She’s suddenly working with everyone you’ve ever heard of: “I think I’ll probably understand this year in about five years.”
Isn’t the point of stars that they’re looked at? Couldn’t you assume, then, that stardom and some degree of vanity go hand in hand? For Anya Taylor-Joy, whose indelible performance in The Queen’s Gambit made it a global phenomenon, the twain have clearly never met. When we speak in January, the 24-year-old actor is in Los Angeles, shooting a highly secretive movie with director David O. Russell. All that’s known about the film is its outrageous cast—outrageous not just for the stature of its names but also for just how many names there are. My Google Alerts seem to bristle with additions each day: Robert De Niro, Chris Rock, Margot Robbie, Christian Bale, Mike Myers, etcetera, etcetera. The project will be Taylor-Joy’s 16th feature film in seven years. Still, with a lineup like this, she’s the rookie of the group.
“The movie has been very secretive to all of us as well,” she says over Zoom. “And so suddenly you hear these names and you can’t really…” Pressing her palms across her sternum, she frowns in the direction of her right knee, as if trying to make sense of all this. She explains that it isn’t a matter of being starstruck, not exactly. “But you hear these titans of cinema and I’m just like, I am a child!” She laughs. “I am a baby. This is insane.”
Russell himself has no difficulty explaining Taylor-Joy’s presence among the titans. “Anya is fearless and intuitively vulnerable and confident in a manner that is uniquely her own,” he says in an email. “She is different and strange in ways that are fascinating both toward darkness and toward light.” This will ring true to anyone who saw The Queen’s Gambit—and virtually everyone did. After the show premiered last fall on Netflix, more than 62 million households tuned in, making it one of the biggest, most beloved shows of 2020: a “limited series” as major cultural event. There were days last fall when my Twitter feed seemed to be nothing but discussions of the show and its star. The aesthetics! The chess! The sexual tension!
“I think,” Taylor-Joy says carefully, “I’ll probably understand this year in about five years. I think that’s when it will probably hit.”
The first time we talk, Taylor-Joy is wearing a long-sleeve slouchy black T-shirt and a toffee-colored scrunchie on her pale wrist. Her long white-blond hair is tucked behind her ears, and she’s wearing no makeup I can discern. This bare young face contrasts with the vampish scarlet daggers of her nails, a series of murderous-looking little points. “They’re for the role!” she says, wiggling them. “They’re not my hands!” With a day off from shooting, Taylor-Joy has been going about what she called “my adulting day”—as in “laundry, cleaning house, all of the stuff that makes you a civilized human being and not this ruffian, which I am usually.” This “ruffian” has clusters of orchids on the kitchen island behind her, a guitar propped against the wall, several hefty crystals at her fingertips, and books piled on the floor—the strewn evidence of individuality within the impersonally sleek rented apartment that’s home for the time being.
“She is different and strange in ways that are fascinating,” says director David O. Russell.
Taylor-Joy’s grounding, nesting impulse make sense. If her 2020 was one of vertiginous ascent, her 2021 will be stratospheric. She will appear in Edgar Wright’s horror movie Last Night in Soho, in which she plays Sandy, an aspiring singer in ’60s London with an exaggerated hairdo and understated British accent. (The sneak peek I’m granted includes a pretty mind-boggling dance sequence, as well as a genuinely bewitching performance of Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” The girl can sing!) Taylor-Joy will also team up again with Scott Frank, director and cocreator of The Queen’s Gambit, for an adaptation of Nabokov’s novel Laughter in the Dark. And then there’s the pop-culture behemoth of Furiosa, a prequel to George Miller’s brilliantly bombastic Mad Max: Fury Road, in which Taylor-Joy will take the title role, a younger version of the character immortalized by Charlize Theron as a grim-jawed, buzz-cut feminist outlaw. Whatever incarnation young Furiosa takes, it will be a treat to see Taylor-Joy—hitherto mostly bookish and elfin in her roles—in an action movie.
Also on her docket is The Northman, a Viking thriller directed by Robert Eggers, costarring Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke. Filmed last year in Northern Ireland (I glean there’s a fair amount of her barefoot on a muddy mountainside), the movie was something of a reunion for Taylor-Joy: She was just 18 when Eggers cast her in her first real movie, the seriously unnerving supernatural horror The Witch.
Asked if the actor’s now-global fame surprises him, Eggers tells me, “I’m surprised it took so long!” He laughs. “I think some people explode onto the screen. They photograph well but they’re also able to somehow bare their soul—you can see through their skin and into their minds and hearts. Beyond that, she’s a good actress. You can be a great actor and not be a star, but Anya has both.”
The youngest of six kids, Taylor-Joy was born in Miami but her family moved to Buenos Aires when she was still a baby. Six years later, they relocated to London. There a homesick and Spanish-only-speaking Taylor-Joy refused to learn English for two years. Eventually she relented (the Harry Potter books were instrumental in her learning), but she remained an unhappy child. For one thing, she was picked on for her looks.
“Oh, 11-year-old Anya was an awkward phase, for sure,” she sighs. A few years later she’d be scouted on the street by Sarah Doukas of Storm Management, the same woman who discovered Kate Moss. But back then, she recalls, “My head was smaller and my eyes were the same size. I was waiting for my head to grow a bit. Make me look a bit more proportional.” Rough for any kid, but Taylor-Joy thinks she was particularly affected because of her upbringing: “My mother raised me to always be looking at things inside of people rather than their outside.” Taylor-Joy doesn’t stare into mirrors much. “Not because I’m running away from myself,” she says, “but because the most beautiful thing about me is my desire to interact with the outside world. And when you’re interacting with the outside world you’re not looking at yourself, you’re looking at the person in front of you.”
“She’s my muse, you know?” says director Autumn de Wilde. “She’s the muse of quite a few directors.”
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Anya Taylor-Joy poses for a portrait in Belfast’s Titanic area in Northern Ireland on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. Anya has been named one of The Associated Press’ Breakthrough Entertainers of 2020. I’ve updated our photo gallery with 11 portrait pictures of Anya. Make sure you check them out by clicking the thumbnails below. Enjoy!
Photoshoots & Portraits > Photoshoots from 2020 > The Associated Press Breakthrough Entertainers Portraits
LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a span of seven months this year alone, Anya Taylor-Joy played a meddling British brat in “Emma,” a Russian mutant with teleportation powers in the latest “X-Men” film, and an American orphan who turns out to be a chess phenom who can checkmate grown men by the time she’s 8 in “The Queen’s Gambit.”
She’s just getting started.
The 24-year-old just wrapped shooting “The Northman” alongside Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard, Willem Dafoe and Ethan Hawke. In October, Warner Bros. announced that Taylor-Joy will play Furiosa in the highly anticipated prequel to “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Oh, and she’ll have another movie coming out in April: Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller, “Last Night in Soho.”
“When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was go to Narnia and, you know, fly to Neverland and go to all of these incredible places,” Taylor-Joy recently told The Associated Press, which named her one of its Breakthrough Entertainers of 2020. “And now as an adult, I’m like, ‘I live in Narnia. Like, this is amazing.’”
Taylor-Joy is “the busiest person I’ve ever met,” said Marielle Heller, who plays Taylor Joy’s foster mother in “The Queen’s Gambit” and directed “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
“I don’t know how she’s doing so many projects at the same time. It’s really kind of mind-blowing,” Heller said.
Netflix says “The Queen’s Gambit” was its biggest scripted limited series ever and “Emma” received critical and box office acclaim, as did her big screen debut as a lead in Robert Eggers’ 2015 horror hit “The Witch,” which won Taylor-Joy a Gotham Independent Film Award for breakthrough actor. She’s also drawn praise for her performances in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” the dark comedy/thriller “Thoroughbreds” and BBC One’s “Peaky Blinders.”
All that success could easily have gone to Taylor-Joy’s head, but Heller said she has managed to stay humble.
“The danger of young people having a career take off when they’re really young — you can turn into a jerk. But she hasn’t,” Heller said. “She’s a real joy to work with. You don’t get that many roles back-to-back if you aren’t somebody who’s good to work with.”
Taylor-Joy is so well-liked among those who’ve directed her, they’ve formed what’s almost a club of adoration, calling each other and talking about how she’s doing, said Autumn de Wilde, who directed Taylor-Joy in “Emma.”
Source: AP News
“It’s Going to Be Mad”: Anya Taylor-Joy Gets Back to Work
Early in her career, Anya Taylor-Joy was quick to get labeled a “scream queen,” the cliché used to describe a female actor whose profession is peril. And while it’s true that the 24-year-old performer’s 2015 debut, The Witch, was a bloodcurdling nightmare—ditto for her follow-ups Morgan and Split—Taylor-Joy, with her ferocious intensity and spell-binding vulnerability, has elevated herself above the trappings of any single genre. This year alone, Taylor-Joy has appeared as the title character in Autumn de Wilde’s modernized adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, will play a Russian mystic in the comic-book-inspired The New Mutants, and was set to make her return to horror in Edgar Wright’s pandemic-delayed Last Night in Soho. Next month, she’ll carry The Queen’s Gambit, a seven-episode miniseries based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel about Beth Harmon, an orphan who rises to become a chess grandmaster while struggling with addiction. Just before she was set to film her next role in the Viking saga The Northman (a reunion with The Witch director Robert Eggers), Taylor-Joy connected with her friend, the actor George MacKay, to discuss, among other things, growing up, playing chess, and battling demons.
GEORGE MACKAY: How are you doing?
ANYA TAYLOR-JOY: I’ve just moved into an isolation house to get back to work. There are growing pains for everybody, but we’re all figuring out how to keep each other safe. It’s going to be an adventure.
MACKAY: I got a sneak peek of The Queen’s Gambit, and when I say sneak peek, I watched the whole series, which I absolutely loved. What are some of the things you learned from doing that show?
TAYLOR-JOY: I’m usually very instinctive. I don’t like to prepare too much. You, however, really prepare, and the first time we worked together, that intimidated me a bit. Playing Beth, I had to do a lot more of that, because when you’re charting somebody from the ages of 15 to 21, you have to be really aware of what she experienced: “Has she ever liked a boy? Does that change the way she interacts with men now? Has she experienced a maternal figure in her life?” And we were jumping around a lot, too. We’d shoot parts of episodes three, five, and two, all in one day, and I’d be changing my wig and trying to play being 15, and then jump forward to being 21, and then being 19, so I had to keep a bit more of a tally of where I was at in this character’s life story.
MACKAY: There is something so evocative about the time period it’s set in.
TAYLOR-JOY: The first music I fell in love with was from the ’60s. I’ve always been very drawn to that time period. It was a seismic moment. People were really shaking things up. And I think what’s interesting about Beth is that she’s weirdly out of it in this strange way. She’s not necessarily modern. Women are still not yet equal, which is ridiculous, but in the ’60s we certainly weren’t. Beth doesn’t see that. She is so deeply understanding of her own genius that she doesn’t understand why anybody would ever think that her being a girl makes her less than, which is a wonderful way to interact with the world, but I had to step back from the idea that I had of the ’60s and let her be this odd little space creature.
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Photoshoots & Portraits > Photoshoots from 2019 > The Laterals
Anya Taylor-Joy’s acting career is the embodiment of a meteoric rise in the making; the English-Argentine actor has been busy furrowing her own path in Hollywood. Most of her work has involved critically acclaimed films—whether as a virginal Puritan teen (The Witch) , or a frigid popular girl from Connecticut (Thoroughbreds), or, most recently, a soul-sword carrying mutant (The New Mutants). At only 24-years-old, Anya has quickly become one of the most recognizable faces in young Hollywood.
However, this impressive acting resume comes as no surprise to anyone who has worked with her. On-screen, her acting is gripping; she has a hauntingly beautiful, wide-eyed gaze that draws you in as she manifests her character with a powerful, but respectful, finesse. It also helps that she is whip-smart but endearingly self-deprecating, deeply curious and fiercely committed to her craft, all the while carrying the gravitas and self-awareness of a woman almost twice her age.
Here, we chat with Anya about her transnational upbringing in a large family, her newfound thoughts on self-care and its essential role in her creativity, and how she conquers the fears surrounding her inevitable rise in fame.
You were born in Miami, moved to Argentina until you were six, and then moved to London. How do you think your transnational upbringing has shaped your identity as an adult and as an actor?
As a child, I found it very unsettling because I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere, but I do think that that kind of brought about the intense desire to find a place where I did fit in. So when I stepped onto the set of The Witch the first day, I got this feeling of, “Oh my god. I made it. This is where I fit in, and this is the country kind of that I belong to. I belong to film sets. That’s where I’m supposed to be.”
I also think it’s kind of helpful because I’m used to being transient. I don’t have a set dictation of home. Home can be anywhere. It’s wherever the people that I love are, and also wherever I’m laying my head for the evening. That just feels quite comforting. It’s the fact that I’m carrying home around with me rather than it being a set place.
That being said, I feel that whenever I go home to Argentina, or I come back to London, or go to where I’ve made my adult spiritual home in New York. But I can also feel that in Barcelona. It’s just a feeling that you’re surrounded by people that love you, and know you, and understand you as an individual, and that to me is home, rather than a cultural identity.
I read that you’re the youngest of six kids. What was that like? What was that like growing up in such a big family, and what were you like growing up?
I was still as much of a psycho as I am now! It’s wonderful. I feel very lucky that I got to experience the way that I was brought up in a big family, while also having the attention of an only child at the same time, because my siblings are so much older than me.
Growing up they always called me the “Duracell Bunny” and my two younger siblings would joke around and be like, “Where the hell is the off button? How do we shut you up? How do we stop the singing and acting all the time?”
At the beginning of my acting career I think it was a bit weird, because none of my siblings are in an artistic field, so I don’t think they really knew what I was doing. But now they’re all starting to and it’s really cute. We have a big family WhatsApp group, and it’s just really sweet to get a picture message of all of your family in three different countries going to watch your film. It’s nice to have a five-person strong army behind you, and then they have all of their kids so our clan is huge. I think we buy up a decent amount of box office seats.
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