“I loved every single minute on set. Everything about it was just a complete joy,” admits BAFTA winner and Emmy nominee Vanessa Kirby about her role in “Pieces of a Woman,” in which she stars as Martha, a woman suffering from suffocating grief and trauma after the death of her infant child. While the film tackles difficult subject matter sensitively and honestly, Kirby enthusiastically valued the opportunity to take on the role, her first time as the star of a film, and shine a light on a subject that is often left unspoken.
“It’s my first lead and I waited a really long time to do it. I’d watched so many people do it,” she says. “I felt so ready to take on the responsibility of playing a lead, knowing what that meant. So every second on set, well, I just really loved it!” Watch our exclusive video interview with Kirby above.
SEE Oscar spotlight: Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn are heartbreakingly good in ‘Pieces of a Woman’
“Pieces of a Woman” also stars Emmy winner Shia LaBeouf as Martha’s partner Sean, with Oscar, Emmy and Tony winner Ellen Burstyn co-starring as Martha’s mother Elizabeth and Emmy nominee Molly Parker playing midwife Ava. Released in February this year, it was directed by Hungarian helmer Kornél Mundruczó, from a screenplay by Kata Wéber, based on the duo’s stage play of the same name.
The Netflix film has become a strong awards contender this year after premiering at the Venice Film Festival last fall, where Kirby bagged the Best Actress prize. Since then, the actress has racked up numerous U.S. regional critics mentions and the coveted Oscar precursor trifecta of a Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award and SAG Award nomination for Best Actress.
Many of the raves for Kirby’s revelatory performance in the film center on the harrowing 24-minute opening scene that depicts the pain and joy of childbirth and culminates in the devastating loss that propels the film’s narrative. Set inside the expecting couple’s apartment, the scene is shot as a singular take that roams throughout their home, following Martha as she goes into labor, eventually gives birth, but then discovers that her baby girl is in distress, leading to her sudden death.
When looking back on shooting the scene over two days, Kirby’s face lights up as she ponders what she most cherishes about the experience. “It just fills my heart so much,” she pauses. “I have to be careful I don’t go too acutely into it because it’s so sensorial for me. It was weirdly like I lived it,” the actress explains. “It was such a head-first plunge into the deep-end. Freezing cold water, just get in and do it. I look back now and I wonder, it’s probably a once in a lifetime experience as an actor to do a quarter of the film with no cuts. When I think of it I feel unbelievable gratitude and it lives in my heart, the whole thing.”
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