Anya Taylor-Joy is the actress who played Barack Obama’s girlfriend in Barry and who terrified us in The Witch. She kept us on the edges of our seats in Split, with James McAvoy at her side, and most recently, she put Emma’s matchmaking skills on the big screen for everyone to enjoy.
She’s on the cusp of being a Hollywood superstar, but how did she get there? Where does she plan on taking her career?
We’re going to give you a breakdown of the life of this highly-talented actress. Read on to learn more about the life and career of Anya Taylor-Joy.
Anya the Insomniac
The Bafta Rising Star nominee, who is just 20 years old, told Evening Standard in 2017 that she doesn’t sleep.
She has suffered from insomnia since she was seven and explained that she used to be quite scared of the alone time that her sleeplessness provided for her. However, she soon came to appreciate some of the perks of being awake for more hours in the day, and her insomnia became bearable.
She found that being awake late at night gave her more time to create. She was able to write, read, and sing, and she started to consider her insomnia less as a burden and more as an unconventional superpower.
‘I need very little sleep,’ the actress explained, and this, of course, gave her far more time to hone in on her incredible acting skills. Let’s face it, if we could survive with only five hours of sleep, we’d all be doing it.
On the Cusp Of Superstardom
She received her first big break for her role in the New England horror film, The Witch, back in 2015. Later, she starred in Morgan, a psychological thriller depicting the story of an artificially created human.
The film was directed by Like Scott, the son of Sir Ridley Scott. She also played Obama’s girlfriend in Barry, the Netflix Original biopic about the former president’s years in university. As you probably already know, she’s had quite a successful career since.
Later in 2017, she played in another psychological horror, Thoroughbred, with the late Anton Yelchin. Then, she was in yet another psychological horror called Marrowbone, which was the directorial debut of Sergio Sanchez – one that had been hyped for quite some time before its release.
Taylor-Joy admits that horror films, even her own, scare the life out of her. However, the actress feels like acting, especially in horror films, is her own therapy. Another actress who shares a similar sentiment is Kiernan Shipka.
In Split, which was released in 2017, Taylor-Joy played alongside James McAvoy as a victim of abuse. She said that she cried for hours when she read the script for the first time because the character that the actress plays is very real to her and she’s able to fully feel her pain as if it was her own.
The actress is very vocal about her opposition to abuse, telling Evening Standard, ‘It’s never the person’s fault, it’s always the abuser’s fault.’
Both Taylor-Joy and McAvoy’s performances in Split were legendary, and they both succeeded in bringing their respective characters to life, from the delivery of their lines to the subtle gestures and movements of their bodies.
Anya portrays the abuse survivor extremely emotionally, and she moved many audience members with her performance while still managing to maintain an air of suspense and light terror. She made it clear in this film alone that she’s not an actress to be underestimated.
An Actress On the Move
In 2017, Taylor-Joy lived out of her suitcase. She admits that home is a difficult topic for her. As the youngest of five sisters and brothers, she was born in Miami to an African-English-Spanish mother and a Scottish-Argentinian father.
Her dad used to be an international banker but forfeited his career to race motorboats. Until she was six years old, she was raised in Argentina, then she moved to London when she turned eight, where she lived in Victoria with her family.
Taylor-Joy said that, when she was younger, she didn’t feel like she had a place where she fit in, as most actors and actresses do. She was too Argentine to be English and too English to be Argentine…and far too American to be anything at all.
Her accent, she says, seemed to change depending on where she was. In Ireland, it leans toward Irish; in England, it leans toward English. For acting, this is a bonus, but it makes her personal life a challenge.
Tough Times At School
Like most creatives, the actress had a rough time when she was in school. From a young age, she loved drama classes and won various prizes for house drama at Queen’s Gate.
Also, she was top of her class when it came to English, history, classics, and drama. However, her peers simply didn’t understand her, and she was bullied quite harshly, she says, even being locked in lockers.
She would never be invited to anything and was often barred from classrooms. Needless to say, she didn’t have the most pleasant of school experiences.
Her peers even went so far as to tag her on Facebook in a picture of a fish to make fun of her eye shape and general facial structure. She spent a lot of time in school crying in bathrooms, and to this day, she doesn’t spend too much time looking in the mirror.
Moving Out At Fourteen
When Taylor-Joy was fourteen years old, she used her savings to move to the Big Apple, and when she was sixteen, she left school to pursue her love for acting.
Her family feared for her, and all of her siblings called her to tell her that she was ruining her life, causing her to cry hysterically. Her parents raised her as if they had always trusted her, which is where her young maturity came from.
Her family grossly underestimated her, though, and her choice to quit school and start following her dreams would lead her to an incredibly successful acting career.
However, her story of being scouted is a rather dodgy one, and most people would never have done what Anya did. What makes her story so strange exactly? Find out in the next section.
Scouted Like a Slasher
When she was seventeen, Anya Taylor-Joy was scouted by Sarah Doukas of Storm Management, the same woman who first spotted Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss.
This is a story that begins as though it’s not going to end well for the actress. Taylor-Joy was walking her dog when a black car was following her from outside Harrods and matched her pace consistently.
A man stuck his head out the window and shouted to the actress, “If you stop, you won’t regret it!” What did the young actress do? She stopped. She admitted that it was ‘so stupid, so dumb, the worst slasher-flick line ever’.
Most people would agree, but look at where she is now. If she hadn’t stopped, she likely never would have become the successful actress she is now. Doukas handed her a card and then drove away, telling her never to stop again.
Anya’s Big Break
After just three shoots, the actress got her first big break. On a shoot for LOVE magazine with the cast of Downton Abbey, she told Allen Leech, who you may know as Tom Branson from the show, that she wanted to be an actor. He told her to leave her name and number and expect a call.
She landed an audition for The Witch, and as you know, she got the part. She said that she was terrified the first time she saw herself on-screen at a 2015 film festival.
After that, the roles came hard and fast. Before she knew it, she was playing the fictional Charlotte, Obama’s girlfriend in Barry, doing fight scenes in Morgan with Kate Mara, and thrilling audiences as Casey in Split. She told Evening Standard that she and McAvoy pranked each other often.
More recently, Taylor-Joy starred as the titular character in the 2020 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, which was written in 1815. It’s been adapted before, but never like this, and Anya’s portrayal may just be the best one yet.
Her bright-eyed Emma is always on the brink of a scheme, smile, or scowl, and the actress is the ingredient that holds Emma’s personality together.
While you might not like Emma, thanks to Anya, you’re going to understand her.
Watching the actress orchestrate the flow of Emma’s charms and flaws with masterful precision will allow you to grasp every aspect of the matchmaker’s personality, and you’ll be glued to your screen the whole time.
When it comes to Anya Taylor-Joy, we are all witnessing the start of what will likely be a booming career. This actress is definitely one we should all keep an eye on.