Anya Josephine Marie Taylor-Joy is an English-Argentine actress born in Miami in 1996. The youngest of six children, she is the daughter of an African-Spanish-English mother and a Scottish-Argentinian father. Anya has lived her whole life between Argentina and England. Spanish was her first language but she has yet to act in Spanish. Robert Eggers realized her dream of becoming an actress casting her in The Witch. The movie turned her into a critic’s darling and launched her career in movies like Split, Glass and now the upcoming Emma, based on the classic Jane Austen novel.
What does it mean for you to act in a classic like Emma?
I read the novel for the first time when I was 11. I am a real literary nerd and such a fan of the author! Jane Austen herself said that she had written a character that she wasn’t sure anybody would like but herself. And I thought that is really interesting and I want to make sure that I do justice to the Emma that she wanted to create.
Did you check out the previous screen adaptations of Emma?
I hadn’t watched any of the adaptations apart from Clueless. And Clueless felt far enough away from what I was doing. I didn’t watch the others because I thought it would freak me out too much. I wanted to make sure that I was doing something that was based on mine and Autumn (de Wilde)’s instincts and not that I was mimicking anybody.
What is a Latina doing in such a British role?
Well, it’s funny, because I definitely felt during rehearsals, on my first day, I felt the pressure a little bit because I have really big talent crushes on all of the people in this cast and so many of them are so British and I felt like a multi-cultural cocktail. I hope and think I am going to do justice to this, but I think it was quite funny because the one thing that really came through is Autumn would constantly tell me, her one note was just, you are moving your hips too much. Put away the Latin sass and make it more ruler-straight.
Since your debut in The Witch, your career has been non-stop. You have been described as one of the most promising new stars. Is that intimidating?
Each character is such a gift! I have played 22 characters so far and each one has been so individual and has had such a different way of arriving. There’s a moment where everything clicks and just suddenly you are that person. But I couldn’t say that one is more rewarding or more taxing cause I put all of myself into each one of them. And even though Emma is not screaming or running for her life like The Witch or Split, she has her own stakes that are very, very high.
By the end of the year, you’ll get to near 30 characters as you have seven more projects announced.
Yeah exactly, they are all so rewarding and I love them all so much. I am honestly just really grateful because people like to put people in boxes and I have always said I want to be on top of that box because my job is to be a chameleon and my job is to shapeshift and transform.
What can you tell us about The New Mutants?
I haven’t seen the film yet so I am very curious. But I just loved Ilyana, I thought she was so wild and I had so much fun doing it. You really get the opportunity to have fun with the characters. But yeah it has been crazy. Each of my characters has been a crazy ride and hopefully, everybody will enjoy going to all those different worlds with me.
You’ll be working again with Robert Eggers in The Northman. Have you been able to keep in touch with him since you became his muse in The Witch?
I hold such a special relationship because Robert and I are creative soul mates in a way that I don’t think comes along very often. We really understand each other and we have this weird thing where we just egg each other on and it’s like he will suggest something and then I will make it even bigger and he will make it even bigger. And what is wonderful is his wife, who is one of my best friends and has been since we first met, and so she kind of mediates it and sits in the middle and says you both need to calm down like this is crazy and this is too much and we will just keep egging it on for eternity. Nobody in the world can relate to the journey that I have been on more than Robert and vice versa.
When will you start your career in Spanish?
I have always wanted to work with is Guillermo Del Toro. I feel his relationship with the supernatural is very much like mine. He understands my brain and my heart very well. So I would love to work with him. But honestly, I haven’t had much time to figure it out. I am just waiting for the right project. It needs to be something special because it’s a very special part of my life, it’s a very special part of my soul. Spanish is my first language. But while I am very good at accents in English because I mimic a lot, in Spanish I have a very thick Argentine accent. So I wonder how difficult it would be when I will speak Spanish. But I am up for the challenge.