There’s a video doing the rounds of the internet in which Brie Larson pushes a four wheel drive, complete with tank full of gas and a trainer in the driving seat, up a hill for a full minute.
Face twisted in exertion and with her hips braced against the chassis, you can hear Larson’s trainer Jason Walsh – the man behind the bodies of Emma Stone, Irina Shayk and Alison Brie – spurring her to keep going. It’s a powerful video, and just a slice of the four hours of training that Larson and Walsh underwent every day for nine months to prepare for Captain Marvel, the first female superhero movie from the Marvel franchise.
So no wonder Larson posted it on her Instagram. “When you’re pushing a jeep up the hill for 60 seconds, you need to brag about it, right?” Larson tells Body+Soul.
Training with Walsh was an intense experience. The 29-year-old Oscar winner was put through her paces, in a gruelling routine of 215-pound deadlifts, 400-pound hip thrusts combined with martial arts and judo with the stunt team. For six months, she trained for 90 minutes every day, upping her workouts to between three and four hours daily for the final three months of the Captain Marvel shoot.
“For me, it’s all about putting myself into the experience,” Larson explains. “The main thing was getting strong and meditating on what female strength might look like, not wanting to emulate things I had seen on screen before but understand what that felt like in myself.”
There were days, Larson admits, when she would lie curled in a ball on the floor in tears. “It was that moment of breakthrough, of going beyond what I thought was possible and what you thought your body was capable of doing,” Larson recalls. “It means that sometimes you’re on the floor crying, begging for it to stop. But that’s who Carol is. When I see that montage [in the trailer] of her over the years getting back up, I feel like that was 100 per cent my experience in my life and in particular in the prep for the film.”
“We did not push her at all,” co-director Ryan Fleck tells Body+Soul. “I mean, have you seen her pushing that jeep? She showed us that video one day and we were like, is that safe? Should you really be doing that? This is an important movie. Don’t hurt yourself.”
Fleck adds: “But there was no holding her back. She was fully committed and has gone wild with it. Literally if she had turned up on set shooting photon blasts out of her hands, we would have been like, ‘Oh cool. That’s Brie. She just figured out how to do that.’”
It is a testament to Larson and co-star Gemma Chan’s drive, that the two of them dedicated themselves to going higher, further and faster, to use some Captain Marvel parlance, in their training. “I only found out that I was cast around three months before we started,” Chan adds, laughing. “So I didn’t have as long to train as Brie. I was watching her training videos and getting really intimated. I didn’t quite get to the point where I was pushing trucks up a hill.” But Chan, who co-stars as an alien warrior hero called Minn-Erva, “loved the challenge of learning a new skill” in fight training. “There’s a particular fight scene near the end that I’m quite excited about with some,” Chan pauses, a Cheshire cat grin on her face. “Unexpected props. Which is all I’m probably allowed to say.”
For Larson, too, the martial arts component of training proved the most transformative.
“It changed me so much,” she says. “It changed my mind, it changed the way I see the world. It’s crazy how different you start to view the world and the people that are standing in front of you. Once I started doing more judo, I’d be like, that guy with the jean jacket on, I could totally throw him right now.”
Captain Marvel is in cinemas on 7 March.