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Fellow rising star nominee Taylor-Joy had her breakout in her debut film role, 2016’s indie hit The Witch, but is soon set to appear alongside James McAvoy — a rising star winner himself in 2006 — in M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller Split.
“I can’t quite put into words how it feels to be in the company of such talent, past and present,” the 20-year-old said. “All my love and gratitude.”
Taylor-Joy is joined in the nominees list by another indie breakthrough, Hedges, currently seen in Kenneth Lonergan’s Oscar-tipped Manchester by the Sea. Hedges, who first made his mark in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, recently wrapped on Greta Gerwig’s directional debut, Lady Bird, alongside Saoirse Ronan and Tracy Letts, and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
“It’s really exciting to be recognized for an award that has nominated many of my favorite actors over the years,” he said. “I’ve always been enamored with English culture and have dreamed of living in England, so this nomination is particularly meaningful for me.”
When she was just 17, Anya Taylor-Joy was faced with a particularly meaningful decision: She could fulfill her childhood dream of appearing on a Disney show, or she could make her lead-role debut in “The Witch,” the puritanical horror film that would eventually launch her to stardom. “I had to be honest with myself, and realized that I’m a lot darker and less bubbly than I thought I would be at this age,” the now-20-year-old says. A former model — she was discovered while walking in London, where she was tailed by a car containing the Storm Model Management founder Sarah Doukas — Taylor-Joy will next star as an at-risk artificial being in the sci-fi thriller “Morgan,” the debut film from Luke Scott, the son of filmmaker Tony Scott. It’s been a rapid ascent, to be sure, made real when Taylor-Joy recently spilled trade secrets with her acting idol, Saoirse Ronan. “That was the first time I thought, ‘I guess I’m officially an actor.’”
These 5 Young Women Are Poised to Take Over Hollywood
Cinema’s new class of (majorly connected!) breakouts.
Beguiling, beautiful, and bringing it on the big screen, these five fresh-faced actresses are Hollywood’s latest breakout performers.
Catch her in: The Witch, the buzzy, beautiful horror indie that hexed Sundance; next year’s Ridley Scott–produced sci-fi thriller Morgan, with Kate Mara.
Witchy woman: “After reading the script, I didn’t sleep the entire night—it was utterly terrifying. When I walked into the audition, I was shaking. I was horrified. It was this dark impulse to do it. I needed to tell that story.”
We’ve been hearing about Fox’s X-Men spinoff, The New Mutants, for a while now, and finally, it appears that the wheels are starting to turn on the project. Earlier this week, producer Simon Kinberg talked a little bit about the YA-vibe that the film is going for, and tonight, we have some potential casting updates to share with you.
According to HitFix, the studio is eyeing Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams and up-and-comer Anya Taylor-Joy for parts in the film. They’re also hoping to have Alexandra Shipp reprise her role as Storm from X-Men: Apocalypse.
As for the newcomers, Williams is said to be up for a “werewolf-like character named Wolfsbane” while Taylor-Joy could potentially step into the part of Illya Rasputin, aka Magik. Alongside them, it’s being reported that Fox is hoping to cast Cannonball, Sunspot and Mirage, thus completing the line-up of heroes who will make up the New Mutants.
Finally, HitFix mentions that James McAvoy will return as Professor X and he’ll have a substantial role to play.
The New Mutants, or X-Men: The New Mutants as it seems to be called now, will be with us in 2018.
It’s all happening for Anya Taylor-Joy. In the year since she shook up Sundance with her stellar turn as a 17th-century teen in the sensational The Witch: A New-England Folktale, and since we featured her in our Hollywood New Wave portfolio, all she’s done is stack up a slate of impressive films set to hit screens over the next year or so, and which will likely make her into a star. Born in Miami, raised in Argentina and then London, the 19-year-old daughter of a Spanish-English mother and a Scottish-Argentinian father is at home nowhere and everywhere—at least anywhere there is a film set. As her profile rises with the recent release of The Witch, and her life begins to change, the young actress tells M. Night Shyamalan, director of her forthcoming film, Split, she has wanted to make her home in film for so long, she can’t even remember when the wanting started.
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: Hey, you awake?
ANYA TAYLOR-JOY: Uh, dude, I’ve been awake since, like, two this morning. L.A. does not care about London time.
SHYAMALAN: Two a.m.? What have you been doing for six hours?
TAYLOR-JOY: I read a lot, and then I tried to play my ukulele really quietly to not piss off anyone who was around the area.
SHYAMALAN: Wait, wait. You have a ukulele? If you’d told me this, I wouldn’t have hired you.
TAYLOR-JOY: The ukulele is a deal breaker? [both laugh]
SHYAMALAN: The ukulele is important for me.
TAYLOR-JOY: I did buy an electric guitar while shooting Split . Does that up my cool points?
SHYAMALAN: Definitely. So I was thinking: Being an immigrant in the United States making movies is an unusual feeling, for me. It defines the way I think and tell stories. Like, I try to tell stories to everyone around the world because my family’s all around the world. Does that come into your thinking about your roles, the way you approach your characters—being international?
TAYLOR-JOY: I’ve been quite lucky in that the roles that I’ve been able to play are all kind of outsiders. And, you know, I belong to so many places, and belong to none of them at the same time, so there’s this sense of displacement—I very much understand what it is to not fit in or belong somewhere. In The Witch or Morgan [forthcoming], my characters are people who just don’t belong in their world, in their scenarios, in their families, in anything. I think, probably, the place that I feel I most belong is a movie set. It doesn’t matter where it is in the world or who I’m making the movie with; that’s the closest thing that I’ve got to a sense of placement. So I guess acting was a way of finding a home, if that makes sense.
SHYAMALAN: I feel very similarly. Making movies is a circus, and you join a new circus family every movie, to some extent. It’s a new group of family members for this intense period of time, and then everybody packs up and goes on their way to the next circus.
TAYLOR-JOY: It is kind of bizarre, but at the same time, I feel like anyone that gets into movies didn’t fit into the real world, and so we made our own world.
SHYAMALAN: We certainly are comfortable with the itinerant quality of our lives, with these groups of strangers who become your family.
TAYLOR-JOY: Completely, the bond is so strong.
SHYAMALAN: I never even told you this … I mean, you auditioned with a thousand other girls who auditioned for the role in Split, and I remember my casting director sent me an e-mail saying, “Wait, I just recorded someone I think is really interesting. You need to look at this.” I looked at the tape, and I was like, “Whoa, this is something really different.” It really stood out. And, I never do this, by the way, I called someone in from one of the offices down the hall and said, “Just look at this.” Casting is such a private thing for me, what my gut’s telling me. But I called in Dom [Dominic Catanzarite, Shyamalan’s assistant], and his eyebrows went up. So when I called you in to audition in person with three or four other girls, I thought, “It’s hers as long as she isn’t, you know … ”
SHYAMALAN: Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. [both laugh]
TAYLOR-JOY: What is that?
SHYAMALAN: That’s a technical term, a director’s term. So wait, was it modeling that you did first? Or acting?
TAYLOR-JOY: I got scouted for modeling, and it was really scary—I was walking my dog wearing heels for the first time ever because I had a party to go to the day after, and I wanted to practice, and this black car kind of started following me, so I, being dramatic, picked up the dog and started to run. I was like, “This is the end.” And this guy popped out and was like, “If you stop, you won’t regret it.” Which now, looking back, I’m like, dumb move. If someone says that to you, you keep running.
SHYAMALAN: It’s the classic serial murderer line!
TAYLOR-JOY: I completely fell for it. But I stopped, and it was Sarah Doukas, the head of Storm Models, in the car. Modeling had never entered my consciousness. I was always like, “I’m going to act.” But I thought, “If this can help me with that, great.”
SHYAMALAN: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an actress?
TAYLOR-JOY: Dude, it’s really bizarre. I can never remember becoming aware of it; I just knew I was going to do it. I can remember the first time I heard really good music. I was 3 and I was in one of those baby-seat things. We were in Argentina and I heard “Stayin’ Alive,” and I can remember being like, “Whoa, what is this?” When I was little, I would always make up stories; it never occurred to me not to do it. I danced ballet really hard core for a very long time. I just knew that I wanted to express myself in some way, whether it was through dancing or through music … I was very good at lying when I was little. So I was like, “Huh, I guess this is kind of useful.” [Shyamalan laughs] I’d make up the most outrageous lies. I kind of stopped doing that when I started acting. Strange.
SHYAMALAN: In some ways, I find modeling and acting very different, in what’s being asked of you. Like, what I’m asking of you is such an internalization of your character that your physical manifestations are unconscious, and I record that. You’re aware of what you’re doing, but it’s coming from a character. In modeling, it’s almost the reverse. You’re letting the viewer interpret whatever they want to interpret.
TAYLOR-JOY: Thinking about it that way, I think the biggest difference is characters are real—hopefully—they’re flawed and vulnerable, human. While modeling isn’t human. When you’re modeling, you’re projecting an ideal. Maybe you can help me riddle this out, because I don’t really understand it. When I’m taking pictures as myself, it is so rare for me to be like, “Oh, that’s me.” It’s sort of like a puppy looking at itself in the mirror, do you know what I mean? I can’t connect with the person in the pictures.
SHYAMALAN: Yeah. What they’re asking you to do in that moment is represent a broader color than what we do in film, where we’re talking about this specific girl in a specific situation that can only react the way she reacts. So, speaking of which,The Witch was your first movie, right?
TAYLOR-JOY: Yeah. I’m still kind of learning all the jargon, but I got to set and was just like, “What is going on?” I was so confused. God bless Rob [Robert Eggers, writer-director of The Witch]—he grabbed my hand and kind of waved me through everything. He was great.
SHYAMALAN: You just auditioned?
TAYLOR-JOY: Yeah. Rob tells this story—I love it—but I was the first tape he saw, and then he watched like a thousand more because he was like, “No, it can’t be that easy.” [laughs] When we met, I was so anxious—like, losing it. If a script is meant for me, I’ll get this sensation in my body where I’ll just start to shake. And so when I walked in, I was all over the place, and I was like, “I’m pretty much having a panic attack. Do you still want me to do this?”
And he was like, “Yeah, sure.” It was amazing. We shot in Canada. We stayed in a little place called Mattawa. Like, 60 people live there all the time. I love that place. And then we would shoot two hours away. So we’d drive two hours every morning and two hours every night.
SHYAMALAN: My goodness. We have talked a bit about fame and publicity that comes with our jobs, and how that can be unsettling for us as human beings, and distracting as an artist. How are you feeling about the things coming down the road for you, because you’re starring in three big movies in the coming year or so, how do you think that will affect you as a human being and create challenges for you as an artist?
TAYLOR-JOY: I mean, I never thought, “I want to be famous.” I want to act. This makes me feel good. Nothing makes me feel as good as doing this. Nothing could make me more satisfied. And I’m terrified of fame. I like knowing that, when people like me, they like me for who I am and because they’ve taken the time to get to know me. To be honest, it’s going to make me just more of a workaholic, because when I’m not working, I’m doing publicity, and I’d rather be on set all the time, which isn’t that different from what I already want.
SHYAMALAN: I have observed a direct correlation with people’s professional choices and their version of fame. If they didn’t love and respect their choices, and then they become famous, it feels like a betrayal. Every time someone says, “God, I loved you in x-y-z,” it’s a dagger. The worst thing that can happen is to become incredibly successful for something that you don’t respect.
TAYLOR-JOY: I’ve made three movies in my lifetime and all three have had three things: One, do I love my character so much that I’d do anything for her? Two, did the script give me that insane feeling in my body? And then three, would I follow the director to the end of the earth? Yes? Okay, I want to do it. I think about the relationship between an actor and a director like an Olympic athlete and their coach. Like, I am completely vulnerable and open and ready to create your vision and allow you to mold me. I’ve been so lucky with the people that I’ve worked with. You’ve taught me so much about so many things, as a human being and an actor.
SHYAMALAN: If you could plan the next 10 years, and it went exactly like you wanted, what would it be?
TAYLOR-JOY: Making movies that I’m unabashedly proud of. Growing. I want to keep working with all the people I want to work with. I also write a lot of music, I write a lot of poems, and I’d love to do something big for animals. I really love animals—the only thing that makes me properly mad is the mistreatment of an animal. I see complete red.
SHYAMALAN: A random thing popped into my head, and you can tell me to shut up when I bring this up. You can be like, “I can’t believe you brought this up on this Interview interview.” But when we started you on Split, there was a moment when we were in my office, and then you left for the weekend, and you left your script in my office.
TAYLOR-JOY: Oh, my God. Night. [both laugh]
SHYAMALAN: And you came back on Monday, and I let you have it. I just laid into you. I have to say you responded incredibly to it, but I just wanted to hear your side of it.
TAYLOR-JOY: I had already panicked. I knew it was in the office. I knew how much it was going to matter to you. But, also, when people yell at me, I am calm.
SHYAMALAN: [laughs] Well, I didn’t yell at you. I was disappointed.
TAYLOR-JOY: No, you didn’t. But I took it as a challenge. I realized how serious you were. I was just like, “I’m going to prove myself to this guy.” I was going to be the most dedicated actress you’d ever worked with. And, because we’d already had that, I knew our relationship worked. Does that make sense?
SHYAMALAN: It does. I mean, I’m very strict in terms of dedication to the craft of it all. But, you know, you are a very unusual actor. I could do take after take after take, and you seem to have an unending pool of emotion. That’s very unusual. You’re like an exposed, raw nerve. But I don’t want you to rely on that—whatever that is, call it a gift. If you bring craft to that, the sky’s the limit for you.
TAYLOR-JOY: Well, you made me an infinitely better actor—I hope so, anyway. [laughs] So thank you.
SHYAMALAN: I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like for you when The Witchopens. How does your family feel about your decision to go into acting, and then these astronomical opportunities that have happened like magic?
TAYLOR-JOY: Magic is my favorite word. And it does feel like magic. I have a lot of brothers and sisters, but they’re all a lot older than me, so my parents and I are very close. We’ve been through everything together. They always supported me. I was like, “I’m going to act,” and people would be like, “But how is it going to happen?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I’m going to be in the right place at the right time, and this is going to work.” And so when I actually started doing it, my parents were obviously immensely proud of me, like, “Hell, yeah. There’s our girl, doing what she loves.” But then I dropped out of school. That wasn’t that great for them. [Shyamalan laughs] But you would have laughed so hard how I did it. I wrote a five-page-long essay that was like, “I am 17 and you can’t tell me what to do, and this is why I want to leave school to become an actor.” [laughs] Luckily,The Witch came straight after that, so it all just kind of snowballed, and I’m getting to share it with them. It’s strange. My dad cries a lot randomly. Like, he’ll be really proud and start to cry. They’ve been so great and they’re complete rocks, and they’re so happy about it.
SHYAMALAN: That letter you wrote, was it running from something or running to something?
TAYLOR-JOY: It was running to something. I was done with school. I never got along with people my own age. People at school kind of didn’t get me. I had these wonderful teachers. I also have a very good short-term memory, and so I could do exams really easily, but it just, I was feeling so uninspired. I love to learn. I read a ton, I’m always fascinated …
SHYAMALAN: I’m going to stop you there. Everything you just said felt like running from.
TAYLOR-JOY: But if you’re running from something, and you already have the place that you’re running to, what are you doing? I was running from school towards the life that I wanted. And I’m very determined. I’m very stubborn. Once I set my mind towards something, it’s going to happen. By hook or by crook. And it all ended up happening, kind of miraculously, and in a randomly simple, complicated way. It just all sort of worked out.
SHYAMALAN: Well, I am the biggest believer in what you’re talking about. We’re all basically antennas, and if you’re putting that much focus into something with that much belief, it will manifest in some form. You’ve heard those stories, like, Jim Carrey writes a check to himself for $20 million when he was poor, wanting to be an actor, and he put it in his wallet … Did you hear this story?
SHYAMALAN: So he writes a check to himself saying, “To Jim Carrey, for acting services rendered, $20 million,” and keeps it in his wallet. And guess what happens? He becomes the first actor in the world to get paid $20 million.
TAYLOR-JOY: Damn. That’s cool.
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE SIXTH SENSE, SIGNS,THE VISIT, AND THE FORTHCOMING SPLIT, AMONG OTHER FILMS.
Young Barack Obama Film Casts Devon Terrell, ‘The Witch’ Star Anya Taylor-Joy
The film sees Obama as a college student exploring the Big Apple.
The story of a young Barack Obama trying to find his way in 1981 New York City has found its two leads.
Devon Terrell and Anya Taylor-Joy, the star of the hit horror movie The Witch, will star in Barry, an indie drama being directed by Vikram Gandhi, a Vice correspondent who made the documentary Kumare.
Black Bear Pictures (The Imitation Game) is producing with Cinetic Media. The movie is expected to begin shooting in April.
Barry explores the time when Obama was a college student in New York City and forged key relationships, including with a fellow student (Taylor-Joy).
The script was written by Adam Mansbach, the author perhaps best known for the adult children’s book Go the F*** to Sleep. He also tackled race with his novel Angry Black White Boy.
Black Bear’s Teddy Schwarzman and Ben Stillman are producing the pic along with Cinetic’s Dana O’Keefe as well as Gandhi.
Barry is the second young-Obama tale making its way to the big screen. Southside With You, a film about the early years of Obama’s relationship with first lady Michelle Obama, premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival. Miramax and Roadside acquired the project, which stars Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter as Barack and Michelle.
Taylor-Joy became a bit of a Sundance sensation when The Witch debuted at the festival in 2015. A24 recently released the film in theaters in the U.S., where it took in $8.8 million in its debut.
The actress has already shot lead roles in Morgan, Fox’s sci-fi thriller directed by Luke Scott (Ridley Scott’s son), and M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller Split. Next up for Taylor-Joy is the drama Huntsville opposite Shea Whigham. She is repped by CAA, UK’s Troika and Felker Toczek.
Terrell was discovered by 12 Years of Slave filmmaker Steve McQueen, who gave him the lead role in his HBO pilot, Codes of Conduct, after undertaking an exhaustive worldwide talent search. Barry will be his film debut. The actor is repped by CAA and IMC in Australia.
Gandhi, whose Kumare won the audience award at SXSW in 2011, is repped by UTA and attorney Victoria Cook of Franklin Kurnit. Mansbach is repped by CAA and 3 Arts.
Hollywood’s Next Big Thing: ‘The Witch’ Breakout Anya Taylor-Joy Goes From Ballet to Studio Thrillers
The actress (and secret rapper) has parlayed Sundance buzz into lead roles and almost-“it” girl status.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Anya Taylor-Joy became one of those brief Sundance sensations in 2015 with her very first movie role, playing the eldest daughter in a Puritan family threatened by witchcraft in The Witch. A year later, A24 finally is set to release the film Feb. 19. But she’s used the time well. Raised in Argentina and the U.K. as the youngest of six children, the former ballet dancer already has shot lead roles in Morgan, Fox’s sci-fi thriller directed by Luke Scott, Ridley Scott’s son, and M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller Split. Next up is the drama Huntsville opposite Shea Whigham.
What do you love about acting?
I never feel happier than when I’m on set. I never fit in as a kid. I always felt that there was something different about me. And when I’m on a movie set, it sounds cheesy, but I really do feel complete.
How did you get the role in The Witch?
I put an audition on tape. I read the script the night before, which was dumb because I did not sleep. In the script, my character was written as sort of plain, and I thought, “I’m sort of weird looking,” so I didn’t think I would get it. I later found out that I was the first tape [director] Rob [Eggers] saw, but he thought, “It can’t be that easy,” so then he watched 1,000 more tapes before he gave it to me.
What filmmakers would you love to work with?
Everyone? (Laughs.) I would love to work with [Quentin] Tarantino. I’d love to work with the Coen brothers. And Steven Spielberg. E.T. was big for me.
What was your first audition?
Maleficent. As the biggest Disney fan, I was dying. I was so nervous, I was shaking. I cried for a very long time after I didn’t get it.
Whom have you been starstruck around?
Dan Romer, who scored Beasts of the Southern Wild. I listen to that soundtrack all the time. And I would die if I met Saoirse Ronan. When I was 15, I watched all of her movies in one day.
Do you have any secret talents?
I’m a surprisingly good rapper. I was hanging out with the director of my next film [Huntsville’s Eric England], and he put on “Rap God” by Eminem, and I rapped the fast bit. I love it. It wakes my brain up in the morning.
What are you looking for in the future?
I’ve been very lucky with the roles that I’ve played in that they were wonderful roles for women. They’re incredible, flawed characters that I really gravitate toward. I just never want anybody to be able to put me in a box.
Big break Sundance 2015 hit The Witch (Feb. 19)
Reps CAA, Troika and Felker Toczek
“I never fit in as a kid. I always felt that there was something different about me. And when I’m on a movie set, it sounds cheesy, but I really do feel complete,” says Taylor-Joy
“I’m a surprisingly good rapper,” said Taylor-Joy of her secret talent. I love it. It wakes my brain up in the morning.”
It’s rare that a movie these days has the power to truly terrify—with so much real-life horror happening every day, it feels like we’ve become accustomed to it. We’ve grown into unnatural terror in the past few decades like an evolutionary adaptation.
So when a film like The Witch comes along—a story with such palpable horror and brutality—it’s a big deal.
The indie movie (which won the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic Category at Sundance), has received universal acclaim from critics.
The story centers on a 17th century family that’s moved alone to an uncharted area on the edge of the New England wilderness; they’ve willingly left their Puritan plantation over a religious disagreement.
Self-righteous patriarch William, with his wife Katherine, and their children: daughter Tomasin, son Caleb, twins Mercy and Jonas, and infant son Sam, in tow, is eager to start a fresh on this new unscathed and blessed farmland.
Things soon worsen after the baffling disappearance of baby Sam, and the family becomes convinced of an evil presence lurking in the woods, just outside their property; an evil that soon infects inward, with the blame falling on Thomasin.
Though the setting is nearly 400 years ago, The Witch’s writer and director, Robert Eggers, taps into the same violence, repression/oppression, and paranoia that is in the very DNA of our country (and most countries around the world); we were born out of this ignorance and bloodshed—something that continues today.
The Witch, which is in theaters nationwide as of last night, is truly a horror movie of the present, while reveling in the past.
Its breakout star, 19-year-old Anya Taylor-Joy, is a revelation on screen.
Her gut-wrenching, naturalistic performance of Thomasin has her poised as one of the top rising young stars in the game, with lead roles in buzzed about projects from M. Night Shyamalan, and alongside Kate Mara in upcoming sci-fi movie Morgan (directed by Ridley Scott’s son, Luke).
PAPER caught up with Anya to discuss the intense experience making this movie, her love of Thomasin, roles for young women in Hollywood, and the daunting reality of rising stardom.
Interview with Anya Tyalor-Joy for Paper Magazine:
PAPER: Just from the terrifying content alone, did you have any reservations about the script—and especially when you got the role?
ANYA: What you just said is probably the intelligent reaction to approaching the script, but I’m a very instinctual person, and I don’t really rationalize thing.
I’d only been acting for a short amount of time, and I hadn’t read many scripts, so I just went into it fully.
I will say, though, that the feeling I got when I read the script is a feeling I will be chasing in future roles for the rest of my life.
Just in general, I always read scripts the night before the audition, and I learn the lines 10-15 minutes before, just to keep it fresh.
But when I read The Witch, it was late at night, in my bed, alone—which was very smart!
I turned the final page, and I swear my body collapsed on me and I inverted. I felt like ghost hands had strangled me with this overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety that I didn’t understand.
On my way to the audition I remember calling my mom and asking her, “Why am I so nervous about this?”
PAPER: Was it hard getting used to the dialogue?
ANYA: After page one, I never questioned that the dialogue was in Jacobean English; it didn’t seem odd. Obviously because of when it was set, but it was so lyrical and poetic and beautiful—it had a rhythm to it.
As unnerving as this film is, hearing our characters speak is semi-soothing, the cadence was almost like a Fairytale or nursery rhyme.
PAPER: The movie was filmed in the wilderness (Canada, though it’s set in New England.) What was the hardest thing about filming?
ANYA: We had a week of rehearsals that was unbelievably important. Rob picked very good cast of people, very intelligently, because the second we all met, it was like, ‘Let’s skip the awkward stage of not knowing each other, and go right to being friends forever.’
We loved each other instantly. And you need that support when you’re literally out in the middle of nowhere, no connection to our real lives or support network; we became each other’s support network.
The atmosphere on set was remarkably light because of this bond we had.
We’re still tight, I was in Venice recently living in a one-bedroom apartment recently, and the five of them all stayed with me; we’re intensely close now.
PAPER: The wardrobe was immaculate, and looked painful. What was it like wearing those restrictive outfits?
ANYA: The wardrobe was done with such incredible period accuracy; it changes the way that you move, eat, walk, and stand.
The first time I put on my costume, I thought, ‘How did women dress themselves?!’ I needed three people to help me.
By the end of filming, though, I could dress myself in a few minutes.
But really, with the clothes back then, your arms and legs could move in only one direction; it was like Barbie stewardess (motions with stiff, locked arms).
The Puritanical mindset was to go against everything that makes you human—even your clothes. They had children in these outfits—children who were meant to move and be free.
It was training them from a young age to not be human.
Thomasin questioned this more than most; she saw the “Why?”
Why were they doing these things? Wearing these things?
PAPER: What was your mission with portraying Thomasin?
ANYA: I see Thomasin as this beautiful flame that has a bucket of ice-cold water poured on it again, and again, and again.
I love my character. All of my characters feel real for me and I deeply care—probably too much—about doing right by them, and giving them a voice.
Something that made me so empathetic toward Thomasin was her burgeoning sexuality. Sexuality is something that everyone fears so much, and especially in the 17th century, when they didn’t talk about it.
PAPER: So Thomasin’s awareness of her body and her feelings made her a threat?
ANYA: Kids today are fortunate to have the explanation of, “Oh, honey, it’s just puberty,” when they’re going through weird things.
For Thomasin, she didn’t have that, and was dealing with these hormones and self-awareness, and becoming more vocal.
In the story, that threatens her family; they start to not trust her, and fear her.
I thought what that would be like: you don’t understand what’s happening, either. So back then, what kind of position what that put you in? What would your frame of mind be?
PAPER: Do you feel there’s an overt feminist statement in the script?
ANYA: When Rob (Eggers) wrote this, he didn’t set out to make anything other than a Puritanical horror movie.
When you read the script, however, feminism just jumps off the page—it’s just natural.
It’s not only in the script, but the documented accounts during this time period.
People feared outspoken women—accusing them of witchcraft wasn’t just a means of shutting down women who stood up for themselves.
For these people, witches were real, and they were an amalgamation of all these concepts of femininity that both men and women feared.
It turned these accused women into fairytale ogresses.
Though your acting has been universally praised, what’s been the most frustrating thing you get asked by the press?
PAPER: When I get asked if I’m “struggling to find another role this good.” Am I just getting girlfriend roles? Hot girl #1?
ANYA: I always say, “No, actually.”
Every single script that I have read is for a gritty, flawed, human being who happens to be a woman and owns it. But I should not be an anomaly. I should not be strange for getting these roles; they’re out there.
Every girl should have this opportunity.
People like to put things in boxes, and with actresses, it’s like “So, what’s her type?” “Is she a virgin, or is she a whore”
We’re all human beings; none of us are one thing; we are very complicated and it doesn’t change according to gender.
PAPER: Does it ever feel daunting to be on this cusp of stardom?
ANYA: I was in very deep denial about it for a while, and it got exhausting to pretend like something big was happening in my life. The most important thing that will always save me is that I would be acting if no one ever saw one of my movies. I can’t not act, I love the work too much; the work is all that matters.
Unfortunately, I’m a very private person and not into this idea of “celebrity,” but the attention does allow you to work with people you’ve always wanted to work with, and tell the stories you want to tell; movies you want to make. The pros far outweigh the cons for me.
I’m the luckiest girl, and I will never complain about any of this because it’s a dream come true.
A burning talent at the core of Hollywood’s new season of horror. Taken from the 10th Birthday Issue of Wonderland.
When I catch up with 19-year-old Anya Taylor-Joy, the trailer for her first feature film, The Witch, is blowing up online. The new England folktale, written and directed by Robert Eggers, was dubbed one of the standout films at this year’s Sundance Festival, where it not only won him the Directing Award in the US Dramatic category, but also saw Taylor-Joy being hailed as a breakout star and one to watch.
Shot over just five weeks, the film follows a devout Christian 17th century family, whose newborn son disappears without a trace, inciting rumours that Taylor-Joy’s character, Thomasin, is practicing witchcraft. While the theme may be one we see lazily churned out Halloween after Halloween, critics across the board are agreeing that this movie is a mustwatch – with Time Out New York calling it “One of the most genuinely unnerving horror films in recent memory.” God knows we’re overdue one.
Taylor-Joy claims never to have even seen a scary movie before The Witch, but as I chat to her about my decreasing faith in Hollywood horror, she’s surprisingly well aware of the formulaic approach to the genre that seems to have been adopted by so many. “Look, I’m very green to the industry, but that’s something that’s always bothered me about movies in general; once there is, as you said, a formula, or something that’s obviously successful, people emulate it again and again. In doing so we’ve forgotten the true faces of fear… and that’s what this film really plays upon; the fact that real fear is something deeply rooted in all of us – that’s why so many people are genuinely unnerved by it.”
The storyline had a true resonance with Taylor-Joy, who was raised Catholic between London and Argentina. She recalls not sleeping a wink the evening before the audition, because she was so gripped with fear after having first read the script.
“It just got to me, man. Whatever my religious beliefs are now, a lot of it really freaked me out because I could one hundred percent understand why incredibly pious people would feel such guilt, shame and isolation in that situation because of how I was brought up. Rob’s just an incredible creator, and the words he’s written are horrible… completely horrible.”
The youngest of six, Taylor-Joy’s taste in films is a quirky mix of 90s kids classics and both Spanish and Argentine cinema. “I grew up watching a lot of Spanish movies… and one of my all-time favourites is an Argentinian romcom called Un Novio Para Mi Mujer… I feel like Argentina feels somehow really far away from the rest of the world, and it results in a really unique sense of humour… you have to watch it. But so far as the films that made me want to act, it was the stuff I watched with my brothers and sisters when they were growing up, like Richie Rich and Free Willy. I was like, I don’t know what that kid is doing but he got to ride a whale, and that’s awesome! How do I do that?”
While her role in The Witch may be a far cry from Jesse’s in Free Willy, Taylor-Joy’s fast proving that she’s capable of mastering pretty much any character thrown at her. She’s just wrapped another lead role in a movie, this time playing an artificial human/robot in a fuck-off budget sci-fi thriller directed by Luke (son of Ridley) Scott. It certainly hasn’t been a bad year.