair was immediate, and once Athie got the part, he was pleased to see that their bond carried over on set. “It just felt kind of innate,” he said. “Just, ‘Oh, we understand what this is.’”
“Unique and Different”
As an actress, Larson was struck by Kit’s “uniqueness, and her inability to let go of her uniqueness.” The film follows Kit’s early attempts to live the kind of straitlaced life she believes is expected of her – complete with office job and buttoned up suit – but it never quite sticks, and the film is as much about Kit’s coming of age as it is about her staying herself. Larson loved that, but she also related to it.
“I know that the film isn’t for every person,” she said. “But I hope that for the people that I did make it for, it resonates with them as a way of saying, ‘We need these voices that are unique and different.’”
But Athie didn’t mince words about his experience on set with the fledgling director. “She is one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with,” the actor said. “Just extraordinarily generous, but also so clear, so succinct with her directions…I don’t know how she actually, how? Just insane. I didn’t understand how she was able to vacillate from being so vulnerable and emotionally available [while acting], to being so precise [as a director].”
Larson, who has long been outspoken about the need for diversity and respect in the industry, is eager for the film to inspire others, though perhaps in not the exact way most would expect. “My hope was, whether the movie is good or not, it’s another piece on the board,” she said. “People can look at and either go, ‘This movie is amazing, I want to do that,’ or you can go, ‘This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, if she can do this, then I can definitely make a movie.’”
She added, “Through that, my hope is that we have more women, more people of color, people of different sexual orientations telling their stories, because that’s what we need. We need just more. We need more of different.“
Larson understands that audiences might be tempted to dismiss the film as something quirky or whimsical, but she knows there’s more to it. “Obviously, the film is a little off-kilter, and a little surreal, but I think that the world we live in is surreal,” Larson said. (Athie compared its outlook and tone to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”) The unicorn store might be metaphorical — or not — but Larson sees it as emblematic as the biggest and best of dreams.
As she put it, “We should all be allowed to have our dreams, even if they make us look a little crazy.”
“Unicorn Store” had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
Brie Larson has added “film director” to her growing resume.
The Oscar winner is making her directorial debut with Unicorn Store, a film about a young artist who achieves the impossible when she has the chance to own a real-life unicorn.
Larson tells PEOPLE she was drawn to the story’s optimism in aspiring to dream.
“The idea of doing a film that deals with inspiration and positivity spoke to me,” Larson says. “It’s not an easy time in the world right now so I hope that, in the old tradition of films being a form of escapism and a way to dream, this film can do that for its viewers.”
Larson stars as Kit, a young artist who is kicked out of art school and has to work at a temp agency. Once there, the artist is given the chance to own a real-life unicorn — she just has to prove she’s worth it. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusak and Bradley Whitford.
The Room actress says she originally auditioned for the project “about five years ago” and ultimately didn’t get the part. Then the call came for her to act as director and she took the opportunity to tell the story.
“I love that this story is about dreaming the impossible dream and I’m hopeful it inspires others to keep going on their path, whatever their unicorn is,” the actress says.
Unicorn Store will have its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, two years after Room took the Audience Award and Larson started getting major buzz for the performance that would win her the Best Actress Oscar.
“Having this film premiere at Toronto was my unicorn,” Larson admits. “It’s a dream come true.”