Vanessa Kirby: Meet the 'Pieces of a Woman,' 'Hobbs and Shaw' and 'The Crown' Star

Vanessa Kirby is expected to be a mainstay of the 2021 awards season thanks to her performance in the Netflix drama Pieces of a Woman. The Mission: Impossible - Fallout star has already earned her first Golden Globe nomination for the new film and has picked up several nominations from other groups along the way. The 32-year-old Kirby should be familiar to audiences through her Emmy-nominated work as Princess Margaret in The Crown's first two seasons.

Kirby was born in Wimbledon, London, to former magazine editor Jane Kirby and decorated urologist Roger Kirby. She has a brother, Jane Austen College deputy head Joe Kirby and Juliet Kirby. Although she was initially turned down by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and studied English at the University of Exeter, she never stopped acting. She made her stage debut in 2009 and soon began appearing in BBC television productions as well.

In 2015, Kirby earned her breakthrough year. She starred in the movies Jupiter Ascending, Bone in the Throat, and Everest and the TV movie The Dresser, co-starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins. All of this success put her on the road to international recognition, culminating in her casting as the "White Widow" in Mission: Impossible - Fallout in 2018. She was then cast as Jason Statham's on-screen sister in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. She is now working on the seventh Mission: Impossible film and is expected to be the eighth.

Despite the success in blockbusters, Kirby has shown an attraction to difficult material. In Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman, she plays Martha Weiss, expecting a child with Sean Carson (Shia LaBeouf) at the beginning of the movie. The film covers her struggles after the baby dies early in the film. Kirby and Ellen Burstyn, who plays her on-screen mother, have both earned acclaim for their performances. So far, Kirby has already won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice International Film Festival. It was released on Netflix on Dec. 30.

Pieces of a Woman is noted for a haunting 30-minute sequence showing Kirby giving birth to her baby. In an interview with W Magazine, she said she was "looking for something demanding," and the script by Kata Wéber fit the bill. "I was being sent all the standard sorts of scripts, but Pieces of a Woman was so absorbing, so touching, that I was absolutely sure that I had to do it," Kirby explained. "Gena Rowlands is my hero, and her film A Woman Under the Influence is the kind of work that I’m aiming for. Rowlands is idiosyncratic — fierce, but still vulnerable."

One difficult part of the film for Kirby was keeping an American accent when cameras were rolling. "I’m British, and it was especially difficult to stay in an American accent when you are required to scream in pain. So I stayed in the American accent 24/7 while shooting," Kirby said. "At the height of the birth scene, I didn’t want to suddenly sound foreign."


Kirby's next film is already in the can. Mona Fastvold's The World to Come debuted at the Venice International Film Festival and features Kirby, Katherine Waterston, Christopher Abbott and Casey Affleck as neighboring couples living on the American East Coast frontier in the 19th Century. The film won the Queen Lion award in Venice and is set to be released for VOD on March 2.

Kirby told IndieWire she needed to do Pieces of a Woman and The World to Come after two major blockbusters. "The physical nature of these movies is like a dance. So precise. I had to train really hard," she said of Fallout and Hobbs & Shaw. "Coming back to doing Pieces of a Woman and The World to Come was amazing; it felt so familiar, like doing a play in a full theater, where I was in my natural habitat.” The future will be better for Kirby and the audience when she continues working in her natural habitat.