Oscar Actors: Kirby, Vanessa (Pieces of Woman)–Background, Career, Awards

Vanessa Kirby (born 18 April 1988) is an English actress.

For her role as Princess Margaret in the Netflix period drama series The Crown (2016–2017), she won the British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress and earned a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

She has also starred in several stage productions, earning three nominations for the Ian Charleson Awards, with Matt Trueman of Variety describing her as “the outstanding stage actress of her generation, capable of the most unexpected choices.”

She gained recognition for her roles in the action films Mission: Impossible–Fallout (2018) and Hobbs & Shaw (2019), and won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 2020 Venice Film Festival for Pieces of a Woman.

She received critical acclaim for her role in the movie Pieces of a Woman (2020), for which she earned nominations for a Critics’ Choice Award, BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Golden Globe and Best Actress Oscar in a Leading Role.

Kirby was born on April 18, 1988 in Wimbledon, London, to former Country Living magazine editor Jane and urologist Roger Kirby. She has two siblings, Joe and Juliet.

Actors Vanessa Redgrave and Corin Redgrave were family friends.

After being turned down by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, she took a gap year to travel before studying English at the University of Exeter.

Kirby turned down her place at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art after she was signed to a talent 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 £5,000.

In 2011, she appeared at the National Theatre as Isabella in Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton, directed by Marianne Elliott, alongside Harriet Walter and Harry Melling.

She then starred as Rosalind in As You Like It by William Shakespeare at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds; Alfred Hickling of The Guardian described her as a “significant new talent”. In 2011, she was in the première of The Acid Test by Anya Reiss at the Royal Court Theatre, directed by Simon Godwin, earning praise for her performance from Paul Taylor of The Independent, who described her as “a star if ever I saw one”.

That same year, Kirby made her TV debut in the BBC’s The Hour. She played Estella in the BBC’s mini-series adaptation of Great Expectations.

She played Masha in the acclaimed stage production by Benedict Andrews of Three Sisters at the Young Vic in September 2012, earning exceptionally good 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. The film premièred at the Toronto and London Film Festivals to favorable reviews, and won the Best Debut Category for director Rowan Athale.

In 2013, Kirby returned to the National Theatre to play Queen Isabella in Edward II opposite John Heffernan. 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.[18] She won Best Supporting Actress category at the Whatsonstage Awards 2014, which is voted for by the public. Kirby also appeared in Richard Curtis’s romantic comedy film About Time.[19]

In 2015, she appeared in Everest as American socialite Sandy Hill Pittman, The Dresser, and in May of that year, was cast as Princess Margaret in Netflix’s first original British series The Crown. Her selection came after a six-month search. For this role, she was nominated for a BAFTA award in 2017, and won the award for season two in 2018.

Kirby played Elena in Robert Icke’s production of Uncle Vanya at the Almeida Theatre in 2016, for which she won rave reviews, with Matt Trueman of Variety writing: “Kirby is a superlative Elena: lithe, fickle, hypocritical, shallow and yet always sympathetic. It’s a performance that confirms her as the outstanding stage actress of her generation, capable of the most unexpected choices.”

Throughout the late 2010’s Kirby appeared in several film such as John Boorman’s sequel to his Hope and Glory (1987) Queen and Country (2014), the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending (2015), and Kill Command (2016).

In 2018, Kirby played the title character in Polly Stenham’s Julie, an adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, at the National Theatre. Kirby has since starred in two action franchise films, Mission: Impossible 6 (2018) opposite Tom Cruise and Fast and Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) alongside Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.

In 2020, Kirby won the Best Actress Award at the 2020 Venice Film Festival for Kornél Mundruzcó’s English debut Pieces of a Woman, a film portraying the degradation of a marriage.

Kirby is also set to reprise her dual role of Alanna Mitsopolis and White Widow in Mission: Impossible 7 (2021), and Mission: Impossible 8 (2022).

From 2015 to February 2020, Kirby was in a relationship with actor Callum Turner, with whom she co-starred in Queen & Country.

Filmography

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Love/Loss Jane
2012 The Rise Nicola
2012 Nora Young woman Short film
2013 Charlie Countryman Felicity
2013 About Time Joanna
2014 The Exchange Woman Short film
2014 Insomniacs Jade Short film
2014 Queen & Country Dawn Rohan
2014 National Theatre Live: A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella Kowalski
2014 Off the Page: Devil in the Details Jessica Short film
2015 Jupiter Ascending Katharine Dunlevy
2015 Bone in the Throat Sophie
2015 Everest Sandy Hill
2016 Genius Zelda Fitzgerald
2016 Kill Command Katherine Mills
2016 Me Before You Alicia Dewares
2018 Mission: Impossible – Fallout Alanna Mitsopolis / White Widow
2019 Mr Jones Ada Brooks
2019 Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw Hattie Shaw
2020 Pieces of a Woman, Martha Weiss
2020 The World to Come Tallie
2021 Mission: Impossible 7 Alanna Mitsopolis / White Widow Completed
2022 Mission: Impossible 8 Alanna Mitsopolis / White Widow Pre-production

Television

2011 The Hour Ruth Elms 3 episodes
2011 Great Expectations Estella Havisham Miniseries; 3 episodes
2012 Labyrinth Alice Tanner Miniseries; 2 episodes
2013 Agatha Christie’s Poirot Celia Ravenscroft Episode: “Elephants Can Remember”
2015 The Dresser Irene Television film
2015 The Frankenstein Chronicles Lady Jemima Hervey Main role; 7 episodes
2016–17 The Crown Princess Margaret Main role; 17 episodes

Theatre

2010 All My Sons Arthur Miller Ann Deever Octagon Theatre
2010 Ghosts Henrik Ibsen Regina Engstrand Octagon Theatre
2010 A Midsummer Night’s Dream William Shakespeare Helena Octagon Theatre
2010 As You Like It William Shakespeare Rosalind West Yorkshire Playhouse
2011 Women Beware Women Thomas Middleton Isabella Royal National Theatre
2011 The Acid Test Anya Reiss Dana Royal Court Theatre
2012 Three Sisters Anton Chekhov Maria “Masha” Kulygina Young Vic
2013 Edward II Christopher Marlowe Isabella of France Royal National Theatre
2014 A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams Stella Kowalski Young Vic
2016 Uncle Vanya Anton Chekhov Helena Serebryakova Almeida Theatre
2016 Streetcar Named Desire T. Williams, Stella Kowalski St. Ann’s Warehouse
2018 Julie Polly Stenham, Julie, Royal National Theatre