“Room” helmer Lenny Abrahamson readily admits during our recent webcam chat (watch above) to being shocked when he heard his name among the Best Director Oscar nominees. “I think I knew it could be a really powerful film,” he explains, “but it would be impossible to predict this.” He does allow that while filming the harrowing story of a young woman (Brie Larson) trapped in a room for six years with her son (Jacob Tremblay), “you could see something special was happening.” However, he quickly adds, “I don’t think I would ever have anticipated this. Maybe in a kind of fantasy football sort of way, but not really.”
Emma Donoghue adapted her acclaimed novel, which follows the pair after they make their escape and struggle to adjust to life outside of those four walls. Abrahamson says he read the book in 2011, and was instantly taken with it. “I was a parent of about three-and-a-half years at that point,” he recalls. “So I had been thinking a lot about the experience of being a parent, the intensity of it and the amazingness of it and the challenges of it, and then I read this novel, which was such an extraordinary exploration of all those things.”
The Irish-born director continues, “It’s such an original way in as well, because Emma took a situation which would normally be mined for its grimness and its horror, and turned it into a kind of celebration of that parent-child bond.” He knew he wanted to bring the book to the screen, explaining, “I think it was a combination of the emotional effect of the book on me, and also, I suppose as a craftsperson, just the challenges involved in shooting in such a small space, and also trying to frame a story as unusually structured as this, where you have two halves, split by a sequence that would normally be the last.”
As for Larson, who is heavily favored to win Best Actress, “she’s fiercely intelligent, she’s got a really great, natural understanding of storytelling. She’s also very warm, and we knew we needed an actress who could form a relationship with a small kid. It’s very important that she be able to be natural with him so that he would feel comfortable. So she had that natural warmth, and just a real empathy for the character.”
Finding the right kid presented a different challenge, one that culminated in the casting of eventual SAG nominee Jacob Tremblay. “He’s a great actor who happens to be eight-years-old,” proclaims the director. “Great poise, great presence, somehow knows how to be, or has that instinctive sort of ease in front of a camera, and crucially also enjoys acting, so that it’s not a chore for him.”
Who do you think will win Best Director? Make your Oscar predictions beginning with that category to the right or at the bottom of this post.