Brie Larson chases the Unicorn in her directorial debut

Academy Award winner takes her behind the camera in an unapologetically buoyant fantasy about an artist who stumbles upon a mysterious shop that sells unicorns.

Brie Larson stars in and directs Unicorn Store.

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Brie Larson stars in and directs Unicorn Store.

When TIFF Rising Star Mamoudou Athie signed up to star opposite Brie Larson in her film Unicorn Store, he had no concerns about the actor-turned-first time filmmaker.

“When I went to school, some of the actors would direct sometimes and it was always the best because it just had a sensitivity to it,” admitted the 28-year-old during the Toronto International Film Fest. “And with Brie, she’s such a fantastic actor and she’s been in the business a long time – she knew what she was doing.”

Just a couple months after winning an Academy Award for Room, Larson did something most actors wouldn’t dare attempt — she changed careers. Sure, she’s still acting but snatching up rights to a script she once auditioned for, she would also soon be calling herself a director.

An unapologetically buoyant fantasy about an artist who stumbles upon a mysterious shop that sells unicorns, Kit (Larson) enlists a trusting new friend (Athie) to help her fulfill the conditions she must meet in order to obtain the fabled filly.

“It’s kind of aggressively positive,” laughed Larson about the frothy comedy she maintains was made with selfish abandon. Known primarily for work in tear-jerking dramas like Room and The Glass Castle, Unicorn Store allowed Larson to take a breath.

“I was starting to lose this part of me, this inner child that needed to not feel like the world was totally falling apart,” said Larson. “What’s available to us at all times is child-like play and innocence even in the face of things that are scary. So at the time I was making it as a way to restore my faith from my own experience of making a movie (where the goal) is crying for eight hours a day and instead to see who can make each other laugh the most — that’s very different.”

Athie agrees the film was a blast to make and perhaps the best experience of his young career – a testament not only to Larson’s fledgling start as a filmmaker, but one that’s willing to take a chance.

“It was a huge risk,” Athie said. “But I think that’s where really interesting and exciting art comes from — when you roll the dice.”


This year, Athie is among TIFF’s Rising Stars — a networking initiative whose alumni includes Emmy-winner Tatiana Maslany and Stephan James (Race, TV’s Shots Fired).

“We’ve done a lot of panels, talks and dinners,” said Athie of the post’s perks. “It’s a really great group of people so it’s just a couple of extra enjoyable days at TIFF.”

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