Vanessa Kirby’s harrowing and incredibly challenging Pieces of a Woman role earned her an Oscar nomination on Monday morning, and in response, a self-deprecating Kirby drew attention to all the bereaved women who helped her research her character of Martha, a woman who loses her baby at birth. She also paid tribute to her co-star Ellen Burstyn, who was sadly left off the Academy’s list this year.
“I knew my main job was to try and access the collective experiences of all the different women I’d spoken to, whether they’d lost babies really early on, or had to give birth to them, or lost them just after birth,” Kirby said of how she dug into the role. “The unbearable grief that came with losing your baby like that. I just knew that every day I had to try and do what they described to me justice. It is a privilege to try and touch something that’s real.”
The Netflix film, written and directed by Kata Wéber and Kornél Mundruczó and based on their own experience, follows Martha’s journey through childbirth—in a single show-stopping 23 minute scene—and her fight to survive crushing grief as she navigates criticism from her mother Elizabeth (Burstyn).
Although Burstyn was very much in the conversation leading up to the nominations announcement, she was ultimately snubbed.
“I think sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to these things is there?” Kirby said. “I was on set with her and I witnessed some of the most powerful and present acting I’ve ever been around in my life. She’s so much of the heart of this story.”
This would have been Burstyn’s first return to Oscars in 20 years, since her last nom in 2001 for Requiem For a Dream. She won Best Actress in 1975 for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.
“I think she’s very philosophical and gracious,” Kirby added, “and only really wants the story to live. She’s never concerned with herself solely. She’s one of the most gracious actors I’ve ever known, and so soulful. She’s like living poetry, that woman.”
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