Skip to main content

Anya Taylor-Joy

When I really bled for the role

Taylor-Joy in Emma. Focus Features/Shutterstock

Anya Taylor-Joy doesn’t stare into mirrors much. “Not because I’m running away from myself,” she tells Hermione Hoby in Vanity Fair, but because her mother raised her not to think much of appearances. Her sudden fame after starring in The Queen’s Gambit might force her to reconsider. Jet-lagged after a recent flight to Los Angeles, she took a dazed, insomniac walk around the city at 4am. Coming face-to-face with her own likeness on a billboard, she thought she was hallucinating.

We’ll all be seeing her on billboards in the months to come – she’s starring in the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel Furiosa, an adaption of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Laughter in the Dark and an as-yet-untitled David O Russell film that will also feature Robert De Niro, Margot Robbie and Christian Bale.

Taylor-Joy’s distinctive face meant she was picked on as a child. Her eyes, strikingly large now, were proportionally even bigger then: “I was waiting for my head to grow a bit.” At 14 she went to New York for a directing course, impulsively dyeing her hair pink in a Mexican restaurant’s bathroom. Two weeks later she wrote an essay to her parents explaining why she was quitting high school to become an actress.

And acted she has, inhabiting her roles so deeply, she has nearly lost herself. In 2019 she realised she could walk into an art gallery and know exactly which pieces would be her characters’ favourites, and why. “But I had no idea what I liked,” she says. In last year’s Emma, one scene called for a nosebleed. To the alarm of her director, Taylor-Joy summoned up real blood. She bats it away with a joke: “I really bled for the role, people!”