The Untold Truth Of Anya Taylor-Joy

Anya Taylor-Joy was just 16 when she began modeling, making a segue into acting soon after. Despite minimal on-camera experience, she was just 18 when she landed the lead role in 2015's The Witch. Since then, she's become one of the busiest young actors in Hollywood. Following high-profile roles in MorganThoroughbredsEmma., and others, she won even further acclaim following her performance in Netflix drama series The Queen's Gambit, where she plays a troubled chess prodigy with a penchant for substance abuse.

Her path to movie stardom was hardly typical. "I always wanted to be an actor and I dropped out of school when I was 16," she said in an interview with Marie Claire. During a photoshoot, she met Downton Abbey star Alan Leech, who put her in touch with his agent. Convinced the model had a future onscreen, Leech pushed hard to ensure his agent signed Taylor-Joy as a client. "I remember seeing him at the London Film Festival Awards and saying to him, 'You did this for me. This is you,'" she recalled.  

There's so much to discover about this multitalented star, so keep on reading to learn the untold truth of Anya Taylor-Joy. 

Why Anya Taylor-Joy was reluctant to learn English

Anya Taylor-Joy was born in Miami, but grew up in Argentina before moving to London. As she explained during an interview with Live with Kelly and Ryan, her family relocated from Argentina to London when she was six, "and then I only learned English when I was eight." She told Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest that she was reluctant to learn the language because, as she put it, "I was convinced if I couldn't speak the language in England then I would have to go home." Obviously, that misguided plan didn't pan out. "I had no friends, so I needed to learn the language pretty quickly."

Speaking with Harper's Bazaar, Taylor-Joy admitted that living in all those far-flung places left her feeling that she "never belonged" no matter where she was. She continued, "In Argentina, I was the English girl. In England I was 'so exotic' because I came from Argentina. In America, I'm the English-Argentine girl. I didn't feel like I fit in anywhere and I was desperate to find a place where I belonged."

How an unwise move led to Anya Taylor-Joy's discovery

Anya Taylor-Joy's entry into the world of modeling and acting, as The Late Late Show's James Corden pointed out, was "like how people get discovered in a movie." Recounting the story during an appearance on the show, she prefaced the anecdote by admitting her "actions were very stupid" and does not recommend others follow suit.

According to Taylor-Joy, she was 16 and wearing a pair of her mother's high heels as a way of "practicing" for an upcoming party while walking the family dog. As she walked, she sensed a car seemed to be following her, but convinced herself she "watched too much 24" and it was just her imagination. Eventually, however, she realized she wasn't being paranoid and the car was indeed following her. Now panicked, she picked up the dog and starting to run. "And then this guy sticks his head out the window and he goes, 'If you stop you won't regret it.' And I stopped."

The driver of the car "was the head of a modeling agency," she explained, and "told me to come into the modeling agency the next day with my parents." 

The reason Anya Taylor-Joy is 'obsessed' with perfume

Given that Anya Taylor-Joy is the face of Viktor & Rolf's fragrance Flowerbomb Midnight, it shouldn't be surprising that the actor admitted to Vanity Fair that she's "always been obsessed with scent." And there's a reason for it. As she explained, her "really terrible eyesight" has made her "sense of smell... very acute."

That likely explains why she uses different fragrances to help her get in character for her roles. When playing the artificially created human in Morgan, "it was cotton and dirt. I really liked the idea of having dirt under my fingernails because she's not really allowed outside, and I think that smell was something that she desperately wanted," she explained. "And for Lily [in Thoroughbreds], I think she smells a bit astringent, like alcohol. Sometimes I would dab a little bit of vodka on my wrists." 

Scent, she told Harper's Bazaar, is something that connects with her on a very basic level. "It's pretty cool that all human beings have their own smell and all fragrances will smell differently on people, so I think that discovering that is something that I'm interested in," she added.

How Anya Taylor-Joy copes with stress and anxiety

Just because Anya Taylor-Joy is a famous actor doesn't mean she isn't occasionally plagued by anxiety. When it hits, she revealed in a wide-ranging interview with Elle, she's developed some very specific strategies to help her cope.

One of these is looking at herself in the mirror and "giving myself a pep talk." She'll tell her reflection, "'You need to get out and do this now.' I've suffered from anxiety, so it's important to tell myself I'm doing my best." Another way she deals with anxiety is by indulging her love of candles. "I was on the verge of an anxiety attack, and I ran in to Diptyque and bought some ridiculously expensive candles," she divulged. "It's the most absurd thing I've done."

She also revealed how she handles stressful situations: by putting things in perspective. When overcome with stress, she responds by "taking a step back and saying: 'No one is dying. You're not a surgeon. Everything will be fine.'"

The Witch was right up Anya Taylor-Joy's alley

Anya Taylor-Joy's first major acting role came in 2015 horror flick The Witch. As she told Crash, she landed the role of the titular witch after one of her first auditions. "Looking back on it, I was an 18-year-old girl going off to Canada by myself, into the wilderness with a whole bunch of strangers to film a really dark movie," she mused. "It's an interesting thought process that I did not question any of it. I was not scared at all."

Meanwhile, she didn't have to dig too deep to get in touch with her own inner witch. "I'm such a big believer in cosmic destiny and putting one foot in front of the other, and my feet led me to that film," she told Vanity Fair. Elaborating in an interview with People, she shared that she has "always believed in magic." 

"I used to run into the woods as a little kid looking for witches," she continued. "But I'm not superstitious because I'm not afraid of it. I see it as something really beautiful, and I wouldn't want to live in a world without magic." 

How Anya Taylor-Joy prepared to tackle her role in Emma.

Anya Taylor-Joy followed up her acclaimed performance in The Witch with a flurry of eclectic acting roles, including the TV movie Viking Quest, British fantasy series Atlantis, sci-fi film Morgan, M. Night Shyamalan's thriller Split and its sequel Glass, and period crime drama Peaky Blinders

After all those dark dramas, Taylor-Joy finally got to show fans her funny side in Emma., a quirky adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel. Delving into the world of comedy, she admitted in an interview with Vox, was something of an experiment for her. "It was my first time doing proper comedy," she admitted. "So if you like the comic timing, I guess I'm really glad it worked out because I was just giving it a good go."

Which is not to say there wasn't plenty of preparation involved. According to Taylor-Joy, Emma. director Autumn de Wilde instructed the cast to view the 1938 screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby in order to get the tone she was going for. "[Watching Bringing Up Baby] was really important for us to be able to understand the level of slapstick that Autumn wanted in our film," Taylor-Joy said. "And I think that made us very liberated in our choices, especially in our physical ones." Not a bad homework assignment, eh?

Anya Taylor-Joy knew 'basically nothing' about chess

In October 2020, Netflix debuted The Queen's Gambit, the story of Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), a young woman raised in a Kentucky orphanage who goes on to become an international phenomenon in the world of chess. 

Prior to taking the role, Taylor-Joy admitted in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she "knew basically nothing" about chess, and worked with a famed chess instructor to show her the ropes. "It was important to me to understand the theory of chess," she explained. "I didn't think I could, in any good conscience, show up and not know what I was talking about." Of course, chess isn't exactly a game one can master overnight; as Taylor-Joy said, "I couldn't hold all of those sequences in my head without going insane." Instead, she took it piece by piece. "So I would learn the matches five minutes prior, and I kind of saw it as dance choreography for my fingers," she explained.

Surrounded by top chess players, she told NPR that having some great chess experts on the set made her feel like the chess part of the show was in good hands. "These people care so much about us getting it right," she said. "They're not going to let me mess this up for them. They're going to want to help me make chess shine, essentially." It seems like a pawn-sitive experience. 

Crying onscreen is a 'bugbear' for Anya Taylor-Joy

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Emma Taylor-Joy was praised for her mastery of "single-tear crying." In response, she admitted that crying onscreen "is a bugbear for me." She went on to say that it's important to her that all of her characters have their own way of crying. "People cry differently, and I want each of my characters to be their own standalone person," she said.

As she revealed to Harper's Bazaar, "Each character requires a different way of getting into them." During her first few movies, she admitted, "I gave myself a really hard time, because I was like, 'I'm a terrible actor. I'm not making notes in my script. I'm not re-reading it over and over and over again.'"

However, she's come to accept her "instinctual" way of approaching roles. "Now I've sort of decided, 'OK, this is just how I act; I spend time in their heads and I allow myself to sit in my room as them," she explained. "Like, how would they look at the world?' I look at that lamp and I think, 'Oh it's cream.' What does Casey [from Split] think? Does she look at it and think, 'That's connected to the wall?' That's how her brain works." Evidently, Taylor-Joy gets lamped, er, amped to roll up her sleeves and dig into what makes a character tick.

Stunt work really speaks to Anya Taylor-Joy

Anya Taylor-Joy entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe when she joined the ensemble cast of The New Mutants, set in the world of The X-Men. Working on her first-ever superhero movie, she revealed in an interview with Gulf Today, left her with an admiration for movie stunt people — and a hankering to try doing her own stunts more often. 

"I have loved the action so much and I love my sword and I love stunts," she declared, insisting that "for the next movie, I want to do all my own stunts completely." As she explained, her propensity to disappear into her characters definitely came in hand while playing Illyana, admitting that "it's interesting what happens to you when they yell action and you are in character." She mentioned that could suppress her own fear of heights when playing a character who's unfazed by heights because, as she put it, "I am so focused that I have to make it real in my mind. I have to forget the wires and forget everything and just sort of do it." Well, if all of that doesn't sound like real-deal X-Men powers.

Anya Taylor-Joy's dream role would feature lots of dancing

Before she was discovered and became a model, Anya Taylor-Joy studied ballet. "I danced ballet really hard core for a very long time," she told Interview magazine.

She admitted she missed having dance as a part of her life, which she characterized in an interview with Elle as basically "waking up at 4 a.m. and going straight to work." However, she added, "I want to get back into ballet and hip-hop dance classes. They help me to focus on one moment clearly."

In fact, she came up with a clever idea to integrate dance into her life via her work. "I'd also love to do a movie that incorporates dancing," she told Harper's Bazaar. "I miss dancing very much, but also Morgan really awoke in me the necessity to be physical in something." For the 2016 sci-fi horror flick, Taylor-Joy did her own stunts, and it sounds like she enjoyed the work. "Just the training for that and the ability to have that as a preparation source for your body — you kind of step into the stance and into the fighter mentality, and that was my way into the character," she said.

Anya Taylor-Joy likes to be 'dramatic' on the red carpet

Along with the acclaim that Anya Taylor-Joy received for her acting, she's also been widely praised for her bold, distinctive fashion choices on the red carpet, such as the vintage Bob Mackie wedding gown that she wore for the Los Angeles premiere of Emma

"What I love most about red-carpet style is that I love magic and fairytales and drama and being extra. If you're not going to have fun on the carpet, when are you?" she explained in an interview with Vogue UK. "It's such a good opportunity to be a bit dramatic. I'm an actress, I like dramatic things!"

According to Taylor-Joy, she'll typically start with a dress and use that as the basis on which to build an entire look. "The red-carpet experience itself is a sensory overload," she explained, noting she'd come to realize that learning how to pose for photographers and speak with reporters at film premieres is a separate job unto itself. "At the beginning I was terrified because I didn't realize yet that it's also a performance," she said of the red carpet. Life is a carpet-ret, old chum.

Trolls have made fun of Anya Taylor-Joy's eyes

In addition to her creative red-carpet looks, Anya Taylor-Joy is also known for her distinctive wide-set eyes. While her eyes are arguably the primary feature that sets her apart from other actors, she told W Magazine that she was once bullied on social media because of them. "I can definitely remember when Facebook was a thing and I was never aware that my eyes were far apart and then someone tagged me in a picture with a fish and they were like, 'This is you 'cause your eyes are like here,'" she recalled. She went on to share that she "kind of stopped looking in mirrors for a very long time" following the hurtful remark. "I still don't really spend a lot of time in front of mirrors because I don't really have to deal with my face," she said. "Unfortunately, y'all do."

Another detail about Taylor-Joy's eyes? According to the actor, her vision isn't exactly 20/20. "I've got really bad eyesight so I can't see my reflection in car windows or anything," she shared in an interview with Marie Claire

Why Anya Taylor-Joy refuses to accept 'girlfriend' roles

In just a few short years, Anya Taylor-Joy has delivered some amazing — and amazingly varied — performances in numerous films and TV series. Yet to hear her tell it, she should be just as celebrated for the roles she's turned down as the ones she's played. 

As Taylor-Joy told The Guardian, she refuses to accept the traditional Hollywood "girlfriend" role, whose sole function in a movie is to serve as love interest for the male protagonist. "I've been very lucky, actually, in terms of the team that I have around me, who have filtered out most of those roles," she said. "Most of the women not only that I've been lucky enough to play but that I've read are quite complex, messy, interesting human beings — but then again I shouldn't be the anomaly here, I should be the norm." She went on to share that when she has been offered the role of "a girlfriend," she will "[send] it back being like 'Eh? Why?'" 

That said, she is "excited for this era of women that we are stepping into right now." As Taylor-Joy put it, it's a moment "where people understand that everyone's a person and they've all got a lot more going on underneath the surface than you might originally think." Checkmate.