“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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Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga and Director Josh Boone all talk to BBC Radio 1’s film critic Ali Plumb about New Mutants, the X-Men movie that has finally made it to cinemas. They compare superhero powers, look back on their time on set and reveal the blooper that made it into the finished movie. Plus, they tell us what they all binged on TV during lockdown.
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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Be careful with this one. See Anya Taylor-Joy as Illyana Rasputin in #NewMutants, now playing in theaters.
20th Century Studios in association with Marvel Entertainment presents “The New Mutants,” an original horror thriller set in an isolated hospital where a group of young mutants is being held for psychiatric monitoring. When strange occurrences begin to take place, both their new mutant abilities and their friendships will be tested as they battle to try and make it out alive.
In Theaters August 28, 2020
Directed by: Josh Boone
Screenplay by: Josh Boone & Knate Lee
Produced by: Simon Kinberg, p.g.a., Karen Rosenfelt, p.g.a., Lauren Shuler Donner
Cast: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga
The New Mutants has taken years to hit theaters, but how well has the cast learned X-Men trivia while we’ve waited? We gave stars Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Blu Hunt, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga and Henry Zaga the ultimate X-Men quiz to see just know much they know about Professor X, Wolverine and the X-Men universe.
ET’s Ash Crossan spoke with ‘The New Mutants’ cast-members Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton and Henry Zaga about the movie’s countless release date changes, the Disney/Fox merger and how they were originally supposed to be a part of a trilogy. The cast dishes on whether they think their characters could come back and what the support from the fans has meant to them throughout this long journey.