bffs

Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson Ride a Unicorn Into Friendship: A Timeline

Photo: Netflix

Brie Larson’s directorial debut Unicorn Store — a magical-realist tale about one girl’s journey to buy a real live unicorn — has arrived on Netflix. And along with it, comes the film’s unicorn salesman: naturally, Samuel L. Jackson. Through a curious quirk of scheduling, Unicorn Store is both the second and third collaboration between King Kong enthusiasts Larson and Jackson. Their rainbow-hued buddy comedy premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, then floated around for about a year and a half without a distributor, until Netflix scooped it up in January of this year. It was only after Captain Marvel had catapulted Larson to the front of public consciousness alongside the trusted Nick Fury that the streaming network released Unicorn Store into the wild — marking the official hat trick of Larson and Jackson’s friendship.

Over the course of three films, the two thespians have developed a deep and profound relationship that’s involved, among other things, a shared distrust of cats. Vulture has done our readers the service of chronicling their nonstop white-knuckle roller coaster ride of being pals. Read on for a complete history of the bond between the new generation’s Matt and Ben:

October 2015 — March 2016: The puppy love phase.
Going to Vietnam changes a person. Kong: Skull Island co-stars Larson and Jackson didn’t survive a war or anything, but mosquitos and jet lag are both tests of the spirit in their own way. Shooting for Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ supersize simian epic stretched out over six months, and brought the cast from Vietnam’s northernmost provinces to the tropics of Hawaii to the Gold Coast of Australia. All the while, Larson was taking frequent transcontinental flights to make the awards-circuit rounds in support of Room, for which she would ultimately win the Oscar.

In a recent interview with Indiewire, Jackson described the time period and the crucible from which their connection was forged. “I was kind of the needle guy,” Jackson said, “when she was constantly running in and out going to award shows all over the planet from remote locations, always in that ‘rah-rah Brie, hurry back, hurry back, hurry back. You don’t have to go to this one, you won the last one, you know you’re going to win this one, they’ll just send it to you, you don’t have to go, just stay here with us!’ But she never did, she always had to go.” Please, treat yourself to the mental image of a forlorn Samuel L. Jackson pressing his face to his trailer’s window and awaiting Brie Larson’s return to set, like a loyal golden retriever who fears that his human may never come back from work.

Get you a best friend who looks at you the way Samuel L. Jackson admires Brie Larson.
Get you a best friend who looks at you the way Samuel L. Jackson admires Brie Larson.

November — December 2016: “So ask me.”
On top of everything else transpiring during the Kong: Skull Island production process, Larson was also using this time to plot out a game plan for her first go behind the camera. Though the actress had auditioned for and been rejected from Unicorn Store five years earlier, her Oscar buzz changed the movie producers’ tunes, and they eventually offered her the chance to direct if she’d agree to star as well. She started thinking about casting while on her tour of duty through Skull Island, and Jackson was initially stung that Larson didn’t immediately approach him. In the Indiewire interview, he relates the delicate dance of chop-busting that led him to landing the key role of the whimsical unicorn purveyor known as the Salesman: “I was kind of like, ‘So you’re making a movie, huh, you wrote it and you’re directing a movie and you’re gonna put this actor in it, and you didn’t even ask me?’… She’s saying ‘No, I was ready to ask you,” and I was like, ‘Okay, so ask me.’ So, I ended up in the movie.”

By the time that they reconvened in fall 2016 for the brief Unicorn Store shoot, Jackson and Larson were besties-in-the-making. They made memories that would last a lifetime: selecting the tinsel-strewn Afro wig that Jackson’s character would wear, processing their disappointment over the then-recent election, texting until they fell asleep with their phone screens adhered to their faces with dried drool. Before they wrapped, Larson (presumably) swore to him that their paths would cross again one day. It would not be long until she’d be able to make good on that solemn vow.

March 2017: Their first public appearance.
The long-awaited premiere of Kong: Skull Island whisks the BFFs away on a world tour. Here they are in Japan! Drink in the mutual respect, the understanding, the platonic intimacy in their shared gaze. Samuel L. Jackson’s hat and sweater combo makes him look like a cartoon sailor, and Larson’s loving every second of it.

They’re so at ease. Photo: Marvel Studios

July 2017: It’s superhero time.
Larson was the first big name attached to Captain Marvel, joining the production in time for San Diego Comic-Con in July 2016. It would take nearly a calendar year for Marvel to decide on directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, during which time the headlining star exerted her own influence on the staffing process. She pushed for Nick Fury to have an increased presence in the film, and for her good buddy Samuel L. Jackson to once again reprise the role with aid of digital de-aging technology. In July, he signed on the dotted line.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Larson recalled summoning her right-hand man: “Marvel was like, ‘Is there anybody that you’d wanna do [the movie] with?’ And I was like, ‘Please. I need to be with my pal. Don’t let me do it alone!’” In the finished product, they share a chemistry that can’t be faked, at least not without the aid of extensive VFX touch-ups.

January — July 2018: “There’s things that only we know.”
From a stretch of location shoots around California through the extended stint at Sony’s studio in Los Angeles, Jackson and Larson became inseparable. Captain Marvel itself leaned into the buddy-buddy dynamic naturally flowering between the two, making the rapport between earthbound alien Carol Danvers and newbie to the super-biz Nick Fury its central pillar. In an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Larson divulged the on-set bonding ritual that brought her closer to Jackson than ever. Just as characters in the film sniff out shape-shifting Skrulls by quizzing them on personal information, Larson and Jackson would grill each other about their deepest, darkest secrets. “There’s things that only we know,” Larson confided. Like all true pairs of friends, they found common ground in hating the same people, though of course she refrains from blowing up her pal’s spot by snitching on the most annoying PA from Unicorn Store.

February — March 2019: Late-night platonic love.
By the time of the global press tour for Captain Marvel, the general press had caught wind of the soulmate-level match between Larson and Jackson, and their friendship was front and center. America couldn’t get enough of the fact that Brie Larson couldn’t get enough of Samuel L. Jackson, and the late-night set was only too happy to oblige. Here’s Jackson and Larson testing one another on excerpts from reviews of their past films! Here they are warbling their way through a rendition of “Shallow” for Jonathan Ross! Does Jackson know the words? He does not! They both comported themselves a bit better in James Corden’s carpool, where they made it through “Seven Rings” before putting each other up against a lie detector. A bond that can make it through Kangol dissing, truly, can withstand anything.

Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson’s Friendship: A Timeline