'Pieces Of A Woman': Vanessa Kirby was in 'complete awe' of the real birth she watched to prepare for role (exclusive)

Freda Cooper
·Contributor
·3-min read

Watch: Vanessa Kirby makes a HUGE mistake on The One Show

Mission: Impossible star Vanessa Kirby has opened up about the fear behind her searing performance in Pieces Of A Woman and how a generous mother inspired what audiences will see on their screens.

The award-tipped film, about devastation caused by the death of a newborn baby, contains an intimate and emotional 25 minute sequence showing a mother (Kirby) giving birth.

Filmed in one take, it was a prospect the actor found frightening. Talking to Yahoo Movies UK, she admitted: “I felt that, if I got it wrong, everybody would know it and I wouldn’t do justice to something that isn’t often on screen. It felt like it should be, as it’s a human experience.

“It’s such a female experience, yet this subject is hardly ever talked about. I felt there is such a silence around it that maybe the film could contribute towards a conversation about it. It felt really important.”

PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Shia LeBeouf as Sean and Vanessa Kirby as Martha (Netflix)
PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Shia LeBeouf as Sean and Vanessa Kirby as Martha (Netflix)

She started her research by talking to friends about their own childbirth experiences and watching a lot of documentaries. But it wasn’t enough. “At the end of that, I still had no idea how I would be able to compress an eight hour labour into 25 minutes or so on screen. Then I got really frightened.”

The breakthrough came when Kirby contacted London obstetrician Claire Mellon, who allowed the actor to shadow her and spend time on a labour ward with the midwives.

Read more: Vanessa Kirby responds to Shia LaBeouf abuse allegations

And “on one incredible day, one of the midwives asked a woman who’d just come in and was ready to give birth – and she allowed me to be there with her and so got to watch her go through this unbelievable journey of seven hours,” Kirby recalled.

PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Molly Parker as Eva and Vanessa Kirby as Martha. (Netflix)
PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Molly Parker as Eva and Vanessa Kirby as Martha. (Netflix)

“I was in complete awe of her and the female body and everything she did. It was really life changing and I felt I could begin to act it. It was her sacred moment she allowed me to be there and I was totally humbled. When her son was born, I was crying my eyes out.”

Kirby’s performance won her the Best Actress trophy at Venice last year, making her one of the most hotly tipped contenders in the coming awards season. She co-stars with Ellen Burstyn, who plays her mother and is also considered to be in the running for Supporting Actress nominations.

Vanessa Kirby as Martha in Pieces of a Woman. (Netflix)
Vanessa Kirby as Martha in Pieces of a Woman. (Netflix)

The two have highly charged scenes as Kirby’s character struggles to deal with profound grief after the loss of her baby. Burstyn won the Best Actress Oscar in 1975 for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More, directed by Martin Scorsese who was also Executive Producer on Pieces Of A Woman.

Kirby’s rise has been meteoric since playing Princess Margaret in Netflix’s The Crown. Appearances in Hobbs And Shaw and Mission: Impossible – Fallout followed, and she returns as The White Widow in the next two instalments of the franchise, currently scheduled to appear in 2021 and 2022.

Watch: Pieces Of A Woman trailer