How do you know when a young actor’s career is headed for the stratosphere? It’s a rare combination of charisma, talent, savvy, and simply having the right look at the right time.
From their earliest roles, rising movie stars and frequent collaborators Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet were clearly something special. Zendaya? She’ll (hopefully) be around for a long time as she takes on bigger and more challenging projects after becoming the youngest woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama series.
But today, we’re here to talk about Anya Taylor-Joy. From an uncredited–and later deleted–walk-on part in Vampire Academy in 2014 to headlining major films in 2020 is a heck of a trajectory.
Who Is Anya Taylor-Joy?
Even if you’re not familiar with her name yet, you’ve seen her cartoonishly large eyes gazing out at you above a chessboard in promotional images for The Queen’s Gambit. That series, a coming-of-age chronicle of a troubled chess prodigy in the 1960s, is well worth your time.
She was born in Miami in 1996 but grew up in Argentina, speaking only Spanish until she was eight years old. Her parents are British-Spanish on her mother’s side and Scottish-Argentine on her father’s side. The family moved from Buenos Aires to London when she was a kid, where the Harry Potter movies convinced her to finally start learning English.
Taylor-Joy’s family then split their time between New York and London, which might explain her hard-to-place natural accent and her flexibility with playing characters from both the UK and the US. She started modeling as a teenager and soon caught the attention of casting agents with her elfin looks and precocious talent.
Breakout Role in ‘The Witch’
Robert Eggers’ 2015 historical horror film The Witch became an immediate classic. Taylor-Joy plays Thomasin, a young woman living in a puritanical household in the 1630s. It’s a bloody, disturbing film that–if I’m being honest–did the same artful twist on horror-as-empowerment as Misommar but first and better.
Unfortunately, horror isn’t taken as seriously as drama in the film world. While Anya Taylor-Joy earned multiple awards for her breakout role, it would take her a little longer to land more mainstream roles. She garnered attention for her work in Split, her biggest film to date, but bigger things are still to come.
How to Be an Anya Stan
By the time Taylor-Joy roars onto the scene as a young Furiosa in the prequel to Mad Max: Thunder Road, I predict she’ll be a household name. Until then, here are a few roles you won’t want to miss.
I first saw Taylor-Joy in Marrowbone, another spooky, period horror film that’s cut from the same cloth as The Others. It’s a strange film that, despite the outstanding cast, never quite lived up to its potential. Taylor-Joy shines as the empathetic librarian in a small, coastal town.
The same year, she also starred in a modern-day dark comedy called Thoroughbreds. If you liked The Heathers, then you’ll love this. It mostly earned recognition for being the last film of Anton Yelchin, who was killed in an accident in 2016.
Her sparkling, arch performance as Emma–opposite her Marrowbone costar Mia Goth–marked her first lead role. Jane Austen adaptations do not blockbusters make, but to those of us who love the world of Regency England, Taylor-Joy’s Emma ranks quite highly.
Where Is She Headed Next?
Anya Taylor-Joy’s range and versatility ensure that, like Saorise Ronan, she can play a wide range of characters across any era. If The New Mutants ever makes it to our screens, you’ll get to see her as a magic-wielding superhero. (Incidentally, costar Charlie Heaton of Stranger Things fame also worked with Taylor-Joy on Marrowbone.)
She’s also set to play Furiosa, the role originated by Charlize Theron. George Miller’s decision to make a prequel and to cast a much younger actress has drawn criticism, including from Theron herself. We’ll have to wait and see if that criticism translates into a lackluster box office for Taylor-Joy’s first big-budget starring role.
Also in her future is another film with Robert Eggers, a Viking saga set in the 10th century called The Northman. She’s signed on to star in Kristin Scott Thomas’s directorial debut, The Sea Change. And finally, Taylor-Joy will play the title role of Weetzie Bat in the adaptation of Francesca Lia Block’s celebrated magical realism novel set in 1980s Los Angeles. Depending on how the film turns out–and how it’s marketed–Weetzie Bat has the potential to be Taylor-Joy’s Lady Bird.