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Vanessa Kirby on overcoming bullies, body image and finding self-worth

Our high kicking heroine opens up

07 Aug 2019

Vanessa Kirby is no Princess Margaret any more. After all, as The Crown star takes on her latest high-kicking role as an Mi5 agent in Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the only crown jewels are the ones she’s kneeing between the legs. The Queen and Lord Snowdon are gone without a trace and in their place is none other than Jason Statham, her new on-screen sibling, and The Rock, her new love interest. Talk about a holy trinity.

WATCH: Vanessa Kirby open up about overcoming her confidence issues

In the talented hands of Vanessa, this is no damsel in a dress, or, in, fact distress. In between dangling out of a moving car shooting a gun and having The Rock caught in a headlock between her thighs, there is real depth to Kirby’s Fast and Furious wing woman. Finally, we have an action heroine we can actually believe in and root for.

Here, in another edition of GLAMOUR Unfiltered - the celebrity interview franchise where guest powerfully open up about the obstacles they have had to overcome– Vanessa discusses overcoming school bullies, body hang ups and how she altered her mindset to seek validation from within… GO VANESSA!

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How did you get this high-kicking, badass on for Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw?

I channeled the inner Marge (Princess Margaret). It’s everything she wanted to do to her sister and anyone. It was the inner rage. It was very therapeutic!

When you were filming this, were you ever like, ‘oh my Christ, my life is in jeopardy!’?

Every day. I was constantly in pain, but my sister was in the production team and I had some of my favourite people from The Crown in the costume and makeup department too. So, we had a little crew and we just laughed the whole time at the absurdity of things we had to do.

What’s the key high kicking move you’ve learnt?

It’s the elbow move! The stunt team realised quite early on that my punches would knock nobody out and so they were like, ‘how are we going to make this remotely believable?’ Instead of doing a straight punch, which I tried to do badly, you rotate from the hips and use your whole body. You can’t do a follow through; you’ve got to reverb! It’s also a great dance move!

One of the best lines in the film is, ‘I am done with your alpha male bullsh*t.’ When you came to do a film like this, did you have any reservations about coming into a very male dominated space?

This is part of the reason why I chose to do it and I was really clear about what kind of female she should be. I felt like it was so important as the lead female that she wasn’t falling into any tropes like she’s never got saved by the guys, she was a capable fighter and she never got rescued. I wanted to make her a bit scrappy, weird and not some traditional version of female action we’ve seen before.

Do you have to deal with everyday sexism?

Less so now but for years, yeah! Before the last couple of years, it was on such a subliminal level and it was something that was so accepted. It definitely has changed. Everyday (on this film) I was like, ‘nope let’s not wear this costume, let’s do this!’ There were lots of ways in which we tried to take care of that presence in a movie that’s really about men.

What would happen and what would people say when they were being sexist to you?

Day-to-day stuff that every woman has experienced but also work-wise in terms of the scripts you read. Always without realising she would be the girlfriend. She’d never be out there fighting on the field. She’d be the woman waiting at home to see if the man survived and saved the world for her. That’s the difference now. People are really open to the conversation. Universal is run by a woman who is incredible and she’s so passionately hot on this stuff. Even having a presence like Hattie in a movie like this is unusual and that felt really important for me to take care of as an actress because you can talk about wanting to change things and wanting to represent someone on screen but can you go into a seriously alpha male world that’s generally regarded as testosterone and try and inject a feminine presence into it?

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What have you learnt about your power as a woman through Hobbs and Shaw?

I was really hard! Every day we showed up and talked about it. I was able to say what I thought and made sure as a fighter, she got fights that were her own.

The body is looking banging in this! Did you go down the gym?

I did not go down gym! I was at the National Theatre doing this play and eating so much chocolate to get me through it because it was a really tough part and I was not down the gym. They would take me to stunt training in the morning and I would train but I’d be out of breath and all these stunt guys - like the world’s best stunt guys - would be really polite and gracious whilst I was tripping over stuff. I had to squat in front of mirrors and my legs would be wobbling. You feel like such an idiot. I couldn’t do a roly poly at the beginning. I kept going sideways and hurt my head loads. The very first day we shot, we’d finished the last show the day before. We finished on Saturday night and on Sunday morning at 7am, I was on set having to do this one long take in MI6 gear, so I was wearing a helmet, guns everywhere, a balaclava and I had to take out 6 guys and do this flip roll. It was my first day, so I was so scared anyway - no one knows anyone - it’s really awkward and it’s up to me to get it in one take. It was a nightmare. It was like a tortoise when you land on the shell.

You seem very in tune with your body image in Hobbs and Shaw? What has your journey with body image been like?

It’s just an act - I tried really hard to act it. On The Crown I was called Bambi, especially by the costume department - I fell over all the time! So, it was really risky doing a movie like this. With body image, I am always conscious of my bum - my sister is the same. But I have come to realise you only get one and you only get you. You can’t think your way out of it. You have to enjoy it for what it is. I have been trying to do that more and more. I didn’t feel more in tune with it filming this - I was aching so much and hobbling around a lot.

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You have gone through a journey of empowerment in your life - you have been bullied at school – what has that road been like for you?

There was a drive in me to prove myself. I have always been really interested in where we feel like we are not enough is who we are. Especially when you are bullied you feel in yourself you are not enough as you are or try to be something different to please other. Whether it’s for friendships or relationships you need to find the best version of you that you are the most comfortable with.

What have been the turning points in your own empowerment?

Working with War Child has changed my life forever. I also think learning to be ok as you are. More and more I try everyday to practice self-care and self-love. I would summarise self-love as sometimes noticing the thoughts that you have about yourself are so negative and more negative than anyone would be to your face. You would never be that negative to someone else. It’s so bazaar we have this inner critic. I used to really struggle with it at work and in my life generally. I have had to really nurture that part and say, ‘why are you doing that, why are you saying that about yourself?’ The practice of catching it and replacing it with something positive is so simple. Would you ever say the things you say about yourself to anyone else? Absolutely never! If were talking to a friend about their fears or anxieties, how would you talk to them? I don’t talk to myself how I would talk to a friend. It’s a key to empowerment is catching that thought.

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What do you tell yourself in those moments of self-doubt?

I talk to myself like how I would talk to a small child. If am doubting myself, freaking out or feeling super anxious I go, ‘you are ok, it’s all cool, remember you are enough.’ Because I think we look for outside sources to do that be that validation from relationships, affirmations from the outside too - be that owning things or being something more, achieving something - and those things are transient. They come and they go, they are not constant. But your mind could be if you practice it.

You have become an activist as an ambassador for War Child. Can you remember a moment during that experience that has changed you?

The very first trip with them when I met some of the Syrian refugees. When you actually meet those families, I just felt that parts of me shifted forever. I am so privileged. I am so lucky and live somewhere where I don’t worry about my life every day - as in danger of my actual life. We have freedom and we can choose what we want to do. The refugees come from the most horrific experiences, then they come to camps which some of them have been living in for six and a half years. They are stuck with nothing to do, like a prison. It’s unimaginable. Then you come back here and think, ‘What? Why do I worry about that! I can choose what I eat in the morning. I don’t have the same powdered food every day.’ That’s helped my inner critic. Experiencing the lives of others that are far worse than anything I deal with. It makes anything I have to deal with much easier.

Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw is in cinemas now