After watching her win a Bafta for her performance as Princess Margaret in Netflix series The Crown, it’s hard to imagine Vanessa Kirby without a tiara, puffing away on a cigarette.
But imagine we must, as she is now starring opposite Tom Cruise in the latest Mission: Impossible film as the White Widow.
And this time round, she plays the ruler of an entirely different world as a black market arms dealer.
She spoke to the BBC about swapping roles, Tom Cruise, her Emmy nomination and handing over the reins to Helena Bonham Carter.
Juggling two huge jobs
Kirby admits she didn’t know much about the White Widow at first because the script was built around the thrilling stunts we’ve come to know and love and was evolving all the time.
She was still filming the second series of The Crown in London when she began travelling to Paris at night to shoot Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
Kirby describes the White Widow as a “femme fatale-esque, criminal network boss”.
She says: “It was just a great challenge to try and play two completely different people and try not to be Margaret without a wig!
“It was just really lovely to join a big ensemble that’s been there since 1996.”
Learning the ropes from the one and only Tom Cruise
At the centre of this ensemble is Tom Cruise’s character, IMF agent Ethan Hunt.
Kirby says: “He’s played this really iconic, very loved character and he’s seen all the different incarnations of it… so to have someone at the centre of that is just really relaxing, it’s like: ‘Oh, cool, you know what energy works’ and there’s no uncertainty in the way.”
As well as bringing a sense of calm to the bustling set, Vanessa also learnt a thing or two from the Hollywood veteran.
“I learnt a lot about work ethic and discipline,” she explains.
“He’s just unbelievably present and energetic and enthusiastic and doesn’t let up for a second, he just loves making films.
“You just see the six-year-old in him that just absolutely loves movies and can’t believe he’s still making them in a way and that’s so lovely to be around.”
Kirby says she also picked up some health tips.
“I learnt how important physical fitness is and as an actor, to be really in touch with that, which I never even thought about before.”
As well as being an award-winning star, Cruise is also a part-time daredevil and often performs death-defying stunts in many of his films, including Mission: Impossible.
Fallout was no different and last year the actor made headlines for breaking his ankle during a stunt that saw him jumping between two high-rise buildings in London.
Director Christopher McQuarrie told the BBC that when he went to see Cruise shortly after the accident, the first thing he was asked by the actor was: “Did we get the shot?”
Good to know the A-lister has his priorities right. (And yes, they did get the shot).
On putting down her tiara
Kirby was in Paris when she found out she was nominated for the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series. for The Crown earlier this month.
“It was a really surreal moment and very sweet and my friends were just much more emotional than I was.
“I had the best time of my life on that job, so I couldn’t ask for anything else really.”
Kirby has now handed over the reins to Helena Bonham Carter, who will play the princess in the third season of the Netflix drama.
Kirby says she “couldn’t have thought of anyone better to take over”.
“She’s just made it so nice, she’s been so gracious and kind and thoughtful and mindful of it.”
Kirby adds: “She’s been texting me from set actually and I’ve heard she’s been doing little things that echo what I did in the first couple of series and stuff, so we feel really linked.
“You know when you just love a character so much and it’s so part of you, oddly, because the experience was so happy, it’s really cool to share it with someone,” she explains.
“It’s really unusual to do that because usually it’s such an individual thing, so to be able to talk about her [Margaret] with someone else so intimately is a real gift.”
Mission Impossible: Fallout is out in the UK and Ireland on 25 Jul.
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