Birth Name: Vanessa Noola Kirby
Vanessa Kirby (born 18 April, 1988) is an English actress on both stage and more recently screen. She starred as Estella in the BBC’s adaptation of Great Expectations, alongside Ray Winstone.
The daughter of a magazine editor and a surgeon Kirby was turned down by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and took a gap year travelling before studying English at Exeter University. She then turned down her place at LAMDA in London after she was signed up to an agency and met the theatre director David Thacker who gave her three starring roles over 2009 at the Octagon Theatre Bolton in All My Sons by Arthur Miller, Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. For All My Sons she won the BIZA Rising Star Award at the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards, worth £5000.
She then went on to star at the National Theatre as Isabella in Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton directed by Marianne Elliott alongside Harriet Walter and Harry Potter’s Harry Melling. She then starred as Rosalind in As You Like It by William Shakespeare at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, where Alfred Hickling from The Guardian named her a “significant new talent”. In 2011 she was in premiere of The Acid Test by Anya Reiss at the Royal Court Theatre directed by Simon Godwin earning praise for her performance with Paul Taylor of The Independent calling her “a star if ever I saw one”.
She has been nominated for the Ian Charleson Award for two consecutive years for five out of the six plays, 2010 and in 2011, where she won Third Prize, Ben Whishaw and Benedict Cumberbatch being previous winners.
Her TV debut in the BBC’s The Hour co-starring with Ben Whishaw, Dominic West and Romola Garai aired in 2011. She played Estella in the BBC’s adaption of Great Expectations alongside Ray Winstone, Gillian Anderson and Douglas Booth.
She played the lead role of Alice in Ridley Scott’s mini-series adaptation of Kate Mosse’s novel Labyrinth. In late 2012, she filmed The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman with Shia LaBeouf and Mads Mikkelson. Kirby then starred in Richard Curtis’s film About Time as Rachel McAdams’s best friend Joanna.
She went on to play Masha in the acclaimed production by Benedict Andrews of Three Sisters at the Young Vic in September 2012, earning rave reviews, with Matt Trueman of Time Out stating. “In a super cast given licence to shine, Kirby stands out as Masha”.
She filmed The Rise in early 2012 alongside Matthew Lewis and Timothy Spall. The film premiered at the Toronto and London Film Festivals to positive reviews, and won the Best Debut Category for director Rowan Athale.
In 2013, Kirby filmed the yet to be released Kill Command opposite Thure Lindhardt, the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, and Queen and Country, John Boorman’s sequel to his 1987 Hope and Glory. That year Kirby returned to the National Theatre to play Queen Isabella in Edward II opposite John Heffernan.
In early 2014 she filmed Working Title’s Everest, starring alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin and Keira Knightley, playing the iconic American socialite Sandy Hill Pittman. She also filmed Anthony Bourdain’s crime novel ‘Bone in the Throat‘, alongside Tom Wilkinson and Ed Westwick.
In the summer of 2014 she played Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, again collaborating with Benedict Andrews at the Young Vic, alongside Gillian Anderson as Blanche and Ben Foster as Stanley.
In 2015 she filmed Michael Grandage’s first film Genius, alongside Colin Firth, Jude Law and Guy Pearce. It is cited she has begun filming as the title role in new series The Frankenstein Chronicles opposite Sean Bean, The Dresser for Richard Eyre with Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen, Thea Sharrock’s adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ book Me Before You with Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke.
In May 2015 it was reported that Kirby was cast as Princess Margaret after a six month search, in Netflix’s first original British series The Crown written by Peter Morgan, directed by Stephen Daldry, opposite Matt Smith and Claire Foy.
Baz Bamigboye reported she will play Elena in Robert Icke’s Uncle Vanya at the Almeida Theatre in 2016.