Welcome to Adoring Anya Taylor-Joy
Your first online source for all things Anya Taylor-Joy. She is an American-born Argentine-British actress and model. She is best known for her role as Casey Cooke in "Split" (2017), her lead role as Thomasin in "The Witch" (2015) and more recently in "Emma" (2020) playing Emma Woodhouse. Enjoy your stay!
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Anya for Tatler Magazine

TATLER – ‘I am attempting to be a lady,’ announces Anya Taylor-Joy between mouthfuls of a vegan breakfast burrito. It’s brunch time in a bustling farm-to-table restaurant not far from the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, and – burrito-shovelling aside – the 25-year-old Anglo-Argentinian actress is doing a convincing job. ‘I am attempting to carry a purse,’ she laughs, signalling to the delicate white Dior handbag that perfectly complements her vintage red-and-white-checked sundress, long flowing blonde hair and white Terry de Havilland knee-high boots. ‘I am trying to look grown up. I am attempting to look professional!’

Grown up, professional… and a bona fide style icon. As any of the 62 million households (in the first 28 days alone) that watched Anya inhabit the troubled but fabulously attired heroine of The Queen’s Gambit can attest, vintage is a look she wears very well indeed. And Anya’s love affair with the 1960s shows no signs of waning – her next role, in Edgar Wright’s psychological horror Last Night in Soho, which she is in LA to promote, is set in the same period and is the true inspiration behind today’s outfit.

That film was the first time I ever wore white boots,’ she says, taking a sip of iced black coffee. ‘Now I live in them.’ But while there is much fashion to admire in the aesthetically pleasing Last Night in Soho, there is a lot more to the chilling film than cool clothes. The plot centres on 1960s-obsessed present-day fashion student Eloise (played by Jojo Rabbit star Thomasin McKenzie), who is transported back in time to London in 1966, into the body of a mysterious singer called Sandy (played by Anya). That’s about as far as one can go without giving away spoilers, but here we have two unreliable narrators and it’s hard to know who, or what, to trust.

Edgar Wright’s vision of 1960s Soho is less swinging than seedy; the idea came about when the director (best known for the 2004 zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead) would take long walks around his central London neighbourhood and imagine the stories behind once opulent, now shabby buildings. ‘Our version of London is presenting you with the fine line between downtown where your dreams will come true and a full-blown nightmare that is difficult to get out of,’ explains Anya, who stars opposite Matt Smith and Terence Stamp, as well as Diana Rigg in her last ever role. ‘We’ve all had moments when we’ve been at a party, met somebody and thought, “Oh, this is wonderful, this person is really kind and we’re really vibing,” and then seven hours later you’re like, “Oh, this person’s horrible and I no longer want to be in this situation.”’

She describes the film as ‘a very well-directed acid trip’, and explains it’s been a passion project since she became attached to the script when she first met Edgar back in 2015. She was being touted as the new ‘scream queen’, having just made a very memorable big-screen debut in Robert Eggers’s cult supernatural horror, The Witch. While researching the role of Sandy, Anya dug out the 1960s music she fell in love with as a teenager, read Shawn Levy’s 2002 book, Ready, Steady, Go! The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London, and uncovered a few revelations along the way. ‘Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick were really only active and working for about a year and a half, which blows my mind,’ she exclaims. ‘It feels like it was this big expansive time and so influential – yet it was a flash in the pan. And 1960s London was like that.’

It’s a very physical role since Sandy spends much of her time singing or dancing. Was it daunting performing on stage? ‘It was on the day, for sure. There’s something pretty naked about singing,’ she nods, alluding to her haunting rendition of Petula Clark’s 1964 hit, Downtown. ‘There were definitely some nerves, but I’ve always sung and I enjoy doing it.’ So, no lessons beforehand? ‘I’m not great at preparing for things, so I just showed up and was like, “OK, let’s just try this, hopefully they won’t hate it.” It’s been nice hearing the reception to it. I like creepy singing, it’s an enjoyable thing to do!’

Dancing was easier still: Anya took ballet lessons ‘pretty seriously’ between the ages of three and 15. ‘Have I done any exercise since? No!’ she jokes. ‘But I guess the body remembers.’ Her upbringing was affluent and nomadic. She was born in Miami and raised in Argentina (Spanish was her first language) by her parents, Dennis Taylor, a Scottish-Argentinian former banker who was appointed OBE in 1998 and now races motorboats, and Jennifer Joy, an English and Spanish psychologist. The youngest of six children (the eldest four are from her father’s first marriage), Anya was six when the family moved to the UK, and was so upset that she refused to learn English until she was eight. Leaving Argentina ‘broke all of our hearts’, she recalls. ‘It’s such a sacred world to all of us.’ It wasn’t until she was 14 that she came to appreciate what her parents had done for the family by moving to the UK. ‘I apologised to them because I started to understand the opportunities in London,’ she recalls. ‘I had the autonomy I wouldn’t have necessarily been afforded in Argentina, so I was very grateful for that.

After being educated at Hill House in Knightsbridge and Queen’s Gate School in South Kensington, Anya left school at 16 to pursue acting, via a short stint of modelling (having been scouted by world-renowned Storm Model Management founder Sarah Doukas outside Harrods). When I first met and interviewed Anya three years ago, she said acting saved her life and that ‘you could not pay me enough money to go back to being 16’. She is said to have been bullied at school, but Anya herself has never elaborated on what happened: ‘I was just very insecure and deeply unhappy. I am still not open to talking about it but I have a lot of love for that person,’ she says, referring to her 16-year-old self. ‘When you’re a teenager, your feelings are so dramatic, you don’t think you’re going to survive them. Then you make it another 10 years and you’re like, “I feel the same level of pain but I’ve been through it before so I know that it passes. And I understand myself better, so I have the tools to help myself through.”’

Anya was in Belfast filming The Northman, a forthcoming historical thriller that also stars Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård, when the pandemic hit at the start of 2020. ‘We were all on the make-up truck looking like crazy Viking people when the news travelled down,’ she recalls.

Ultimately, the enforced lockdown was a useful time for reflection. ‘I do think there’s a specific period of time between the ages of 18 and 25 when you are so malleable,’ she muses. ‘And because I was pouring so much energy into understanding these other people [the characters she plays], I was like a vase being filled with different coloured liquids and I had no concept of who I was. It definitely got to a point where I was like, “I haven’t had time to catch up with my personal life and my perception of myself because I’ve been chucking all these experiences in a backpack and continuing to barrel forward.” So quarantine was actually great because it let me sit down with everything and think, “Wow, that happened.”’

Anya spent lockdown in the UK, at the house she recently bought in east London, and whiled away her time reading ‘like a crazy person. I read a book a day.’ She shared her ‘quaranreads’ (ranging from The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry to Maya Angelou and Edith Wharton) with her 7.3 million Instagram followers and also built a ‘rave room’ to dance in. ‘The bedroom was all blacked out with one of those crazy lights that goes on the ceiling,’ she explains. ‘I’d put on my noise-cancelling headphones and listen to random playlists. I’d be like, “What was playing in underground funky-house clubs in 1983? Let’s go for that today!”’

Was that as therapeutic as it sounds? ‘That and punching pillows are the best thing for anything,’ she says. ‘For any issues that you have, do one of them for a while and you’ll feel better. The new section of my life that I wasn’t prepared for sometimes made me feel quite powerless and that is something that has helped me. I can deal with something once I’ve understood it, but when it’s happening it feels frightening and you feel very out of control.’ The ‘new section’ of her life that she is referring to is the intense level of fame that The Queen’s Gambit brought her overnight. If the success of the show – which earned Anya a Golden Globe – took her by surprise, then fame has continued to startle her ever since.

Anya’s captivating performance in Last Night in Soho is all the more impressive considering it was her second film in a row of three gruelling back-to-back projects. She filmed the lead role in Autumn de Wilde’s big-screen adaptation of Emma (2020), took a day off, filmed Last Night in Soho, took a day off and then went straight into filming The Queen’s Gambit. ‘I survived on Diet Coke, cigarettes and coffee, and by the end of it, I was like, “I need to eat a vegetable,”’ she shudders. But the burnout was a valuable lesson learnt. By the time Anya was filming The Queen’s Gambit, she was going to bed at 8pm: ‘It can be difficult when you’re “young” to not feel guilty about not doing things that other 25-year-olds are doing and that can be a bit of a headf**k.

FOMO is now officially a thing of the past. ‘I still love going out and being around people, but now my work is taking up so much of my energy, I have to be a lot more careful because I end up paying for it. I don’t have time to be a 25-year-old with a hangover,’ she reasons. ‘But I’m not someone who needs a drink to dance. Basically I’ve become very efficient at everything. I’m like, “What do I need out of this situation? I need to dance for a couple of hours, see my friends and have a good time,” so I’m like, “Right, OK, let’s bang it out.” Then it’s: go home, have a bath, get up for work. I sound mental, but that’s what’s working for me right now.’

When I last interviewed her, she was excited to start filming Emma and went unrecognised in the London bar where we met. She was warm, friendly and didn’t stop talking. Today – on the same morning her Emmy nomination for The Queen’s Gambit is announced – she is still all of those things. It’s just now everyone else wants a piece of her, too. From the manager of the restaurant who delivers a handwritten note of ‘congratulations from all the staff ’, to a group of girls in their teens who want a selfie, it’s hard to keep up with the number of visitors to our table. ‘Most people are sweet and kind and just want to have a conversation, and I love that,’ says Anya. And the others? ‘Well, there are other times when you’re just one person facing off against 20 and that’s just physically not safe,’ she pauses. ‘It can be very frightening when there are whole bunches of men with cameras attached to their faces running after you down the street.

This happened on a recent trip to New York when she was hosting Saturday Night Live. ‘I went home and cried, but then I figured it out,’ she recalls. ‘The next morning I went out and I said, “Hello, my name is Anya. Let’s lower down the camera and let’s meet.” I am not prey. I don’t want to run. I’d rather be like, “I understand this is your job and I hope that you can understand that I am a woman of a certain size and I feel intimidated right now, so can we make it work so you can do your job and I can feel less frightened?”’

She’s clearly still processing the craziness of the past year and is finding that it helps to keep things low-key. She is currently ‘hermiting’ at a friend’s house in Studio City rather than staying in a hotel. Her closest friends aren’t famous – they are either ‘wonderful people I’ve met randomly’ or people she’s met through work. She celebrated her Golden Globe win with two of her best friends, watching movies with a bucket of vegan fried chicken and then falling asleep together. The purchase of the house in east London is her biggest extravagance to date: ‘It feels so good to have a place to dump my stuff in between movies. Up until six months ago, I went to every meeting with two giant suitcases trailing behind me.’ Spending money isn’t one of her strong suits, she adds: ‘I mostly treat my friends. They don’t let me do it all the time, which I understand and respect, but I’m also like, “This is to share!”’

Has she had much therapy? ‘I did when I was younger. I haven’t for a while,’ she says. ‘But I give therapy to my characters, so I feel like I have to take the advice I give to them!’ There are plenty more of those characters to come. Since being cast in The Witch aged 17, she has starred in a stellar line-up that includes The Miniaturist and Peaky Blinders. She has just finished filming an as-yet-untitled David O’Russell period drama alongside Robert De Niro and Margot Robbie, and is about to shoot The Menu, a dark comedy co-starring Ralph Fiennes. Then, she’ll reunite with The Queen’s Gambit co-creator Scott Frank for an adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark, before starting work on the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel, Furiosa, in which she’ll play the title role.

For now, though, she’s just happy to have the day off. Her parents are visiting this afternoon, and this evening she’s having dinner with celebrity super-stylist Law Roach (who styled her for the Golden Globes) – which sort of sums up how Anya Taylor-Joy rolls these days. ‘I think about the amount of restaurants I’ve been sitting in, either by myself or with a co-star, just looking horrific,’ she says, recalling her less-than-ladylike days of filming. ‘There’s grease in my hair, mud all over my bag and I’m like, “Hi! Table for two, please!”’ Maybe that’s not such a bad idea for a disguise, I wonder, watching Anya attempt to make a run for it out of our brunch spot and into the blacked-out SUV waiting for her outside. Lord knows, next time she’s going to need it.