Vanessa Kirby’s star is on the rise. The 32-year-old actress seems to be finding all the right parts and Hollywood is taking notice. So are fans. But who exactly is Vanessa Kirby and why is she quickly shooting up the ranks (up nine spots to #4 on IMDB’s STARmeter) of Hollywood actors?
Vanessa Kirby has only been around for a decade. Born in Wimbledon, London, the English actress got her start on the stage, finding roles on stage a great fit for her. According to Kirby, it was her drama class in primary school that helped save her from the brutal bullying she received. “It was always the drama side of things where I felt the most alive,” she said to The Guardian. “The most myself. I was quite badly bullied for a few years and I became self-conscious about everything I did in relation to the bullies. But drama was the place where I didn’t.”
Bullied? What is more of a shock was that it was well known by teachers and even her mother. “Yeah it was… systematic. Quite awful. A teacher said to my mum on my very last day of school: ‘She survived it. She’s done it,’ which means they knew it was happening.”
Survive she did. She took her talents to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art but before she could get started, she was signed by a talent agency and never stepped foot in the Academy. She then went on to star on stage, honing her craft. She performed in All My Sons, Ghosts, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She then went on to star in Women Beware Women, As You Like It, and The Acid Test. More roles followed and Kirby was gaining stage fame.
The first time Vanessa Kirby was on film was a small part in the 2010 movie Love/Loss. She then found time on British shows The Hour, Great Expectations, and Labyrinth. In 2013, Kirby starred for the first time with the wildly unpredictable Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman, following that up with a role in Richard Curtis’ About Time. At this point, there was nothing to suggest that Kirby was going to jump up the ranks of stardom. She went back to the stage for A Streetcar Named Desire where she played Stella Kowalski opposite Ben Foster as Stanley Kowalski and Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois. For that role, Kirby won the Best Supporting Actress at the Whatsonstage Awards.
It was around this time that Vanessa Kirby got her first taste of an action flick, this one in the sci-fi genre, by grabbing a part in the Wachowskis brothers (now sisters) Jupiter Ascending. Kirby was beginning to be featured more and more on the big screen as other parts came her way. She saw time in Bone in the Throat, Everest, Genius, and Kill Command. It was also during this time that Kirby appeared in the series The Frankenstein Chronicles.
Making It Big
It wasn’t until Kirby was recruited to play Princess Margaret on the series The Crown that she truly began to open eyes as to who she was and what she could offer. Her stage training was finally beginning to pay off. Kirby’s performance was so highly thought of that she was twice nominated for the British Academy Television Awards winning once, while also being nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Eyes were opened and Hollywood was calling.
One pair of eyes that were interested was Tom Cruise and he grabbed Kirby for a part in the sixth Mission: Impossible movie, Mission: Impossible – Fallout. She was able to describe working with Cruise without stuttering or stumbling. “Such a pro. Absolutely disciplined; super enthusiastic. Always wants everything executed at a super-high level, so you have to train really hard,” though the actress did tell The Guardian her training was not with Cruise, unfortunately. “Oh God no, without him.” She laughed and groaned at the same time. “I think that would be… I did say to him at one point: ‘I am never getting on a running machine with you.’ But I learned a lot about work ethic from him. I never thought that stunts and action would be my genre, but I’m understanding now that you can transcend genre, as long as you try and find the real woman behind the part.”
Kirby held her own with Cruise on the movie, so much so that he has asked her back for Mission: Impossible 7 and Mission: Impossible 8, with both films being shot at the same time.
Not only did Vanessa Kirby open Cruise’s eyes, but she also opened the producer’s eyes of the Fast & Furious franchise. After Mission: Impossible – Fallout premiered, Kirby was tapped to play a big role in the action crime thriller Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw opposite Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Okay, now we are beginning to see why Vanessa Kirby is climbing the ranks of star power. Not only is she a wonderful actress, but she can also kick major ass too.
Vanessa Kirby Now Refuses To Be Sexualized
One thing Kirby relishes at her rising star is her ability to say no to the big guys in charge. “My only little area of change is to be in a big movie and say no, I’m not wearing a short skirt, I’m not showing any skin, I don’t want slapped-on make-up,” she says.
And if the big guys in the action movie wanted, say, to enhance her assets? “I would say absolutely not. I don’t care anymore. I feel more able to say that now. I’m in a slightly luckier position, but also the times now support it. I don’t want an arse shot – well, not that they’d want one of my arse. But I don’t want to be shot through a lens of sexualization. That’s not me. That’s the distorted feminine and the distorted masculine that is creating so much of the toxic energy in our society.”
Acting With Shia LaBeouf
Action movies aren’t the end-all, be-all for Vanessa Kirby. This was on display with her latest movie, Pieces of a Woman, the second movie she has starred in with Shia LaBeouf. The movie, which is now out on Netflix, stars Kirby as a pregnant mother who wants to have a home birth and does, but it goes horribly wrong. When the movie premiered in September 2020 at the Venice Film Festival, Kirby took home the Best Actress award and there is now talk of her and the Oscars.
Kirby spent hours upon hours researching for her role as Martha, wanting to portray the tragic labor scene as realistically as possible. “That was terrifying, because I didn’t want to let women down.” She didn’t. She then went on to say, “Then I was even more scared, because I realized that I had a responsibility to show birth as it is, not as it’s even edited in documentaries.” Her research took her to conversations with women who had miscarried, midwives, and obstetrician-gynecologists. Her research was as intense as her performance.
It is now clear why Vanessa Kirby continues her rise. Stage presence, film and TV presence, and a wonderful ability to select projects that suit her abilities (which are beginning to seem limitless).