Critical attention grew with her breakout performance in the 2013 film Short Term 12. And this week the 26-year-old earned an Oscar nomination for her work in Room. "It seems so far removed from my reality," she says of being an Oscar contender. "Even talking about it feels like planning your dream wedding when you don't have a boyfriend: there's just no point! I'm so thrilled that the movie is resonating, and that is honestly all I could ever have hoped for."

Brie Larson plays the lead role in the filmBrie Larson plays the lead role in the film

Many have commented that her sensitive acting lifts what is an otherwise harrowing movie. But she has a problem with that description. "Unless 'harrowing' means 'lovely', I don't understand it," she laughs. "I feel like it gives this weird downer tone to the movie. You can watch the movie and focus on the kidnapping and the crime story, or you can see it as a story of love and freedom and perseverance and what it feels like to grow up and become your own person. That's more of what I see in it."

That said, getting ready to play a victim wasn't easy. "First, I spoke with a trauma specialist about the sexual abuse and what would happen to a mind after you've been stuck in that space for seven years, because you'd start to normalise some stuff," Larson explains. "Then I spoke with a nutritionist about the lack of vitamin D, about not having a toothbrush, not being able to wash your hair or face. From there, I could find a way to relate to it. What I didn't want with this story was for people to be getting a satisfying voyeuristic view into a crazy situation. For me, it was all about taking these themes and making it so we can connect to them."

Larson is currently writing a script that she plans to direct, and in the mean time she has just finished filming the crime thriller Free Fire with Armie Hammer. "I think that's the process with me," she says. "You shake it off by jumping into something else that uses a completely different muscle. With something like Room, I was like, 'Next year or two of jobs, I can't cry. I can't cry anymore!' I'm looking for something to laugh over."

Watch the trailer for Room here: