Vanessa Kirby’s best actress win at the Venice film festival on Saturday confirms her ascension to Hollywood royalty after breaking through playing a real royal in Netflix’s “The Crown”.
The 32-year-old British star was the rebellious Princess Margaret, the British queen’s younger sister, in the streamer’s flagship series.
Kirby had two films vying for the Golden Lion in Venice, the lesbian love story “The World to Come” and the tough drama “Pieces of a Woman”, for which she won the prize.
Both made big demands on a woman that Variety called the “outstanding stage actress of her generation”.
“Pieces of a Woman” opens with Kirby in a jaw-dropping 25-minute childbirth scene, which was filmed in one shot.
The film was inspired by the grief the film’s Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo and his screenwriter partner Kata Weber suffered when they lost their own child.
Kirby threw herself "really deep" into her first lead role in a movie, she told reporters.
But she admitted trying to be true to the suffering of the women she talked to before the shoot was "really scary", and she named and thanked them and their lost children in her acceptance speech.
As tears welled up in her eyes, she said she wanted to share the prize with all those parents "who have lost children... sometimes before even life began".
"We can connect through our pain and heal through it," she said.
If that was not scary enough, Kirby was having to act opposite Shia LaBeouf, one of Hollywood’s most intense and demanding leading men, who she thanked for "championing this very female story".
Kirby though is not someone to be intimidated by fame. She grew up around stage and screen legends Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, who were friends of her family in London.
And although she has not exactly been an overnight success, there was no mistaking she was a major talent, with the theatre critic of The Independent newspaper saying she was “a star if ever I saw one" after seeing her in “The Acid Test” at London’s Royal Court in 2011.
A series of stage and television roles followed before she was cast in “The Crown”, for which she won an Emmy for best supporting actor.
Kirby then made her rather unlikely transition to Hollywood action films “Mission Impossible -- Fallout” and “Hobbs & Shaw” two years ago.
While "Pieces of a Woman" won her the Venice prize, critics also adored her in “The World to Come”.
In it she plays a glamorous woman yolked to a backwoods farmer in 19th-century upstate New York who tries to escape the drudgery of her life when she begins an intense relationship with another farmer’s wife.
Critics were wowed by the slow-burn passion of this “ravishingly beautiful love story”, with The Guardian’s Xan Brooks saying he could stare at its “dense forest landscapes all day”.
“The World to Come” is one of a trio of acclaimed new historical lesbian romances, following “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Ammonite” starring Kate Winslet and Soairse Ronan.