Vanessa Kirby didn’t go all Method for “Italian Studies,” but she didn’t need to in order for her character to seem a little out of sorts.
“The Crown” actor filmed the Adam Leon-directed indie drama — she stars as Alina, a successful writer who finds herself wandering around New York City with a group of teens after she suddenly suffers severe memory loss — while doing a play in London.
“Adam said, ‘I don’t want you to have a process. I want you to come as you are. If you are knackered, you come knackered,’” Kirby, who earned an Oscar nomination for her work in “Pieces of a Woman,” tells me on this week’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast.
When she was jet-lagged, which she was many times after coming to the New York set straight from a transatlantic flight, Leon told her to lean in. “To not know one day to the other what it was, or what we’d be filming, or what the scene was, or there not be a scene — it was very challenging for me,” she says.
Kirby compared Leon’s less structured process to holding onto the edge of a pool: “You have to tear your feet one by one, get your fingers off and just sort of plunge in.”
Most of her co-stars were real New York City teens who Leon worked with on a small downtown live variety show. “It was actually terrifying because I actually really didn’t enjoy being a teenager,” Kirby reveals. “I didn’t know who I was. I was very emotional. I look back at it, quite a painful, existential experience.”
Asked what she’d change about those angsty years, Kirby says, “Oh, god. Probably to worry less, to worry less about the future.”
She was in awe of the young cast. “They just were them,” she says. “They were present, they were uninhibited… I felt more like the one very out of place. I suppose [Alina] was supposed to.”
Next up for Kirby is playing Empress Josephine opposite Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon in Ridley Scott’s “Kitbag.” Filming begins in about a month. She’ll then reprise her role as Alanna Mitsopolis/White Widow opposite Tom Cruise for the third and final time in the ninth installment of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise.
Kirby hasn’t seen the eighth film, which is scheduled for release on July 7, 2023 after being delayed due to COVID. “I’ve seen bits of it with [editor] Eddie Hamilton and [writer-director] Chris McQuarrie,” Kirby says. “We spoke before Christmas, and they showed me a little bit on Zoom. I was just gobsmacked and sweated from head to toe because it’s really nail-biting. But yeah, they’re still editing.”
Cruise’s appetite for pushing the stunt work envelope inspires Kirby. “He’s just got this most amazing drive to go into uncharted territory,” she says, adding, “I don’t think I’d be very good at all at climbing down the building or the cliff that he does, but he definitely inspires you to push beyond the limits that you think are possible in yourself. And what is the equivalent of that stunt? For me, it was could I possibly do a 30-minute birth scene [in ‘Pieces of a Woman’] that’s one take and I haven’t given birth? There’s no way I can do that. Who do I think I am? That’s absurd.”
But, she continues, “When you’ve seen somebody push beyond what they think they can do and live like that, it actually makes you go, ‘I’m so terrified. If I jump off this cliff, I don’t know if there’s going to be anything on the other side of it. But maybe I have to take that leap.’ I’d say that’s what it does for people around him.”
Listen to the full interview with Kirby above. You can also find “Just for Variety” at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
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