Anya Taylor-Joy has undergone a stunning transformation. Whether you know the actor from her unforgettable turn in the 2020 Autumn de Wilde version of Emma., or you remember her as the little girl from The Witch, chances are you’ve come across Taylor-Joy at least once. The up-and-coming star already has a seriously impressive CV, too. Since her first major role in 2015, Taylor-Joy has appeared in Thoroughbreds, The Secret of Marrowbone, The Miniaturist, Peaky Blinders, Emma., The New Mutants, and The Queen’s Gambit (via IMDb). It seems that the film and TV industry just can’t get enough of Taylor-Joy.
While you may think that the actress was born and raised in the UK, she’s actually a self-described "mutt," having grown up in both America and Argentina (via BuzzFeed). So how did she become one of the most prominent young British stars of 2020? Here is the stunning transformation of Anya Taylor-Joy.
Anya Taylor-Joy was born in Miami and raised in Argentina
Anya Taylor-Joy had a pretty unusual childhood. The youngest of six children, she was born in Miami, though her family moved to Argentina shortly after her birth. When she was six, the family relocated again to London, England. Apparently, Taylor-Joy wasn’t a big fan of London at the beginning — in fact, she refused to speak English for two whole years! "I wanted to go home, and in my 6, 7-year-old mentality I thought my parents would have to take me back if I didn’t speak the language," she recalled in an interview with NME. Eventually, Taylor-Joy realized she’d have to get used to her new home, and eventually she picked up English.
As Taylor-Joy tells it, her uncle used the Harry Potter books to help her learn English. "All my language when I was young was quite precocious because I was learning from these books," Taylor-Joy continued. "I was also very well versed in spells from a very young age." We love to imagine Taylor-Joy speaking like a little Hermione Granger!
Anya Taylor-Joy was keen to pursue acting from a young age
When it came to choosing her future career, Anya Taylor-Joy has been set on acting since her early childhood. As she explained to the Independent, she actually can’t remember when becoming an actor first occurred to her. "I’ve really tried to pinpoint the moment I was like, ‘This is me, this is what I want to dedicate my life to,’" she revealed. "I just sort of knew."
Apparently, Taylor-Joy’s parents were always super supportive as well. As the actress told NME, they were pretty tired after raising five other children. "When I came around and I was very willful and knew what I wanted to do they were like, ‘Go for it!’" Sounds like with Taylor-Joy’s unwavering determination (along with her parents’ exhaustion) she was pretty much destined for a career on the big screen right from the very beginning.
Saoirse Ronan was a big inspiration for Anya Taylor-Joy as a teen
Like many artists, Anya Taylor-Joy has a few influences that helped give her the boost she needed at the beginning of her career. One of her biggest inspirations is the Oscar-nominated Irish actress Saoirse Ronan. Ronan is known for her roles in Little Women, Brooklyn, Atonement, and Lady Bird, which blew everyone away at the box office. Additionally, like Taylor-Joy, she began acting at a young age. "Saoirse Ronan was big for me when I was maybe 13," Taylor-Joy explained on the Happy Sad Confused podcast (via Stylist). "She was the first person that I saw at the age who I thought, ‘You’re a similar age to me and you’re doing the kind of films that I’m interested in — it’s not just fluffy.’"
Seeing Ronan on the big screen when she was still a teenager clearly inspired Taylor-Joy to pursue her dreams. To that end, at age 16, she ended up dropping out of school. A few years later, Taylor-Joy actually got to meet Ronan and explain how influential she’d been on her. "I massively embarrassed myself but she was really sweet about it," she added.
At 16, a famous model scout spotted Anya Taylor-Joy in London
Everything changed for Anya Taylor-Joy quite by chance, as luck would have it. Even though she had her sights set on acting from a very young age, it wasn’t until she was 16 that she got her first big break. Taylor-Joy was outside of the famous Harrods shop in London when she was spotted by Sarah Doukas, the world famous model scout, who was also responsible for discovering Kate Moss. The very next day, she signed with the famous Storm modeling agency (via Independent).
Soon enough, Taylor-Joy was working in the modeling world. Then on a photoshoot, she struck up a conversation with Allen Leech, the actor who played Branson in Downton Abbey. Taylor-Joy, who’d been reading a book of Seamus Heaney poems, recited some for Leech. "He took my name and number and said, ‘Expect a call,’" Taylor-Joy recalled in a chat with NME. The next thing she knew, she’d signed with his agent. Talk about two fated meetings for the teenager!
Anya Taylor-Joy got her first experience of rejection auditioning for Maleficent
After spending her entire childhood hoping to enter into the acting business, Anya Taylor-Joy was incredibly lucky to sign with a great acting agent at age 16. However, like most actors, she had to learn to deal with rejection the hard way before the scripts came rolling in. The actress explained to BuzzFeed that her very first audition ended up being a massive let down. "It was my first experience of rejection — like true rejection," she confessed.
Apparently, the audition was for the younger version of Angelina Jolie in the Disney movie Maleficent. For Taylor-Joy, Maleficent would have been a dream job, as she admitted to loving Disney. So, she explained that even though she looks nothing like Jolie, the rejection hit hard. "I definitely cried for a very long time after that happened," she continued. Luckily, Taylor-Joy didn’t have to deal with rejection much after that, as she was cast in her first big film role shortly thereafter.
After making her first film, Anya Taylor-Joy’s career skyrocketed
In 2015, Anya Taylor-Joy played Thomasin in The Witch, a horror film directed by Robert Eggers (via IMDb). For Taylor-Joy, the experience of making the movie was extremely informative. The actress went into detail about it in an interview with the Independent. "The Witch was Rob and I finding our feet," she explained. Apparently, neither of them had ever made a full length film before.
Taylor-Joy also explained that she didn’t even know what hitting a mark was, or how many takes she’d be allowed to do when they began filming. "I was finding my way," she continued. Apparently, when Taylor-Joy worked again a few years later on Split, she was a totally different actor after having more experience.
Additionally, Taylor-Joy told Interview that the movie was an unexpected success, so she and Eggers had to learn to deal with fame overnight. "We didn’t know if anyone was ever going to see it, and, literally overnight, the film exploded," she recalled. It sounds like filming and releasing The Witch was a seriously transformative period of Taylor-Joy’s life.
Anya Taylor-Joy was labeled a "scream queen" early in her career
Because she took on a series of roles in horror films early in her career, the media labeled Anya Taylor-Joy as a "scream queen" — a stereotype that she was happy to break as time went on. Taylor-Joy’s scary film credits include The Witch (2015), Split (2016), and Glass (2019), but her goal was always to work in a range of genres. "It’s very interesting how people want to put you in a box," she told NME. "I’m very grateful to directors who have seen outside of that."
With later roles in period drama like Emma. and The Queen’s Gambit, as well as in the comic-book inspired The New Mutants, Taylor-Joy proved that she was capable of acting in a wide range of movies. This variety isn’t exactly an accident, either. "If I keep doing all of these different roles, hopefully people will understand that we’re actors and it’s our job to be chameleons," she continued.
So far, it seems as though Taylor-Joy’s plan is working. As Interview noted in 2020, the actress has certainly done a good job of building herself a great reputation in diverse roles.
Anya Taylor-Joy learned a lot about fighting for her role in The New Mutants
When Anya Taylor-Joy was cast in the superhero movie The New Mutants, she got a chance to learn a pretty cool new skill: stunt fighting! As she told IANS, training in fighting techniques turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable — even if it was a far cry from her normal skills. "I used to be a ballet dancer," she explained. "But I had never fought before, and learning to be a fighter was fascinating for me because they wanted me to do as many of my own stunts as I possibly could" (via Magzter).
Taylor-Joy also shared that the stunt team was incredibly supportive, which helped her work up the confidence to do the trickier stunts. "All of a sudden you get up there and you are strapped up with wires with a giant sword and you are in your costume and you are like, ‘I have got to make it work now,’" she continued. Wow — sounds like Taylor-Joy developed a serious warrior side for this role!
Anya Taylor-Joy has turned down quite a few "girlfriend roles" in her time
Anya Taylor-Joy’s list of acting credits stand out for being complex, unusual female characters. It turns out, this is no accident. As her career progressed, Taylor-Joy made the decision to be pretty selective about which roles she accepted. One of the most important things in a character, Taylor-Joy explained to The Guardian in 2018, is that they are multi-dimensional. "Definitely, whenever I’ve got a girlfriend role, I’ve sent it back being like, ‘Eh? Why?’" she revealed.
Taylor-Joy also explained that misogyny doesn’t just happen in casting — it’s also an issue in the media. In an interview with Glamour, she described how one of the main things she’s noticed is the way language is used differently for men and women in the industry. "I’ve had situations in journalism where my male counterpart will give an opinion on something and he will be written about as, ‘thoughtful and intellectual,’ whilst I will be, ‘brassy, opinionated, forceful,’ when they just asked me for my opinion,’" she shared.
It’s great to see Taylor-Joy speaking up about the gender gap in film — and we don’t think she’s "forceful" at all!
At the beginning of filming Emma., Anya Taylor-Joy felt terrified
Playing the titular character in Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Emma. was a big moment for Anya Taylor-Joy. She was working alongside legends of the screen like Bill Nighy, Rupert Graves, Miranda Hart, and Johnny Flynn (via IMDb). Unsurprisingly, the actress was a little intimidated. "I was really frightened my first day of rehearsals, because I just saw all of these icons of cinema come in," she told BuzzFeed. Luckily, they turned out to be "so nice."
But it wasn’t just the actors that made Taylor-Joy nervous — it was also the long hours. "I put a lot of pressure on myself," she confessed to Glamour. "I had a panic attack on set one day just because the hours are really intense and I’m in every single scene and I was trying to learn all of these different skills whilst also filming."
However, as time went on, Taylor-Joy grew more confident filming Emma. "At the end of that shoot I was like, ‘I have undeniably worked very hard and I can be proud of that!" she gushed.
After working on Emma., Anya-Taylor Joy got really into interior design
In addition to gaining plenty of personal and professional confidence from her role in Emma., Anya Taylor-Joy also developed a new interest in interior design. The film, set in Georgian-era British mansions, featured stunning, lavish sets by the designer Kava Quinn. As Architectural Digest noted, the film looked like it took place in "a bright and colorful dollhouse."
Naturally, Taylor-Joy was enthralled by the designs. "Autumn [the director] and I talk about that kind of stuff all the time," she told Country & Town House. "Our text chain conversations are just tons of pictures of wallpaper." She went on to confess that her favorite set was "the pink dining room with that incredible embossed wallpaper." Sounds like Taylor-Joy spent plenty of time on the set of Emma. literally staring at the walls!
Sadly, Taylor-Joy didn’t really have any means of exploring her new interest in design once the shooting came to an end. As she revealed to NME, as of 2020, she didn’t really have her own home because of the unpredictable nature of her work. As she put it, "I don’t live anywhere."
As she became a celeb, Anya Taylor-Joy had to learn about self-care
Because many of Anya Taylor-Joy’s projects have pretty much been back-to-back, the actress hasn’t had much down time. Plus, days on set can be seriously long and grueling.
To that end, Taylor-Joy learned how important self-care was in 2020 while filming The Queen’s Gambit. "When Beth and I aligned, I’d had a really crazy year, because I made Emma., had a day off, then I did Last Night in Soho, had a day off, and then it was The Queen’s Gambit," she explained to Interview. This crazy schedule made her stop and think, "I need to take care of myself in a very aggressive way, because otherwise I’m not going to be able to do this well."
So, how does Taylor-Joy do that? Well, as she told Glamour, it all begins with positive thinking. "I think it’s just about learning to try and be easier on yourself," she revealed. "I’ve started to take the wins and not feel too bad about the losses." That’s a good example of self-care!
In The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor-Joy had to switch up her preparation process
In The Queen’s Gambit,Anya Taylor-Joy took on the part of Beth, an orphan-turned-chess prodigy. Apparently, the role presented her with some new challenges, as the show covered six years and jumped around between time periods. "I’m usually very instinctive," she explained to Interview. "I don’t like to prepare too much."
However, when it came to playing Beth, Taylor-Joy realized that more preparation was necessary. "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," she continued. She added that she asked herself questions about Beth’s backstory and created a timeline so that she could keep track of her story.
In addition to preparing for the role, Taylor-Joy also had to do some serious research into chess and alcoholism. As she explained to the Observer, she read plenty of books and even got to study with some of the world’s best chess masters. Sounds like this project taught Taylor-Joy a lot more than just some new acting skills!
Anya Taylor-Joy hopes to continue to push herself
Anya Taylor-Joy has come a long way, as both an actor and as a young woman. And by the looks of things, she won’t be slowing down on her journey any time soon. In fact, she wants to keep pushing herself to try new things. As she told NME, her next big goal is to take part in a musical. "The idea of having to push your body through all of that and learn all of those skills really excites me," she explained. Wow, it’s clear that Taylor-Joy has no plans to rest on her laurels.
Even though the actress dreams of singing on screen, we might not get to see it for a while; Taylor-Joy explained that she sang with her Emma. co-star Johnny Flynn on set, but she’s still pretty shy about singing in public. Either way, whether it’s a musical or not, we can’t wait to see which new genre Taylor-Joy tackles next. And if one thing’s for sure, it’s that this young actress is sure to keep on surprising us!