Vanessa Kirby Watched a Woman in Labor for 8 Hours to Prepare for ‘Pieces of a Woman’ Birth Scene
Vanessa Kirby has been the talk of awards season since she stunned audiences with her performance in “Pieces of a Woman,” a rare movie in this COVID year that debuted in front of a live audience. Kirby won the Venice Film Festival’s best-actress award, as well as Golden Globe and SAG nominations, for her performance as a woman who loses her baby during childbirth and spirals downward in the aftermath. Her work as Martha pulses with the raw pain and jagged wound of her loss.
The 32-year-old British actress won attention in recent years for her sharply etched turn as Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of “The Crown,” challenging her sister the queen (Claire Foy) with sarcasm, wit and an unrestrained penchant for alcohol. Kirby also had roles in the “Fast & Furious” spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw” and has been filming alongside Tom Cruise for two upcoming “Mission: Impossible” films. And she stars with Katherine Waterston in the new indie drama “The World to Come,” about two 19th-century frontier women in unhappy marriages who strike up a tentative romance.
Wrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman spoke via video to Kirby in London while both were in pandemic lockdown.
After shooting such an intimate film about such a vulnerable topic, how did it feel to watch it on a big screen with a large audience at the Venice Film Festival?
I was surprised at how vulnerable I felt about it, actually. I felt it quite intensely three times. Before I watched it myself for the first time. Then on my way to the premiere, my hands were shaking and I found it incredibly hard to watch. I almost didn’t want to. And then the week leading up to the release I felt physically quite sick.
I’ve only really just started to think about why — it was the biggest privilege of my life, going that deep into that female experience. When you leave parts of yourself on the floor, on the screen, it feels like someone is seeing inside of you. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like having really thin skin. It’s such a profoundly painful experience, losing a baby. I had to live in that pain consistently in the shoot.
What did you do to prepare to play Martha?
I was quite daunted by it. On the page, I thought, it’s such an unusual exploration of grief. It reminded me of “Three Colors: Blue” (by Krzysztof Kieślowski) with Juliette Binoche — it’s always been one of my favorite films because her restraint is so unexpected.
Inherently, in a trope way, it’s a more masculine thing to keep it all in. I looked at performances that I most loved where it was all volcanic under the surface. I’m naturally quite an expressive person, I have trouble concealing how I feel. The biggest challenge is to work out, to trust, that as long as I could touch the depth of the feeling intensely enough inside and really feel it, I had to hope the audience would feel it too.
I felt an intense amount of humility. I’ve had losses in my life, extremely painful ones, months of going through grief and trying to find my way out of it. Those months can feel so lonely, with the world carrying on around, and you’re alone in your experience, having to keep going, and inside it’s this existential, cavernous vacuum of grief. I knew I could apply my own experience of grief and fully, sensorialy, understand the women I spent time with and shared their experiences with.
Also Read: ‘Pieces of a Woman’ Star Vanessa Kirby OscarWrap Cover (Exclusive Photos)
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