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When Anya Taylor-Joy first read the script for Thoroughbreds, she knew she had to play the lead role of Lily in the film written and directed by Corey Finley. “I heard Lily so, so clearly,” Taylor-Joy says. “It was clear Corey and I wanted to make the same movie.” Shot in a Massachusetts suburb in just 22 days, the comedic thriller follows Lily, a straight-A student who reconnects with her childhood friend Amanda (Olivia Cooke) when her mother hires Lily to tutor her. “They have this toxic, bizarre female friendship,” Joy says of the characters, who start plotting the death of Lily’s overly harsh stepfather. The film also stars the late Anton Yelchin, who, in his final performance, plays a drug dealer in his late 20s. Here, Taylor-Joy talks about her offscreen chemistry with her costars, and how she prepped for her darkest role yet.

How did you end up signing on for this role?
It was the first script where I immediately called my agent and was like, “How do I meet [the director]?” I was desperate to be part of the project. I knew Olivia was attached, but I didn’t know to which character. I only had eyes for Lily. After that, Corey and I met up for coffee and really vibed, and it came together really quickly. A day after I finished Barry, I started shooting Thoroughbreds.

What about Lily spoke to you immediately?
I think I’m very instinctive about my characters. When I hear their voice, or when I feel I belong to them or they belong to me, it’s a kind of a tangible feeling. From a performance point of view, I was very intrigued by the idea of having to work from the outside in, rather than the inside out. When you first meet Lily, she is this very pristine, porcelain individual who is presenting a front to the world. She is trying to achieve this Instagram-level of perfection that isn’t real. So I was really intrigued by the idea of presenting people with this very well put together facade, but as the movie went on, stripping away the moral insulation levels and seeing the messy, chaotic, raging person beneath.

Does Instagram-level perfection annoy you?
Instagram in its best light is a fun way of keeping up with your friends and expressing yourself. In a negative way, it’s presenting the best version of yourself at all times that only needs to exist within a 30-second clip or image. So it doesn’t show you a real person who has ups and downs. Especially in regard to Lily—she’s so angry she can’t achieve that. She can’t be as perfect as these images. It breeds a really horrible sense of insecurity that can drive her to do some pretty dark things and harbor dark feelings within.

Have you ever played a character as dark as her before?
No, most of my characters, despite having a lot going on underneath, have been reacting to external circumstances. While I think Lily, not only is she a product of this Instagram society and extreme wealth, she’s just reacting to her darker urges and how the urges are manifesting. And having that kernel of evil within you, growing, festering, it was something I was intrigued by as a performer. My characters are real people for me, so as we were shooting the movie I was defending Lily the whole time. When crew members were like, “God, she’s such a bitch,” I’d be like, “No! You have no idea where she’s coming from, you don’t understand. She’s completely justified.” It was only after filming finished and I started leaving her behind that I realized I’d been inhabiting a very toxic skin for a month.

In what ways did you inhabit her? Did you start making Lily-like choices on set and in real life?
I’m so glad I’m not a method actor, but even so, I firmly subscribe to the idea that while I’m still always Anya, I’m living with Lily for that month. Certain personality traits will come through. With every character I play, it’s like having a different roommate for a time, I adapt to allow her to fit inside myself. For Lily, that meant that for my friends and family I dropped off the face of the earth because Lily does not have a support network. To be able to inhabit that skin every day, I felt like I couldn’t have my own support group taking care of me. I didn’t want people to see me when I was “with” Lily.

It’s like if you come home and your best friend is crying on the couch, and they’re not your feelings, but your heart is breaking because you’re seeing someone you love in pain. That’s where I approach it from, character-wise. I guess it’s not quite a stable way to live [Laughs]. I feel for my characters. By the end of the movie, I’m scared of Lily. My imagination has always been overactive, so I’m happy there’s a job where that’s actually useful.

Was that very intense for you?
It was so fast and intense, and it mostly takes place in that one house. During filming we lived three minutes away from it, so the shooting experience mirrored the intensity of what these two young women were going through. The two of them have been estranged for a while. Then they become obsessed with each other in a short intense period of time, and we shot it in a short period of time, so that added something to it. But Liv and I had to treat each other really kindly on set, because Amanda and Lily have such a bizarre toxic, obsessive, almost tender relationship. We had to be very kind to each other and respect each other’s processes. I don’t think we could have survived the movie if we were Lily and Amanda the whole time.

Did you know Olivia before working with her?
Even though we hadn’t physically met each other, we were both at Sundance the same year. We were peripherally aware of each other, so it made it all the more special to be able to return to Sundance together for this film. I’ve been lucky to have incredible chemistry with a lot of actors, but with Olivia it was something on a different level, it was almost like we were completely physically, mentally, and emotionally aware of each other at all times from the first time we met. I would tuck my hair behind my left ear, and she would be doing the exact same thing. By the end of the first shooting day we became symbiotic, almost. It was this bizarre energy. We were always coiled around each other. Two years later it hasn’t really gone away, we still move in tandem. I believe things happen for a reason, and I think there was a reason it was Olivia and I who did this film together.

Is there any special memory from set that you two share?
We were shooting a scene in the wine cellar together very late at night, and at around 2 a.m., for some inexplicable reason, the door to the cellar locked and we couldn’t open it or continue doing the scene. So eventually we had to wake up the one locksmith, at 4 o’clock in the morning, to come and open the door so we could finish the scene. That was an intense moment. Another thing is there is this swing set behind the house. When things were getting emotionally difficult, I would just go out and swing. There was one time when I was dressed in all white, and it was really dark, I was swinging and Olivia thought I was a ghost. She was standing there scared, and I totally f—ed with her for a while.

What was it like working with Anton?
What I keep saying is that it’s difficult to talk about him as a person because he’s my friend and I miss him and it’s hard. Going on a press tour and having strangers talk about someone you love so much is a difficult thing to experience. But what’s been beautiful about this experience is that it’s not difficult to talk about him as a performer because he is so incredible. He has an ability to pick weird, quirky characters and imbue them with so much heart that you’re rooting for them. He has a truly beautiful soul. It’s been incredible to tour this movie around the country and see how unanimously loved and missed he is. In this film he took a character who, on the page, could have been quite a minor character in the hands of a lesser actor. And instead, Anton’s character is arguably the moral compass of our movie. He’s playing an older man who has had sexual relations with girls who were too young, so the fact that he manages to get you to root for him and think he is the best person in the movie… it’s all him, man. The movie is wonderful, I think he would be proud.

On such a quick shoot with loaded days, how would you guys unwind after set each day?
The cast and crew did a lot of karaoke in Cohasset. Despite the fact that it is so charged, Corey made an interesting point: Apparently on comedy sets people are more brisk with one another because the subject matter is light, but with darker films people are more gentle and kind to one another because you’re going to dark places and are emotionally vulnerable. So it was being cognizant of the fact that we were touching very dark subject matter, and everyone wanted to take care of one another. I’m Latin, I like hugs, so with every movie I’ve ever done, I start off giving hugs to everyone. Indefinite hugs.

Source: W Magazine

Labels: Articles, Interview

The actress, who last year took home the Chopard trophy for acting at Cannes, stars in “Thoroughbreds” alongside Olivia Cooke and Anton Yelchin.

“I’m very much a people person,” begins British actress Anya Taylor-Joy, upbeat and immediately chatty over the phone from Los Angeles. “I really trust my instincts when I meet somebody, and the second I met Cory, I just adored him.”

That would be Cory Finley, the director of “Thoroughbreds,” in which Taylor-Joy stars alongside Olivia Cooke. The dark comedy-thriller premiered at Sundance in 2017, and on Friday had its limited release. The film, Finley’s feature directorial debut, has garnered rave reviews for its stars’ performances of two misguided upper-class teens in Connecticut who hatch a murder plot.

“It was so witty and sharp, and superdeliciously dark and nasty,” Taylor-Joy says of the script, which she read while filming the Barack Obama biopic “Barry” in New York in 2016. “And the fact that it was between these two women that were just continuously circling each other and manipulating each other through dialogue, I just thought it’d be really fun to play.”

A day after wrapping “Barry,” she was in Massachusetts filming “Thoroughbreds.” She spent two days with Cooke hashing out their characters’ back stories, which helped to build their chemistry on-screen.

“The dialogue is so unrelenting and Olivia and I are so on top of each other with it — it’s very quick-paced — that by the end of that first day we were just so physically and emotionally aware of one other, and we became quite symbiotic actually, and it’s something that hasn’t gone away,” she says. “We still have this thing where when she moves, I move. I step with my left foot forward, she does the exact same thing at the same time. And I wonder if it will ever go away, but it definitely worked for the movie.”

Taylor-Joy describes their characters as “toxic.” In one scene, Cooke’s character shows Taylor-Joy’s her method for crying on demand, a manipulation tactic.

“Olivia and I both tried it, I don’t think it’s an actual thing, I think you just sort of have a panic attack because you’re not really breathing, so rather than having tears come out of your eyes you’re just like, ‘I’m going to die,’” says Taylor-Joy. “That scene actually comes from when Cory was acting in college. He had a couple of friends who used to boast that they could cry on cue, and this is how they did it — but I don’t think there’s much truth in it.”

While the two girls are the stars, the movie also features Anton Yelchin in a supporting role, his last prior to his unexpected death in summer of 2016. The film is dedicated in his honor.

“It’s very difficult to talk about him as a person, because he’s my friend and I deeply miss him,” says Taylor-Joy. “But from a professional point of view, I can say that he was unrivaled in his ability to bring so much energy and enthusiasm. He’s just such a lover of film, so the second he got on set we all just fell in love with him, both as a person but also we’re in awe of him as a performer. And he took a character that when I first saw the script, Tim [Yelchin’s character] in the hands of a lesser actor could have been far more of a minor character, but…[Yelchin] has an incredible ability to imbue his weird, sort of strange characters, with a lot of heart.”

Taylor-Joy, who broke onto the scene with her lead role in A24’s horror film “The Witch” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” last year, won the Chopard Trophy award for promising young actors at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017. This year promises to be just as eventful: she has five films coming out between now and the beginning of 2019.

“Dude, I know, it’s crazy to think about,” she says. She’s also filming period film “Radioactive” with Rosamund Pike, and is slated to star in Kristin Scott Thomas’ directorial debut, “The Sea Change.”

“I’m very instinct-character-driven,” Taylor-Joy adds of her choice of projects. “I’ve never made the decision to go for genre, or films that are darker — it just so happens that the worlds these women that have called to me have inhabited are dark worlds. I just follow my characters wherever they decide,” she adds. “And do they inhabit a world I’m interested in exploring, and then how awesome is the director? If he said jump, would I? That kind of feeling.”

Source: WWD

Labels: Articles, Interview

V caught up with the actress to talk about her next thriller, Thoroughbred.

For an actor, the biggest perk of working with a director who comes from a theater background is that there are usually rehearsals, a surprisingly rare practice on most shoots. And when Anya Taylor-Joy signed on for playwright Cory Finley’s Thoroughbred, a wicked dark comedy about two childhood friends who reunite with potentially deadly consequences, the first-time filmmaker took things a step further. “Cory, Olivia [Cooke], and I sat in a room over the course of two or three days,” the actress recalls. “And rather than focus on the script and the scenes directly, we fleshed out the relationship the characters had prior to this momentary snapshot that you get of them in the movie: what they experienced together, how they kind of grew apart.” All of that work increased the tension once the cameras started rolling. “The dialogue between these two women who are just continuously trying to usurp the other using just their words…It was just Olivia and I combating with each other verbally.”

With credits like The Witch, Morgan, and Split behind her, this new film is hardly the first time the actress has delved into suspenseful territory, but the projects are high caliber enough that she skirts the scream queen label. Her choices do beg the question, though: why all the scary stuff? “I guess I like people who have been outcast from society,” she muses. “I feel like everyone’s story deserves to be told [even if] it’s not the conventional one or the likable one. In Thoroughbred, Lily isn’t the easiest person to love, but I love her.”

Taylor-Joy feels that same affection for all of her characters. “The worst I had was with Thomasin for The Witch, because I didn’t know that [characters] were real for me yet,” she says. “So, when the movie ended, I was devastated and I couldn’t really figure out where that devastation was coming from. I missed spending time with her, and she was gone. But when I saw the movie, I realized that the character went on within it.” Never mind that Thomasin makes a deal with the devil at the end—it’s still a sweet sentiment.

Source: V Magazine

Labels: Interview, Magazine Scans

The 20-year-old rising star talks The Witch, M. Night Shyamalan, and being BAFTA nominated

“I’m so hot blooded, I love the cold.” So starts our conversion. Tucked into the corner of this oversized London hotel room is Anya Taylor-Joy, cuddling a grey sofa pillow. A large window looking out onto the streets of Soho is wide open, letting in a chilly January breeze.

There are few 20-year-olds in the world who can boast a CV as impressive as Taylor-Joy’s: since debuting in critically acclaimed horror film The Witch in 2015, the actor has appeared in the Ridley Scott produced sci-fi slasher Morgan, Netflix’s Barack Obama biopic Barry, and now M Night Shyamalan’s Split.

Over the course of 18 minutes, we spoke about the latter thriller – in which she plays a young, kidnapped girl named Casey – along with the actor’s rise to fame and her reaction to being nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award alongside Tom Holland and Ruth Negga (unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to talk about her rumoured role in the upcoming X-Men films).

Hi Anya, what attracted you to Split?
I mean it’s Night and The Witch wasn’t out. It wasn’t even specified which character I was reading for. It could have been any one of the girls. When I met Night we had an interesting connection. I thought “you’re going to challenge me and I want to rise up to your expectation”. He’s a very specific person and one of my friends now – which is awesome – but as a director, he just really pushes you and I love that. The script was awesome. I read it all the way through – couldn’t finish it fast enough – then I had to go back to really get everything.

Was it intimidating meeting Shyamalan for the first time?
I love what I do so much and I have a very acute understanding of how I work as a person so if I’m afraid I shut down and can’t do anything. If I’m overwhelmed, I shut down and can’t do anything. I just can’t think about it that way. I just had to be Anya. I’m not meeting M Night Shyamalan, otherwise I’d freak out and die. I’m just meeting Night.

What aspects of your character, Casey, were the most interesting to play around with?
How silent she is. I was very aware that most of her sh*t is stage directions. I was wondering how much of that I can communicate with an audience just with my face, just with my eyes. It was a challenge and one I really wanted to play. And the manipulation aspect, that was very fun to modulate, because me and James [McAvoy, who plays her kidnapper] work quite similarly. We’re very playful and we bring a different energy to every take. And so, that’s really fun, to act with someone who is going to play with you and surprise you in that way. You get to experience things that come out of a place of impulsiveness.

Was it different on set to how you expected?
When I was cast, James hadn’t been cast, so I didn’t have anyone to envision in that role. Obviously, it would be a very different movie with anyone else in the role. James and I were very jokey and that was really good fun, because it’s very dark. He plays this predatory man who kidnaps young women, and every young woman knows that feeling of – not what it’s like to be kidnapped – but knows what it’s like to be with a man who makes you feel comfortable. He just made it so safe, so nice, so secure, a really nice environment. We were able to really open up and be super vulnerable because we were really safe.

Was it intimidating meeting Shyamalan for the first time?
I love what I do so much and I have a very acute understanding of how I work as a person so if I’m afraid I shut down and can’t do anything. If I’m overwhelmed, I shut down and can’t do anything. I just can’t think about it that way. I just had to be Anya. I’m not meeting M Night Shyamalan, otherwise I’d freak out and die. I’m just meeting Night.

What aspects of your character, Casey, were the most interesting to play around with?
How silent she is. I was very aware that most of her sh*t is stage directions. I was wondering how much of that I can communicate with an audience just with my face, just with my eyes. It was a challenge and one I really wanted to play. And the manipulation aspect, that was very fun to modulate, because me and James [McAvoy, who plays her kidnapper] work quite similarly. We’re very playful and we bring a different energy to every take. And so, that’s really fun, to act with someone who is going to play with you and surprise you in that way. You get to experience things that come out of a place of impulsiveness.

Was it different on set to how you expected?
When I was cast, James hadn’t been cast, so I didn’t have anyone to envision in that role. Obviously, it would be a very different movie with anyone else in the role. James and I were very jokey and that was really good fun, because it’s very dark. He plays this predatory man who kidnaps young women, and every young woman knows that feeling of – not what it’s like to be kidnapped – but knows what it’s like to be with a man who makes you feel comfortable. He just made it so safe, so nice, so secure, a really nice environment. We were able to really open up and be super vulnerable because we were really safe.

There were moments in the film loaded with humour. How was it playing this vulnerable character despite this?
I was there as Casey. Watching the film is really funny. James, Night and I have a very similar sense of humour so it’s very much our humour. As you’re shooting it, I was experiencing it through Casey, and Casey does not find this situation funny at all. There were maybe two scenes where I couldn’t hold it together and Night does not like that at all. He’s very serious with his work and he expects you to be serious too. But we got to a place of mental exhaustion where we couldn’t keep it together.

How did working on The Witch compare to Split?
I find it very difficult to compare any two projects because they’re all such different beasts. I’m growing up, I’m only 20 now. I’m a different person on each of these films because I’m growing very rapidly. The Witch was Rob[ert Eggers] and I finding our feet. He had never directed anything, I had never acted in anything. I didn’t know what a mark was. When he said “go and hit the mark” I was like “what am I hitting?” I was so enthralled and excited by everything I was doing and picking things up because I had to. How many things am I allowed to do? How many takes do we get? Am I allowed to do things differently? I was finding my way. For Split, I was going up against James and Betty Buckley, so you want to give as much as you can – especially against James when he’s giving me so much. He’s playing all these personalities. All the work is subtle. He is very big. Casey is incredibly internal, such an introvert, so I was concerned I wasn’t giving as much back as he was giving me.

How did you get involved with acting?
I don’t remember wanting anything different. I’ve really tried to pinpoint the moment I was like “this is me, this is what I want to dedicate my life to”. I just sort of knew. I got scouted for modelling on the street. I’m such a tomboy, still am. I just never thought about modelling before but I thought “ooh, interesting, similar world, perhaps it’s a way into something”. Then, I was on my third photo shoot ever and Adam Leech from Downton Abbey saw me reading poetry and asked me to recite some. He put me in contact with his agent and I got The Witch from there. It’s mad. And I know I’m incredibly lucky to be here and so glad it worked out this way otherwise I’d be a very unstable individual.

Where were you when you got scouted?
I was walking outside Harrods in London, and I was wearing heels for the first time. They were probably like “oh, little blonde girl in heels, interesting”.

How do you feel about the way everything is going?
Again, I know myself. If I thought about it, I’d freak the f**k out and you wouldn’t be able to get me out of the room, you’d have to prise my fingers from the door. I’m really lucky, and the pace at which everything is happening I think it’s a genuine giant blessing in disguise. I don’t have time to sit down and think “oh my god, what happened to my life?” I used to joke that I went to Sundance and never went home again. I went to Utah as this 18-year-old girl who had never made a movie. Not because it wasn’t any good but because when you make a tiny, little independent pure horror movie you don’t expect bright lights, big city. It was unprecedented and me and Robert got catapulted on a life sphere that we never thought was possible.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I just want to see what life’s going to throw my way. So far, it’s been very unexpected. I’m kinda on a rollercoaster and want to enjoy that. I’m so lucky that I can genuinely say every film I do I love the f**k out of, I love it so much. I would follow my directors to the end of the earth. I’m so lucky because I know some of these directors and [they are now] some of my closest friends. When you share something that intimate with someone, our emotional babies. We were saying “this is my art, this is my passion. I’m putting it in your hands because I trust you”. It’s such a beautiful thing. I guess I just want to keep going and look back in 5 years and feel good about my choices.

Who are your role models?
I remember the first time I saw Kirsten Dunst in Jumanji. I’d never seen a kid in a movie before who wasn’t much older than me. I thought “maybe I can do that, that’s interesting”. She was also in Interview with the Vampire, and I was like “you can get even darker and be in movies and still be little! That’s amazing”. Now, it’s Tilda Swinton. It’s been Tilda Swinton for a long time. I think she’s just such an artist. She really follows her artistic integrity. She really doesn’t give a f**k what other people think. At least that’s my projection onto her. I don’t know her, and I’m really nervous to meet her because she might think I’m a stalker because I’ve mentioned her so much.

What have you got coming up that you’re most excited about?
I’m excited to see the movies I’ve been working on. They’ve been so close together, I just want to actually see the f**king movie. I’ve got one going to Sundance called Thoroughbred, which I’m really excited about because Sundance is such a magical place for me and I’m going back with Olivia Cooke who was also there the same year she was with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. So we’re kinda going back which is exciting. There’s another film, Marrowbone, which we filmed in Spain. It was the time of my life. We were staying in this castle and we could communicate with each other through the walls, it was very summer camp vibes.

Do you feel like you’re missing out on other experiences people your age are having?
No. I never fit in with people my own age. I grew up around adults. I was separated from everyone in my age group by a sheet of glass. I found my place in movies. I have fun, I have a great time. I’m a true professional and take my job very very seriously but I need an outlet. I found my tribe, I found my people and we have a lot fun.

What do you do for downtime?
I haven’t had any of that yet. It sounds really boring but I act for fun. I don’t see it as a job. I’m never more at peace than when I’m in a scene and I get the opportunity to act with these f**king world renowned actors. It’s amazing. I write a lot too. My world is changing so quickly so it really helps to sit down and write a poem. Something neat and concise and wrapped up in a bow. Or write a song about it. I find it very meditative.

What does the BAFTA nomination mean to you?
It feels so surreal to be acting. I really see myself as an artist, and to be an artist and to be able to make art – that sounds terrifying to me. I don’t think I’m strong enough to deal with that but when people allow me to do that it’s unreal. Then you add on top of that that people are recognising me for that, I would never ever, it’s so out of the realm of possibility for me. So, it’s really exciting, I’m overwhelmed and it’s so great to be in the company of such great actors. I can’t wait to meet them. I just love so many of their individual performances. Like, Laia Costa in Victoria is amazing, it blew me away. I’m excited just to fangirl.

Split is in UK cinemas now

Source: Independent UK

Labels: Interview, Split


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Photoshoots & Portraits > Photoshoots from 2016 > Session #10 – Just Jared

Anya Taylor-Joy is still processing what has happened to her over the last year. One minute, the aspiring actress was crafting a letter to her parents to explain why she was planning to drop out of school to pursue her passion and then next, she had an IMDB page filled with an array of extraordinary credits. Life has changed in every way since she made her debut as Thomasin in 2015’s The Witch. “I went to Sundance and I didn’t go home,” she joked during our recent Spotlight photo shoot. I’ve now made 7 films back to back and I have a new normal.”

Acting is something that the 20-year-old had aspired to do since she was a young child. “I’d always known I loved it because I always used to go off into the woods and make stories for myself,” she reveals. It all started with a grade school production where Anya played a boy and donned a painted-on goatee. From there, she was scouted to model while walking her dog down the street near her family home. Modeling eventually catalyzed her passion of being employed on film and television sets and things began to quickly take off. She’s since forged a bond with horror-master M. Night Shyamalan, tussled around on screen with Kate Mara, and was directed by Grant Singer in the official music video for “Red Lips” by Skrillex.

For a young starlet that is sitting on a career ready to explode, Taylor-Joy is as humble as they come. As she waits for her current batch of films to hit theaters, she admits that she’s not quite sure what life in the public eye will bring her way. “I am more of a private person for sure and I’m very frightened to lose that to be honest,” she candidly admits. But there is not turning back for the Argentine-British beauty. “I’m just going to roll with it,” she jokes. “Hopefully it will be fine!” And that’s exactly what she did the morning of our interview when she was recognized on Hollywood Blvd at the same time that she was interacting with a gentleman in a Chewbacca costume and doing a phone interview. “I told the journalist I would call her back. I said hi to the really nice Australians who were just like, ‘The Witch was great.’ And then I gave Chewy a hug,” she reveals with an innocent giggle.

Check out our Spotlight with the budding star below where she discusses how her first walk in heels was what kickstarted her career, what she loved so much about playing an artificial human being in Morgan, and how Gucci is inspiring her to leave her tomboy tendencies in the past.

Just Jared: What was the first thing that you ever acted in?
Anya Taylor-Joy: I think I was 10/11. I did something at my primary school called Perkin and the Pastry Cook and I played Perkin, so I played a boy. And I loved it. It was so much fun. I just remember having this real feeling of exhilaration and being like, “I like this a lot.” I got a painted epic goatee and I never wanted to take it off. When I went home. I was like, “Oh so manly!”

JJ: You used to be a ballet dancer. Did you want to pursue that before acting?
ATJ: I think I always wanted to be a performer. I never really saw the difference. I just trained in ballet very hard and then when I was 15, it either just became a thing of I was going to pursue it full time or I was going to do something different. I was like, “I can’t give up acting. Acting is the love of my life. And so I have to follow it.” I’m trying to get back into dance. I now haven’t exercised in like 5 years. I want to get back into it because it’s really good for the soul. I love to dance. But mostly I’ll go to a salsa club and just dance with my girlfriends.

JJ: What was your first audition?
ATJ: It was to play the young Angelina Jolie in Maleficent. I am the biggest Disney fan ever. I was blonde at the time; I’m a natural blonde. And I thought, “Angelina Jolie? Me?” My mom came with me and it was in London. When I found out I didn’t get it, I cried and cried and cried. And then that was the last time that I ever cried over an audition. I had to get through that first rejection and then ever since then, I’ve always very firmly believed in if it’s meant for you, then it’s yours and nothing will stop it from being yours. And if it’s not meant for you, no matter how hard you try, you just have to let it go.

JJ: You have a great story about how you first got started as a model, which led to acting. Is it true that you almost missed your opportunity because you thought the modeling scout was a stalker?
ATJ: Yeah. It was absolutely terrifying. It was my first time wearing heels ever. I was about to be 17 and I was going to a party and I wanted to practice. So I took my dog out for a walk in heels. So I’m walking my dog and I felt this car behind me and I was like, “Anya, you’re being ridiculous. It’s not following you.” So I turned down a side street and the car came with me and I picked up my pace and the car picked up its pace. So I picked up my dog and I started to run.

JJ: In heels?
ATJ: Yeah! I was surprisingly pretty good. I think ballet sort of trained me for that. I’m pretty good at running in heels, which is useful for movies because sometimes you’re supposed to do that. And this guy just stuck his head out the window and screamed out, “If you stop you won’t regret it,” which is basically the worst slasher flick line ever but I did. I stopped dead in my tracks. The car came up and inside was Sarah Doukas and she was like, “I’d really love you to come to the agency tomorrow.” And what was funny was the last thing she said to me before she went was, “And by the way, never stop if a car is following you and they tell you to. Never again!” And so I went in the next day with my parents and they signed me and I connected modeling to acting. But it really was something I had never considered before because I’m a real tomboy actually.

JJ: How has your life changed since The Witch?
ATJ: In every single way. I went to Sundance and I didn’t go home. I’ve now made 7 films back to back and I have a new normal. I was saying that to my mom this morning: “This is my life now.” And I don’t know when that happened because it’s all been so fast. I’m not good when I’m overwhelmed and so I don’t really stop to think about anything. And now I’m like, “OK. I’m going to go shoot this movie and meet these cool people. And hello Ridley Scott!” I can’t allow myself to get overwhelmed because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s been a real whirlwind and life changed over night for me.

JJ: Are you a fan of horror in general?
ATJ: Oh God no! The only two horror films I’ve seen are The Witch because I made a horror movie. And I thought, “Oh I have a horror movie out. I can totally do this!” so I watched The Blair Witch Project and I didn’t sleep for like 5 weeks. And that was the end of that. I don’t like being scared. But it’s fun to be in a horror film because I have way too many feelings. So if you get to do scenes where you get to push your feelings in that way, it’s so cathartic and you go home and you just feel lighter. You’re just like, “OK. I’ve expunged a couple of. I feel better.”

JJ: Are there any characters that you have played that have been super heavy for you to take on?
ATJ: I just did a movie called Thoroughbred and my characters are very real for me. They are very real people and I love them dearly. I actually get really protective over them. It’s strange. You can mess with me but don’t mess with my character because I get like mama bear protective over it. This one character, I was defending her the whole time and at the end of the movie, I was like, “She’s a pretty toxic person isn’t she?”

JJ: What are you most afraid of?
ATJ: I’m a real animal advocate and I adore them. But baboons scare the crap out of me. They are so violent and so strong and they are very aggressive. I’ve had nightmares about baboons before for sure. I saw a baboon get violent with another baboon in the zoo and from that moment on, I was like, “Oh my God. I can’t deal with it.” There is a scene in some animated movie where a whole group of baboons are chasing this person. I cannot watch it! It’s the most terrifying thing in the entire world. It’s ridiculous.

JJ: Morgan looks really cool. What attracted you to the role?
ATJ: When I first read the script, I was so riveted by the opening sequence. I was like, “Whoa. That’s how you start a movie. That’s amazing!” And with Morgan, I just felt so much empathy towards her and I could really connect with her in a sort of way. It’s interesting because in Morgan, I spent a lot of time behind a sheet of glass. And when I was little, I used to tell my mom that. I used to say, “I feel like I’m separated from people by this sheet of glass. I can’t connect to people my own age.” It was only when I started making movies that I really found my tribe. I’m so happy that I got to tell that story. I know that she’s an artificial human being but anytime you see a character that is going through something that you understand, hopefully it makes you feel a little less alone.

JJ: Morgan looks like she spends a lot of time in isolation. What did you do to get into that mindset?
ATJ: I’d like to think I’m not a method actor because I’m pretty much joking right until “action” and right after “cut.” I love the crew. I love the family feeling of making a movie. But I find myself taking on certain traits of my character without my own consent to it. I’d literally spend hours in this room that was soundproof watching everyone else on the other side being like, “OK. Hi.” And so I became very close with the crew. We shot in Belfast. We’d go out a lot. You need human contact after a while. We shot that for 3 months, 6 day weeks. I’m Latina so I’m very tactile. I’m very touchy feely. I love hugs. And so there were several occasions where I was like, “Can I just hold your hand for a second?”

JJ: What do you love about playing these empowered female characters that also have a bit of a dark edge to them?
ATJ: I think it’s honest and I love that. I’ve been incredibly lucky. I was never really sent the girlfriend role or hot girl #1. It was always very meaty real women. Women are fascinating. Women are unicorns. And I think it’s so awesome that now there seems to be a want and a need for more of these roles. One of my favorite thing about Morgan is it is two strong female leads. But also, we have a couple of action scenes and when we started choreographing them, the stunt choreographer came in and said, “There is nothing sexy about these fights. These fights are mean. They are cruel. They have a lot of crunch to them. And they are more vicious than you likely see between two men.” And we were like, “Oh hell yeah! Let’s do it.” Because it’s true. Women are super tough and it’s fun to tell these stories.

JJ: You have a role coming up in Barry. What did you learn about President Obama that you didn’t know?
ATJ: So much! Charlotte, my character, is the amalgamation of three of Obama’s white college girlfriends. So it’s great because they are real people there and real things that happened but I also got to create my own character in a sort of way. I loved reading “Dreams From My Father.” I just thought that was lovely. And more than anything, I loved inhabiting that world. 1980’s New York was something that I’d always wanted to do – the music, the clothes, the experience, the essence in the air. It was just amazing. It was a dream come true. But regarding POTUS, I learned that he wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know that before. He wanted to be a poet and I think that’s really lovely. And he had an apartment that was absolutely freezing cold. They never had the heat on in there. And so he and his girlfriends would sleep in this tiny little college dorm room in this tiny little bed and it was absolutely freezing.

JJ: Does doing this film change your opinion about the upcoming election at all?
ATJ: I think people are really going to miss him. I think that man has so much class and so much style and I think he’s done a really great job. More than that, I think his heart is in the right place. That’s tricky with politicians; you don’t always have that. But I think he genuinely just wanted the best for America.

JJ: What’s the process of watching yourself on screen like?
ATJ: I’ve now seen 3 of my movies. The Witch was different because there was so much of me as Thomasin and I had never seen myself on screen. And so Rob [Eggers] knew that and he let us watch about 4 hours before the volunteer screening in Sundance. I watched it and I was completely quiet for the next 4 hours and just crying and crying. I was like, “I can’t act. I can’t do it. Oh my God. I’m terrible. This is my dream and I can’t do it. This is awful.” I’ve seen that movie so many times now and I’ve got really bad eyesight so I just don’t wear my glasses when I’m watching it and it could be any kind of blonde pink blur up there. When watching Morgan and Split, what was weird about it was I didn’t look in mirrors very much. So when I’m in character, I’m only obviously looking out and so it’s almost like meeting your character for the first time. When I saw Morgan, I was like, “Wow. That’s Morgan. That’s so crazy.” It’s funny because I can look at the person on screen and go, “Oh I don’t like that girl’s acting and I kind of wish she would get off screen” but I don’t connect it to me. I’m just like, “Ah. She’s kind of a terrible actress. That’s very awkward (laughs).” But I also couldn’t not have watched these movies because I love the people that made it so much. I’m a small facet of that film and I loved watching the movie and being like, “Hell yeah props. That was a hard day and you nailed it. And that’s amazing.” or “Oh my God that shot! I remember waiting for the sun to change and we got it and it’s amazing.” You have to support your family. You have to support your team.

JJ: Who is your celebrity girl crush?
ATJ: I have so many (giggles)! Women are awesome. Tilda Swinton forever! Always. Winona Ryder. Angelina Jolie.

JJ: What about a celebrity crush in general?
ATJ: Bill Nighy. I think he’s amazing. Any time I’ve watched him in anything, I’ve always been like, “You are so cool. How are you so cool?”

JJ: Is there a celebrity that you’ve met that you’ve completely lost your composure in front of?
ATJ: Dan Romer who scored Beasts of the Southern Wild. That soundtrack was/is still a big part of my life. I walk around to movie soundtracks a lot because I just love scores. When I met Dan, I walked into the room and I was like, “Hi I’m Anya” and he was like, “Hi I’m Dan.” I completely froze. I couldn’t talk. I went outside to have some fresh air and he came out too. I was like, “Oh my God. Say something say something!” and eventually we did start talking. He’s such a sweet guy and it was really wonderful to meet him.

JJ: Who are your favorite designers to wear?
ATJ: I was never really into clothes when I was younger, I never really thought about them. And when I say younger, I mean the last seven months. I’ve just always been like, “Whatever. It’s fine.” Different with costumes. I really love costumes because they are so much of the character. But then I saw Gucci and that changed a lot of things. Also it’s part of my job to get to wear these incredible things. At the beginning, I felt so uncomfortable with it because I was like, “Oh my God. I’m such a tomboy and I’m wearing this really pretty dress and I feel really uncomfortable” and then it’s like, “If you’re going to do it, you might as well enjoy it!” And yesterday I had a fitting and I was squealing and jumping around and looking at everything. The closer you get to fashion, the more I just appreciate the artistry behind it. I’m just like, “Damn. What you guys do is amazing and I couldn’t do it.” And it’s incredible how clothes can really change the way that you feel. I just really appreciate it and I’m really starting to enjoy it.

JJ: What are you most comfortable wearing when you’re not in work mode?
ATJ: No shoes. Just barefoot all the time.

JJ: There are rumors that you might be starring in the New Mutants. Any truth to that?
ATJ: I would be honored to be a part of that (grins).

JJ: If you were a superhero, what would you want your power to be?
ATJ: I’d want to be able to time travel but also just travel in general. I’d love to be able to snap my fingers and be back at home and give my mom a hug and then come back to set. That would be pretty cool! Not having to take a plane again! No jet lag. That’s a super power.

JJ: If you could emulate the career of any actress, who would it be?
ATJ: I love the fact that Tilda Swinton has always done whatever she’s wanted to do. She’s never shied away from anything. Cate Blanchett is amazing. Rather than emulating, I think it’s more about I just want to make movies like the ones I’ve made now that I’m always proud of. Even if no one else likes that, I can say, “I loved it” and it made me feel something. That’s the sort of career I’d love to have.

JJ: You’ve said in the past that you’re more of a private person but with 7 movies back to back, how are you handling all this limelight?
ATJ: Well it hasn’t happened yet. That’s what’s scary about it. I am more of a private person for sure and I’m very frightened to lose that to be honest. It sounds dumb but I can be kind of ditzy sometimes and it’s like, “Oh I get to act and I get to go to summer camp and I meet all of these incredible people. And as a family we make a movie” and then I’m off to the next one and I don’t think about it. And then the other day I called one of my best friends and I was like, “Oh my fucking God. I have shot 7 movies and they are all going to come out.” And she was like, “Yeah babe. That is kind of the point of making a movie” and I was like, I’ve never seen it that way.” There sort of is no going back now in a way. But at the same time, I’m not scared enough to have it stop me from doing what I love. And the truth is, there was a very real moment when I did suddenly think, “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I can be this seen” and I considered giving up acting for a heartbeat. And then I was like, “I can’t do it.” And so I’m going to roll with it and hopefully it will be fine.

JJ: Do you play any instruments?
ATJ: I play the ukulele. I write my own songs. And I just bought my first electric guitar. I’m playing around with that too.

JJ: When did you become a vegan?
ATJ: I became a vegan in November when I was shooting Split. I’ve been a vegetarian for a very long time, since I was about 10. I don’t think there is a problem with eating cheese or eggs or anything like that. It’s the mass production of it and it’s the fact that there are very few laws that cater to animal cruelty.

JJ: Is it true that when you dropped out of school to act, you actually wrote a letter to your parents explaining to them why you wanted to do this?
ATJ: Yeah. Well I have been living alone since I was 16. And then I got The Witch. My parents are very lenient and they have always very much respected me and really valued my opinions and really let me do what I want to do. They’ve really trusted me but obviously when you drop out of school, that’s a bit of a shock for any parent. So I wrote this very long essay that was just like, “And this is why I am leaving school.” And I wasn’t asking permission. I just wanted them to understand that I was making an intelligent, mature, and well thought out decision. In time they have appreciated it. In the beginning, not so much. But they have always been supportive and they are so proud. And they get to enjoy it with me so it’s nice.

JJ: What was it like working with M. Night Shyamalan in Split?
ATJ: I love him. He is one of my nearest and dearest, like genuinely. I was on the phone with him this morning and yesterday morning. We’re very close and he changed my way of acting completely. He taught me about craft and how much fun that is. Being so instinctual, I don’t do a lot of prep. And that’s okay with me but the internal work that he taught me how to do, being like “just let the thought flash across your eyes. Just have the thought. Just think like them.” I’ll always remember, I was doing this really emotional scene. I was sobbing and he came up to me and he put his hand on my back and he was like, “Anya, what you’re doing is beautiful but I’ve seen you cry like this. These are your tears. These aren’t the character’s tears. Don’t be selfish with it. Give Casey her tears” and every since then I’ve realized that I cry differently in every single film and that makes me really proud.

JJ: He interviewed you for Interview Magazine. What was that like?
ATJ: I think because we’re so close, when the interview finished, there was a moment of like, “Did I just bare my soul to the entire world? What was I thinking? Am I crazy?” I’m very open and I don’t really do bullshit and so if you ask me a question, I’m more than likely going to tell you the truth, or at least my truth. But it was also really lovely because it’s something that I’ll always have and I’ll always remember. He didn’t take it easy on me and I didn’t expect him to because that’s not the Shayma way. But it was great and I’m really glad that it was the two of us. We do have a really special bond and I love that man so it was nice.

Source: Just Jared

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