• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2021: Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”

The British actress Vanessa Kirby was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Drama for her heart-wrenching performance in Pieces of a Woman, directed by Kornél Mundruczó. The screenplay was written by his wife Kata Wéber, inspired by the Hungarian couple’s tragic experience of losing a baby. During her research for the film, Kirby spoke with many women who had suffered that kind of loss, she said, “they talk about the fact that, when your reality is completely shattered in many pieces, you have to pick them up and reconfigure what you imagined for your life.” 
Not having given birth before, she was “really nervous” about the long opening sequence detailing the home birth in one take. “I felt a duty to every mother to try and represent this process on screen in as authentic a way as possible, raw and true to life.” She says she started “shadowing obstetricians and midwives in the labor ward at a hospital in London, and an amazing woman let me watch her actually give birth. And that was essential for me. Then we had a doula with us during the shooting, as our birth consultant.” 
As for the message of the film, after the midwife is brought to court to face her responsibility, Kirby said, “it’s about not knowing and not being able to assign blame or get compensation for some of the losses and painful things in life that we just can’t explain or have answers for.” As for working with veteran actress Ellen Burstyn, who was playing Martha’s mother, she said that they formed “an incredible bond between us,” and that “allowed me the space to go really deep every day, which was scary, but also one of the best filming experiences of my life.”
The actress costars with Katherine Waterstone in The World to Come, written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Mona Fastvold, based on a short story by Jim Shepard, inspired by a line in a 19th century farm journal, “today my best friend moved away, and I don’t know if I will ever see her again.” The movie celebrates the friendship between two women, living with their husbands in the rural North East, that turns into passionate love. Kirby said, “there’s no record of these women and their lives, the ordinary and the extraordinary, their imagination and their dreams. It felt important to tell a story about the forgotten voice of those women. I’m really excited as an actor to move towards telling so many untold female stories, that haven’t yet been written and done.”
Kirby is the daughter of a surgeon and a magazine editor. “No one in my family had acted, so they thought I was crazy for wanting to be an actress, but even though my parents were not from that world at all, they really supported me.” Her father Roger loved Shakespeare and her mother Jane read “loads of books,” so, with older brother Jonathan and younger sister Juliet, Vanessa was taken to see a lot of theatre plays and was particularly inspired by Corin and Vanessa Redgrave’s performance as brother and sister in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.
She started acting on stage herself at the age of 21, then she was cast as young Princess Margaret in the television series The Crown. “She was so brilliant and way cooler than me, so I felt privileged to play her.” And since Helena Bonham Carter has been playing the older version of her character, Vanessa loves watching the show with her mom and feels proud to be part of that family of actors.
Some of her favorite movies include Midnight Express by Alan Parker and Chinatown by Roman Polanski. She has acted in movies like Queen & Country (2014) by John Boorman with Callum Turner, played Zelda Fitzgerald in Genius (2016) with Colin Firth and Jude Law. Next up for her is a reprise of the role of White Widow that she played in Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) in the upcoming Mission Impossible 7 with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. She said that with each film, “the stunts get riskier and some of them have been terrifying, but it’s a pleasure for all of us to be back at work, while remaining safe in the middle of a global pandemic.”