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Vanessa Kirby Fan aims to bring you the best and most updated news on Vanessa Kirby's career. More recently, you may have recognized her from The Crown as Princess Margaret but we assure you, you will see her in much more! Here you'll find all the latest news, videos, interviews, high quality photos, and more.
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Posted on January 03, 2021 / by Ana / in Gallery, news/ rumours

After Princess Margaret, the actress plays a mother giving birth. Her research took method acting to a new extreme

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MAGAZINE SCANS > 2021 > JAN 3: THE SUNDAY TIMES ‘CULTURE’

For the first half-hour of the film Pieces of a Woman, Vanessa Kirby pretends to give birth. She breathes heavily, swears, writhes around naked in a bath. But the baby is dead. This is not a spoiler: the film is about her year-long process of mourning as her character, Martha, goes on to deal with grief and blame. The film does not mess about. Kirby will leave you shattered as she heads off to receive umpteen nominations for best actress to add to the award she won for the role at the Venice Film Festival last year.

The issue for Kirby was that she had never given birth. And unlike, say, driving a car, bringing life into the world isn’t easy to mimic if you have never done it. Portray the complex character of Princess Margaret for two series of The Crown? Simple in comparison with the agony endured in labour. Given that, Kirby did what any normal person would do and contacted the Whittington Hospital in London to ask if she could observe a birth. And one woman actually said yes.

“I walked in in my scrubs,” Kirby recalls. “We had asked permission and unbelievably she said yes. Not sure I would. Some random actress in there.” Was the woman on drugs? “No! No drugs. But she was on a trip, if you know what I mean. Anyway I sat next to her on the bed and vaguely waved. I was in awe. Her mother was there too. I hardly breathed for six hours.” Did she offer encouragement? “No! Can you imagine? ‘Go on, girl!’ No, I was silent. It was a greater achievement than I’ve seen anybody do. There were forceps.
“At one point she looked at me,” Kirby continues. “Halfway through a difficult contraction. I blew her a kiss. Why? So embarrassing. And when he was actually born the nurses brought me round to see him come out. I was crying my eyes out. All colour came back to the mother. It was holy. And then I was introduced, and they went, ‘Oh God, Princess Margaret!’”

Kirby, 32, is good, freewheeling company, exhibiting a decent level of incredulity about the ridiculous stuff she does for a living. In that regard she is not unlike Claire Foy, her co-star on The Crown. And like Foy, who took on the role of Lisbeth Salander after her stint as the Queen, Kirby is finding ways to ensure people don’t just know her for playing royalty. Pieces of a Woman will do that.

As will her role in The World to Come, in which she plays a bored mid-19th-century American woman who escapes a suffocating pioneer life by having a lesbian affair with a neighbour.

She is watching the new series of The Crown with her parents. They do two episodes every Sunday. She is relieved to be out of it. When she was in the series the events it depicted were not as fresh in the public consciousness as they are now, so there was less scrutiny of the script, no great controversy about fact and fiction, no minister calling for pre-credit warnings.

“I didn’t know anything about Princess Margaret,” she admits. “And from the 1950s all you could find were little clips of her opening things, like boats. I had to find moments where her mike was left on and she said a withering remark. I’d have felt daunted if it was closer to today. It’s more current. More controversial.”

We met last month for coffee — Kirby delighted to be doing a face-to-face chat after a year of Zoom. She started in theatre (she was nominated three times for the Ian Charleson award for young actors in a classical role), so likes the reactions people get and give in person. Even if we had to meet outside and it was a bit cold. She is all in black. That is, she says, her uniform, rather than, say, an outfit to match the woe in both her new films.

Asked for a comment (on Shia’s lawsuit) after our interview, she simply said: “I stand with all survivors of abuse and respect the courage of anyone who speaks their truth. Regarding the recent news, I can’t comment on an ongoing legal case.”

Kirby keeps her Volpi cup — the acting award she won at Venice — at the home she shares in south London with her sister and two friends. “It is massive,” she says of the trophy. “Like a swimming cup.” A few weeks ago friends asked to see it, as well as the Bafta she won for The Crown. Kirby stood, watching them take photos and had a moment. As a teenager she auditioned for an acting gig at a bank, to be in a video for interviewees. She was meant to wear a suit but didn’t have one, so wore her sister’s school uniform instead. She did not get the job, but remembers the day vividly. Just as she remembers the three times she was turned down for drama school and thinks of them now simply as moments, bad moments, on the way to friends coming over and posing with her trophies.

She takes a similar attitude to girls who bullied her at school. “I’ve worked on that a lot, actually,” she says. “It’s important to assess why. Why you? I can look back and think of myself as a victim, or I can go, ‘It was because I was too sensitive.’ Didn’t have resilience.” She pauses. “I don’t know. But a big part of it was finding ways to feel accepted, and I felt really accepted doing drama. You can mess about like an idiot and nobody is going to judge you for it.”

That is all very “personal growth”, but it must be fun for her to think that those bullies are watching her now? As Margaret. Called “the outstanding stage actress of her generation” by Variety. As Miss Julie at the National Theatre. Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian Anderson. “I’ve no idea. You don’t think about that, do you? I really don’t know.”

How about with Tom Cruise in the enormously enjoyable Mission: Impossible — Fallout? The one when Cruise fights a helicopter. She is currently shooting a sequel with more Covid-19 precautions than stunts, but she seems excited to be back and hadn’t read the interview Thandie Newton gave this year about Mission: Impossible II, in which she admitted she was “so scared of Tom … a very dominant individual”. Kirby’s experience of Cruise was of a man who stopped to apologise to extras he had run into while filming.

There are other things on her mind. “You saw it in a cinema? How stressful,” she blurts out when I tell her I watched Pieces of a Woman in full-screen glory, as opposed to how most will — at home on Netflix. She says it is weird that we have seen so little birth on screen but are inundated with deaths, and she has a point. Do we feel uncomfortable? Probably. It also has something to do with nudity, which the censors consider worse than violence. Indeed, the death of a child tends to be dealt with only in horror films such as Don’t Look Now or Hereditary — “Isn’t that telling?” — but, I suggest, a lack of babies born on screen has mostly to do with men mostly being behind the camera.

“Totally,” she says. “And after I read the script I started speaking to women, and everywhere someone had a similar story. It’s happened in my family. Friends of friends. What hit me was that people hadn’t found a way totalk about it. It’s not something that is easy for, collectively, anyone to talk about, and that was baffling to me. That level of pain and grief? It’s so important to be shared. Maybe someone will watch this by mistake, not knowing what it’s about, and then turn to the person next to them and say that happened to them, but they never spoke about it. They will know it was not just them.”
Kirby’s father, Roger, is a retired prostate surgeon, so renowned that his page on Wikipedia is currently longer than his daughter’s. He loves the theatre, so her chosen career was fine with him, but, I ask, risking getting a little amateur shrink on her — “Go on …” — if this new urgency for work that, well, matters is her trying to do something important like her father did?

“Maybe,” she nods. “I wasn’t sure what my part was beyond serving a story, but I’m coming into a phase where I feel I do have a responsibility and something to say, as whatever we do is digested by people. That’s why I watch films — to change how I think about something or make me recognise a part of myself. It takes you a long time to work out how to not just be part of the big whole.”

And how does her role in the action romp Hobbs & Shaw — 2019’s Fast & Furious spin-off — fit into that? “Well, it was challenging myself,” Kirby says, cautiously, diplomatically. “It was different from what I had done before. And a lot of people love those films. A lot more than a little indie about a baby dying. And so I think, in the ecosystem of the world, if doing that movie means more people see Pieces of a Woman? Well, that’s really important to me.”

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