Brie Larson was born Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers on October 1, 1989, in Sacramento, California, to Heather and Sylvain Desaulniers. Her parents were homeopathic chiropractors who ran a practice together, and they have another daughter, Milaine. Her father is French Canadian and in her childhood, Larson spoke French as her first language. She was mostly homeschooled, which she believed allowed her to explore innovative and abstract experiences.
During the summer, she would write and direct her own home movies in which she cast her cousins and filmed in her garage. At age six, she expressed interest in becoming an actress and that same year, she auditioned for a training program at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where she became the youngest student admitted.
Larson experienced trauma when her parents divorced when she was seven. She had a dysfunctional relationship with her father; in an interview she also said that he probably did not want to be a parent to begin with.
Soon after their split, Heather relocated to Los Angeles with her two daughters to fulfill Larson’s acting ambition. They had limited financial means and lived in a small apartment near Hollywood studio lots at Burbank.
As her last name was difficult to pronounce, she adopted the stage name Larson from her Swedish great-grandmother and an American Girl doll named Kirsten Larson that she received as a child.
Her first job was performing a commercial parody for Barbie, named “Malibu Mudslide Barbie”, in a 1998 episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She subsequently took on guest roles in several television series.
Most people know her today because of her role as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Captain Marvel (2019), which marked Marvel Studios’ first female-led film.
Though initially skeptical about taking on such a high-profile role, she agreed after viewing it as a platform to empower young women and found a connection with the character’s flaws and humanity.
Larson is a gender equality activist and an advocate for sexual assault survivors. She uses her status to speak on political and social issues.
At the 89th Oscars ceremony, Larson presented Casey Affleck with the Best Actor Award, but due to sexual harassment allegations against him in the past, she did not clap for him during a standing ovation from the audience; she later stated that her action spoke for itself. In 2018, she collaborated with 300 women in Hollywood to set up the Time’s Up initiative to protect women from harassment and discrimination. In the same year, she became one of the first actors to incorporate an inclusion rider provision in her film and press tour contracts.
In 2014, Larson teamed with Alia Penner to launch Women of Cinefamily, a monthly program to bring attention to films directed by and starring women, for the non-profit cinematheque Cinefamily, in which Larson served as an advisory board member. Following allegations of sexual assault against two of the company’s male executives, she issued a statement in support of the victims and asked for action to be taken against the men. Larson became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2016, and was later among the finalists for the organization’s board of governors. In 2017, she was one of several celebrities to raise funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charity that offers assistance to elderly members of the industry, and co-hosted an event for the Women in Film organization, during which she urged filmmakers to be vocal against the presidency of Donald Trump. She took part in the Women’s March on Washington and criticized Trump’s policies on transgender rights. At the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards in 2018, where she was honored, Larson bemoaned the lack of diversity among film reporters and called for better representation of minority voices in film criticism. She announced a 20 percent quota for underrepresented journalists at the Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival. In 2019, Larson served as a guest editor for Stylist magazine, and used the platform to bring attention to diversity and social inclusion. At the Women in the World Annual Summit, she spoke against the gender pay gap in Hollywood.
Larson is reticent to discuss her personal life and declines to answer questions in interviews that make her uncomfortable. When asked about her desire to be private, she has said that she fears being judged for her flaws and has added that the privacy allows her to play a wide variety of parts without being typecast. She maintains an active social media presence and uses it as a platform to share opinions and uplifting posts written by herself.
Larson has said that she is interested in films that illustrate the human condition and which make people feel more connected to themselves and the rest of the world. She is drawn to parts that differ from her own personality and which involve themes of social activism.