For the past 10 years, Vanessa Kirby has been building a name for herself on the stage and screen. Kirby has had such an impressive career that includes starring in smaller indie dramas like Charlie Countryman to big studio blockbusters like Hobbs & Shaw and Mission: Impossible Fallout. In 2020, she starred in two smaller films, The World to Come and Pieces of A Woman. Both of these films have received rave reviews from critics, and there has been much conversation about Kirby being nominated. Personally, and I say this without any hesitation, her performance as Martha Weiss in Pieces of A Woman is without question her best work to date. I feel very lucky to be presented with the opportunity to chat with Vanessa Kirby about the film.
Scott Menzel: Hi, Vanessa. Very nice talking to you today.
Vanessa Kirby: Hi, Scott. You too.
Scott Menzel: How are you holding up? Let’s start with that.
Vanessa Kirby: I mean, just about. We’re in London, so the lockdown’s obviously just been announced, but we’ve been here before, and we know the drill, and we’re all in it together everywhere. Someone was just here and talking about Brazil, where she is, and just staying they’re in the same position. There’s something weirdly uniting about it, I guess.
Scott Menzel: It’s true. I’m in Los Angeles, so we know the deal too. I wanted to start by saying that I’ve been so impressed with your career so far, going back to About Time. I think you’re an incredible actress who has accomplished so much in 10 years. I want to begin with something that hasn’t happened much this year. What was it like to attend the Venice Festival and go there with just one film, but two?
Vanessa Kirby: It was the most surreal experience, Scott, honestly, because really in the weeks leading up to it, I think all of us were just couldn’t believe that it would actually go ahead. Even on the plane over, we were still sort of bracing ourselves. We’re like, is this real? Because the idea of a physical edition of a film festival was just kind of mind-blowing and in a way, it kind of made the whole experience even more magical because every minute I just didn’t take a second of it for granted and sitting down, everyone with face masks on watching a movie that has so much love in it and people have put so much into and really care about. And knowing how unusual it was to be actually watching it with other people was amazing. I love them both equally. I kind of shot them back to back. They have the same editor, Dávid Jancsó, in common and hair and makeup designers, so they were kind of oddly sister productions, plus both of them were about losing a child and how you find your way off of that. The whole thing was just unbelievably special from start to finish.
Scott Menzel: I mean, I’m going, to be honest, I can’t believe it happened either.
Vanessa Kirby: Especially now. It couldn’t happen now. It was a miracle. It was a little miracle.
Scott Menzel: Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure you’re sick and tired about talking about this scene at the beginning of this movie, but holy freaking shit, how did you do it? Was your background in theater a big player in how you were able to pull that scene off?
Vanessa Kirby: Yeah, it was totally, actually, and I think when I knew that we were going to aim to do it as an unbroken take and we had two days at the beginning of the shoot to do it, and we’d probably get about six takes in also, there was actually a sense of relief because what worried me more was the idea of doing the morning on the first bit of the labor and then going off to lunch and then coming back and having to pick up in the middle of the most intense, painful experience of someone’s life. Then the next day coming back and doing a different bit, and actually the idea of just being able to just do it like in a play when you get on stage, you really don’t have any choice. You have to keep going, no matter what happens. I think I was so lucky that I had that background so that I know the feeling of not panicking if you’re in the middle of something and something’s going a bit weird. And most of the lines were improvised too, so we were all just in it together really, playing our part hoping not to drop the ball, and supporting each other. It was a magical experience, and it really was the best one of my filming career for sure.
Scott Menzel: Yeah. I’m still in awe of how you were able to pull it off, and not just that, but also as an actress, to kind of go through the stages of grief on-screen with this character, Martha; I thought that was also incredible. Can you talk a little bit about what that process was like for you?
Vanessa Kirby: Yeah. I think when I sort of started approaching it, I thought, oh my God, this is something that I’ve experienced profound grief in my life, but I haven’t experienced this. I thought that I knew that I had to speak to women that had gone through it, and so many things came up. One of them being, I couldn’t believe how many women in my life that had been through it, that hadn’t been able to speak about it or didn’t feel like they could share it. Society, in general, finds it so uncomfortable to talk about, so it just felt so important to be adding to that conversation. Then sitting with them and really knowing that my main job was to understand as deeply as possible, what it felt like to go through that day by day, to have your reality completely shattered and be totally alone actually in that loss while the world is carrying on and you somehow have to get through day by day. It changed me so much, spending time with them and hearing their courage and resilience and how they coped, really. It taught me a lot about grief generally, and I know everyone’s had a really tough year, and there’s been so much collective loss and collective grieving, and it feels… In a way, I hope that the movie speaks to anyone who’s gone through something so difficult and just day by day managed to get through it and survive it. That in itself is a really brave thing.
Scott Menzel: I couldn’t agree with you more. I mean, it’s been a very difficult year for a lot of people, and I think this is a reason why this film resonated with so many people, because yes, maybe not everyone’s going through what’s going on in this movie. Still, I think they can resonate with the character. They can understand where she’s coming from and how they can apply that to their own lives.
Vanessa Kirby: But also grief is so difficult, and there’s no prescription for how to get through it. Someone said to me recently, “After his dad died, he didn’t smile for a year.” Everyone’s experience is different in a way, and it was a real honor to tell someone’s story who finds it very hard to smile after something like that happening, and how does she find the light again?
Scott Menzel: Absolutely. Well, thank you very much for telling me the rap, but it was a pleasure talking to you. I wish you nothing but success throughout the awards season.
Vanessa Kirby: Thank you, Scott.