Swaying in a pistachio-green embroidered Dior gown, her hair sprayed egg-yolk yellow, and her dark eyes flashing, the actress Anya Taylor-Joy brings to mind a punk version of Hamlet’s Ophelia—just before her tragic watery end.
“Bella! Divina!” cheers the photographer Paolo Roversi, as Taylor-Joy’s ethereal image appears on the digital screen. The gown, from Maria Grazia Chiuri’s debut couture collection for the French house, is one of many that the 20-year-old will don over the course of the next few hours, slipping effortlessly in and out of them, much the way she does the characters she embodies.
“This is playtime,” she says as she glides among the racks in between shots. “I can morph from one person to another really quickly. I have to think about what I can convey in a single picture.”
Taylor-Joy studied ballet but had no formal drama training; with her taut physique and unconventional beauty, she exudes the magnetic power of a silent movie star. “Look at those eyes!” exclaims Roversi moments later, as Taylor-Joy does her best Marilyn Monroe, singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” while posing in a Chanel silver-sequined column topped with a cloud of tulle. “I love how ambiguous they are.”
Taylor-Joy’s otherworldliness is especially beguiling onscreen. In 2015’s The Witch, she played a tormented teenager in 17th-century New England whose family is torn apart after one of her brothers disappears. She followed that up with Morgan, appearing as a mesmerizingly violent cyborg struggling to come to terms with her human side. And in Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s disturbing thriller about a girl abducted by a man with multiple personalities, Taylor-Joy conveyed with simmering intensity not just the terror of being held captive but also the strength of mind needed to escape.
“Casey taught me to value being quiet,” she says of her character in the film. “A lot of the acting was based on stage direction rather than dialogue, so I really discovered how much I could communicate with my face.” Casey, she adds, “is an outsider with a deep internal wall. She stores information.”
Anya Taylor-Joy Is a Real Scaredy-Cat, Especially When It Comes to Revolving Doors
Anya Taylor-Joy Is a Real Scaredy-Cat, Especially When It Comes to Revolving Doors
Up next is Thoroughbred, playwright Cory Finley’s first feature film, which premiered to great acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Taylor-Joy is Lily, a girl of much privilege and few morals who teams up with a friend to lure an outcast into killing her stepfather. “Lily is a toxic character, but more by nurture than nature—she has been warped that way,” says Taylor-Joy, almost apologetically, as she wraps herself in a white terrycloth robe and tucks into her lunch of salad and focaccia. “The biggest challenge is playing an awful human being and keeping the audience on your side despite that.”
Finley was impressed by Taylor-Joy’s maturity. “With Thoroughbred, we were trying to walk a very narrow tonal line, and to make a film that was both an honest portrait of two characters and a satirical black comedy,” he says. “So much of the film rides on Anya’s role. She had to be sympathetic and frightening, sometimes at the same time. The role was physically and emotionally demanding, and she was able to go to dark places but to snap out of them quickly.”
One easily senses how deeply Taylor-Joy is able to delve into the psyches of the emotionally complex women she has taken on in her short career. “She’s pure and open internally, and that’s why she’s riveting,” says Shyamalan. “The thing she wants to do more than anything is protect her characters. Filming Split, I would say, ‘You have to defend Casey more,’ and she would tear up.” Taylor-Joy describes herself as “very porous” to the personalities of other people, both real and fictional, and recalls how, as a child, she was just as happy hanging out with her real friends as with imaginary ones. “I would go off into the woods and play out seven different characters. I think I was purging emotions, and by putting them into a story, I felt lighter. I do feel things so intensely.” Off camera, though, Taylor-Joy is upbeat and effervescent; she can go from a posh English accent to Eliza Doolittle cockney to a Valley girl drawl in seconds.
The youngest of six siblings, Taylor-Joy had a peripatetic upbringing—her Argentinean-Scottish father was a powerboat racer, and her English-Spanish mother worked in photography and design. She was born in Miami and spent her early childhood in Buenos Aires; the family moved to London when she was 6. Nowadays, she shuttles between London and New York, and says that the itinerant life has always suited her just fine. “My mother has a video of me at age 7 declaring, ‘I’m going to be an actor,’ ” Taylor-Joy says with a smile. “She asks me, ‘Are you going to drama school?’ and I reply that I’m going to be in the right place at the right time. Thank God it happened.”
Anya Taylor-Joy is a Goddess in Haute Couture
Anya Taylor-Joy wears a Giambattista Valli Haute Couture gown.
Valentino Haute Couture gown; Messika Paris earrings and ring.
Armani Privé cape and dress; Tia Mazza veil. Beauty note: Prep for a plunging neckline with Chantecaille Rose de Mai Body Oil.
Chanel Haute Couture dress and feather bolero; Chanel Fine Jewelry earrings; Fabergé ring.
Dior Haute Couture dress.
Givenchy Haute Couture dress; Giampiero Bodino earrings.
Atelier Versace dress and sandals; Messika Paris earrings and bracelets; Boucheron ring.
Elie Saab Haute Couture gown; Buccellati earrings.
Ulyana Sergeenko coat and dress; Buccellati earrings. Beauty note: Dress eyes with Givenchy Liner Vinyl in Black Blue Ink.
Cadolle briefs; Tia Mazza tulle and veil; (from left) Philip Treacy London flower headpiece; Ellen Christine Couture flower headpiece; Philip Treacy London hat; Bijou Van Ness feather comb; Patricia Underwood plume; Bulgari ring; Tiffany & Co. bracelet.
Maison Margiela Artisanal Designed by John Galliano gown, headpiece, and boots.
Maison Margiela Artisanal Designed by John Galliano coat, hat, and boots.
Indeed, she was hanging out in Central London when Sarah Doukas (who discovered, among others, Kate Moss) spotted her and promptly signed her to her modeling agency, Storm. Taylor-Joy dropped out of school at age 16 and, while on a photo shoot, met the Irish actor Allen Leech (aka Tom Branson, the chauffeur on Downton Abbey); after hearing her deliver an impromptu reading from the Seamus Heaney book she was carrying, Leech introduced her to his agent. Within four years, she was nominated for a BAFTA Rising Star Award, the British equivalent of the Oscars, and named Breakthrough Actor at the Gotham Independent Film Awards.
Back at the W shoot, three assistants are holding Taylor-Joy aloft as she slowly disappears into a frothy sea of Giambattista Valli lime-green silk tulle. Suddenly, she stiffens her upper body and assumes a slightly mad, intoxicated expression. The entire studio is transfixed. “I go into a meditative state in front the camera, and I feel I’m speaking to it,” she explains later. “That might sound strange. I’m always surprised by how many close-ups there are of me after filming. I’m not aware of the lens.”
I venture that it’s clear she knows a thing or two about the transformative power of clothes. “Growing up, I was a real tomboy, and I was not aware of fashion,” Taylor-Joy says. “I wore my brothers’ clothes and whatever my mom bought me. I rarely looked in the mirror.” Modeling, and acting, changed all that. “When I had my first fitting, it frightened me because I felt so unlike me. I didn’t know how to wrap myself around the idea of looking beautiful. Now, I relish the idea of getting dressed up.” She pauses, recalling a certain featherlight Valentino chiffon confection that she had slipped out of moments before. “Wearing an incandescent dress feels peaceful, like magic,” she says, before adding, unnecessarily, “I’ve always loved make-believe.”
Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams and More Are the Best Performances of the Year
Stone wears Chloé tunic; Wolford leggings; her own rings. Beauty: Covergirl. Affleck wears Louis Vuitton jacket and shirt.
Portman wears Dior dress; Mish New York earrings. Beauty: Dior. Negga wears Carolina Herrera dress; Lalaounis earrings. Beauty: Laura Mercier.
Adams wears Prada shirt; Djula earrings. Beauty: Giorgio Armani. McConaughey wears Burberry shirt.
Driver wears AG T-shirt. Mortensen wears Alternative Apparel henley.
Williams wears Louis Vuitton dress and bodysuit. Beauty: Nars. Edgerton wears Burberry T-shirt; Rolex watch.
Kidman wears Chanel dress; Tiffany & Co. earrings. Beauty: Chanel. Ali wears Simon Miller T-shirt.
La La Land
“My real name is Emily Stone, but when I started acting, that name was already taken by another actress, so I had to come up with a different one. For a 16-year-old, picking a new name is an interesting prospect, and back then I said, ‘I’m now going to be Riley Stone!’ So, for about six months I was called Riley. I landed a guest spot on Malcolm in the Middle, and one day they were calling, ‘Riley! Riley! Riley! We need you on set, Riley!’ and I had no idea who they were talking to. At that moment, I realized that I just couldn’t be Riley. So I became Emma. But I miss Emily. I would love to get her back.”
Sonia Rykiel sweater; Commando briefs.
“I was attracted to Gold because it reminded me of my dad. He loved shady deals. He’d much rather do a shady deal with fun people than a good deal with a bunch of straight-asses. He invested in diamond mines in Ecuador, and there were no fucking diamonds there. It was a scam, but he loved that. That’s the spirit of my character, Kenny Wells. There’s a little poem we have in the movie—‘Bird With No Feet Sleeps in the Wind.’ And that’s it: If Kenny, or my dad, gets the money or not, does it really matter? Would he change? No. Not that guy. These are people who are going to con, finagle, and boot-scoot their way in the side door. They never had the front-door entrance to the American Dream.”
AG jacket; Current/Elliott T-shirt; Levi’s jeans; John Hardy bracelet (right); Ann Demeulemeester boots.
Arrival and Nocturnal Animals
“Tom Ford became my muse on Nocturnal Animals. My character, Susan, was very personal to Tom, and so I based my interpretation on him. Tom would ask on set, ‘Why is Amy using her hands like that?’ And I said, ‘I’m copying you, Tom!’ I used him. I used him up.”
Gucci shirt; Djula earrings.
“Playing Jackie Kennedy is scary. I was nervous at first, and I started by doing a lot of research. The biographies on her are all a little bit trashy, but the transcripts of her interviews with the historian Arthur Schlesinger were really helpful. He taped everything, and you can hear Jackie’s voice. Her intellect and her wit and what she’s bitter about are immediately apparent. At the same time, I was going to costume fittings and makeup tests. When I put on the Jackie wig, the physical and emotional sides came together. The hair itself is so iconic that once you have it right, you can start to see Jackie. I don’t really look like her, but I felt like I was in her skin.”
Paterson and Silence
“Silence is the story of two Jesuit priests on a journey from Macao to Japan in search of their mentor, a priest who may have renounced his faith. When Martin Scorsese asked me to come to his house to talk about the movie, I already knew that for 28 years it had been his passion project. We talked about Silence, but when Scorsese starts a sentence, ‘When we were shooting Raging Bull…’ you can’t help but say, ‘Yeah, okay, tell me everything.’ So we talked for a long time, and finally he asked me if I would be willing to lose weight for the role. It made sense: How can you play a 17th-century persecuted priest while eating great meals? So I lost around 51 pounds. The weight loss was only bad in that, you know, I’d try to figure out how to play a scene and I had no ideas, because I was so damn hungry. Then I’d have a scoop of peanut butter and suddenly everything turned on!”
Dior Homme jacket; Rag & Bone Standard Issue T-shirt and jeans; Rolex watch. On model: Wolford stockings.
Hell or High Water
What was your first audition? My parents were both actors. I had just graduated from college, and my father had gone in for an audition for Gilmore Girls. He told the casting directors, “My son is back in town. Will you have him in for a reading?” So it was nepotism at its best. I can’t remember the role—maybe a boyfriend to someone? I got my start playing boyfriends, husbands-to-be, and princes.
In Hell or High Water you play a kind of modern Western antihero. You don’t speak much. When I read the script, the image that came to mind was of a man on a porch squinting through harsh sunlight into the distance, but not talking. I have a lot of similar memories of my father, where we are sitting next to each other and not saying much. Westerns have a stoic silence I’ve always appreciated. These days, we have so many distractions. I have minor ADD, so if anything grabs me and keeps me from petting my dog or collaging or just daydreaming, I immediately pay attention.
Brunello Cucinelli sweater; Sandro trousers; Loewe shoes.
Michael Kors henley. Model wears Araks robe; Stella McCartney Lingerie bra; Fifi Chachnil briefs; Falke stockings; Gianvito Rossi shoes.
“When I auditioned for the part of Mildred Loving, I had to sort of disappear into her character. Usually, I don’t create a costume for an audition, but this time I wore a summer dress. I knew that coming in the door looking like this woman would have an impact. A year later, I learned I got the part. At the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, I walked up the steps of the Palais in full makeup, and I walked down the steps with mascara dripping. It was such an emotional experience. All I could think was that I needed to blow my nose before it dripped all over my frock.”
Prada top and skirt; Fabiana Filippi top (underneath).
“I’m a pretty good actress. You could say that, right? Well, to play Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who figured out a way to get NASA astronauts into space, I had to be believable as a math expert—and I failed math in college. Precalculus looked like Chinese to me. Even with two tutors, I still failed. So God has an incredible sense of humor, because now I am playing a mathematician! Even on set, they would have a professor there to try and teach me. I said, ‘Show me what I have to write and I’ll memorize it, because I’m not gonna get it.’ Take that, math! I won: I became an actress.”
Monse shirt; La Perla bra; Forevermark by Natalie K earrings; Jimmy Choo shoes.
Rules Don’t Apply
“I never knew Howard Hughes, so I’m able to take liberties, to allow my imagination to go to work. I like to quote Henry Ford, who said, ‘History is bunk.’ I like to quote Winston Churchill, who said, ‘History will be kind to me, because I intend to write it myself.’ And, in Rules Don’t Apply, I quote Mr. Hughes himself. He said, ‘Never check an interesting fact.’ ”
Jeffrey Rüdes sweater.
Manchester by the Sea
“I used to love movies that made me cry, and now all movies seem to make me cry. I don’t like that so much. I have my own things to cry about. I remember being young and sitting on the floor in my father’s apartment watching The Elephant Man on his black and white TV. When the Elephant Man did his speech—‘I am not an animal’—I started sobbing. That’s a tearjerker. That film made a superstrong impression on me. It set a certain standard in my mind of what was possible.”
Louis Vuitton pants; Falke socks. On model: Alexander Wang sweater.
A Monster Calls and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
“Recently, I seem to be doing a lot of dying onscreen. Lizzie, my character in A Monster Calls, has cancer, and I became obsessed with the way someone’s voice changes as their body deteriorates, and how they change the way they hold their body. Cancer patients would tell me things like, ‘You become obsessed with painting your nails, because your body is out of control.’ It became harder and harder to play Lizzie. I don’t think I’m going to die anymore.”
Giorgio Armani dress; Djula earrings; Tacori ring.
Allied, It’s Only the End of the World, and Assassin’s Creed
“It might sound weird, but I always cry at the end of Step Brothers. I’ve seen the movie 10 times, and it still touches me at the end, when Will Ferrell sings. You don’t expect to cry watching that type of comedy, but I always do.”
Burberry trenchcoat; Loro Piana sweater; Chopard earrings.
Hell or High Water
“I remember doing an interview years ago and being asked if I was one of those actors who takes the part home with me. I answered, ‘No. Not really.’ My wife happened to be in the room, and she started to laugh. Apparently, I had been playing a terrible person—a killer or someone who buries people alive or something—and she definitely noticed. I wasn’t fun to live with.”
Boss coat; A.P.C. jeans; the Frye Company boots.
“When I was cast in Slumdog Millionaire I was 17. At our first major screening, I walked the red carpet in my school shoes and a terrible suit I found on the high street, in London, with my mum. My costar, Freida Pinto, was very beautiful, very glamorous, and they said, ‘We can’t have this kid walking the red carpet with her! He’s spoiling the whole picture!’ So they gave me a new suit and fixed me up. It was a bit like Pretty Woman.”
Hermès sweater; Frame Denim jeans.
The Edge of Seventeen
Where was your first kiss? My first kiss was actually onscreen. I was in a graduate-thesis film called She’s a Fox, and I had to kiss two guys in it. I think I was 12. I was very nervous. One of the guys was shorter than me, and he had to stand on an apple box… Awkward! He told me, “I’m going to pretend I’m kissing my mom!” I was pretty sure that’s not the thing you say before you kiss a girl, so I looked at him and said, “Okay, I’m going to pretend I’m kissing my dog!”
Where was your first real-life kiss, then? At my house, by my front door. Which kind of sucks, because every time I walk through my front door I think about it. The kiss was a little messy, and I looked at the guy and said, “No, no, you can do better.” That’s not what you’re supposed to say, but I said it anyway.
Max Mara bralette; DKNY pants; Cartier earrings; Jimmy Choo shoes.
Max Mara bralette; DKNY pants; Cartier earrings.
The Witch and Split
You say you don’t like watching horror films—so what’s it like for you to act in them? I’m a real scaredy-cat. I’m not good at being frightened. But I do like acting in a horror movie, because I get to feel so intensely. You put yourself in these extreme emotional situations, and it wears you out in a great way. Afterward, I go home and get a good night’s sleep. The work chills me out: I’m a lot more stable since I’ve been in scary movies.
What frightens you? Revolving doors. I worry they’ll cut me in half. Strangers will see me tense up and hold my hand as I’m going through them. I’m constantly worried that I’m not going to make it through the door alive.
Gucci jacket, shirt, and pants.
Midnight Special, Elvis & Nixon, and Nocturnal Animals
“Doing a sex scene is just like having sex, except without any of the pleasure. The horror, fear, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness of sex is all there to enjoy—but none of the happiness.”
Saint Laurent jacket, shirt, and tie; Tiffany & Co. watch.
Hacksaw Ridge and Silence
“The majority of my process in playing a priest in Silence was praying. I’d never really prayed before, and I developed a relationship with a power greater than myself—call it God, call it love, call it what you will. It became very natural to me, and I realized that we’re all praying all the time. There’s that human impulse to worship and to long for a connection to the divine. Unfortunately, in our culture we are driven to worship things that are false and empty. I had a year of exploring this idea of what we are truly longing for and how we actually go to the places that can feed that longing. We all get glimpses of eternity every day. It’s just a question of whether we’re looking up from our iPhones long enough to notice.”
Alexander McQueen jacket and pants; A.P.C. shirt.
Maggie’s Plan and 20th Century Women
What is your karaoke song? It’s the nerdiest one ever: “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” by Billy Joel. It’s one of those songs that if you were a certain kind of teenage girl—me!—you thought knowing all the words would help you get a boyfriend. And then, about 30 seconds too late, you realize that it won’t. But it remains my song. I had the same thought about “Modern Major General,” by Gilbert and Sullivan. I thought guys were looking for a girl who could memorize a lot of names, but they didn’t care about that. They just cared about getting a hand job or something.
Do you have a cinematic crush? I would have to say Melanie Griffith in Working Girl—the first time she meets Harrison Ford at the bar. She’s all done up and she tells him, “I’ve got a head for business and a bod for sin.”And young Harrison Ford…what a dreamboat! But it’s her I truly love. She’s so compelling and funny. She’s sexy without being plastic. I think a lot of people miss seeing women that way.
Proenza Schouler dress; Guidi boots.
Were you a dramatic child? Yes, I used to stand in front of the mirror and try to make myself cry. I would also try different accents. I was living in an imaginary world, usually with Michael Jackson. He was going to rescue me! I used to draw pictures of me and Michael getting married, and I would send them to his fan club. I would imagine Michael waiting for me at the gate of my school, eager to whisk me away to a happier world.
Why Michael Jackson? I imagined myself as a Peter Pan kind of character, and Michael represented that existence. He was my guy.
Miu Miu coat, sweater, shorts, and shoes.
Manchester by the Sea
“As a little kid, my first love was IMDB [the data bank for movies and television]. I would memorize the birthdays of child actors. I really wanted to be an actor, and I related to the kids in the industry. But now that I think about it, memorizing their birthdays is not cute at all—it’s a little serial killer–ish.”
Prada sweater; Brooks Brothers boxers.
What was your favorite birthday? When I turned 40, my husband, Keith [Urban], drove me up to the top of this small hill in Australia and sat me down. He had put together this huge fireworks display. It was just for the two of us! It was sexy.
What is your pet peeve? When people say they will do something and they don’t. And I know it’s terribly demanding, but I don’t like it when my husband doesn’t answer his phone. I have to keep calling and calling, and I get anxious. Does that make me high-maintenance?
What movie has made you cry? Last year I saw Room, and I was absolutely devastated by it. I’m raw as I get older. I have to be careful what I let in.
Where was your first kiss? This is crazy: We were playing hooky from school. I had my first kiss while watching The Shining. Is that not weird? And we did a few things other than kiss too! I didn’t see a lot of the movie.
Chanel sweater, dress, shorts, and shoes; Bulgari earrings.
Anya Taylor-Joy Is One to Watch on the Red Carpet
Anya Taylor Joy attends The Witch premiere during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in a shearling coat and opaque tights.
Anya Taylor-Joy attends the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Chanel Artists’ Dinner at Balthazar in a coordinating white top and skirt.
The young actress looks bohemian in a long, flowing purple dress with her hair piled on top of her head.
Anya Taylor-Joy looks like a rock star at the Saint Laurent show in Los Angeles on February 10, 2016.
Anya Taylor-Joy arrives at the Miu Miu show on October 7, 2015 in a striped coat and embellished skirt by the brand.
The nude-colored dress has an almost gothic vibe with tattoo-like embroidery that works well against the actress’s fair skin.
Taylor-Joy arrives at the premiere of her debut film The Witch at ArcLight Cinemas on February 11, 2016 in a frilly blue mini-dress.
Taylor-Joy attends the Miu Miu show at part of Paris Fashion Week on March 9, 2016 in a long purple coat by the brand.
Taylor-Joy attends the 11th Annual Chanel Tribeca Film Festival Artists Dinner in Chanel, of course.
At the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and InStyle’s Annual Celebration of the Toronto International Film Festival, Taylor-Joy was glamorous in an embellished, eclectic gown.
Taylor-Joy was elegant at the Burberry September 2016 show during London Fashion Week, wearing a floor-length pale blue silk skirt.
Anya Taylor-Joy attends the [Gucci Spring 2017 show at Milan Fashion Week] in a colorful look that designer Alessandro Michele is known for. (http://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/inside-alessandro-micheles-wildly-colorful-spring-show-for-gucci)
Taylor-Joy attends the IWC Gala in honor of The British Film Institute at Rosewood Hotel in 2016 in a look that is equal parts goth and girly.
Taylor-Joy arrives at a screening of her film Split in a festive suit–a fun alternative to the traditional gown.
The actress pulls off mixed prints with aplomb at a photo call for Split in 2017.
A frilled black skirt and cap-sleeved leopard print top pairs well with a side ponytail. 2017.
Taylor-Joy took a turn for the dramatic in a feathered Gucci gown emblazoned with a pair of swans and floral print. 2017.
The actress wore a celestial print jumpsuit by Schiaparelli to the New York premiere of Split. 2017.
A casual look for the actress, complete with snow boots, at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
The actress paired a sequined mini dress with black accessories, including ankle-strap pumps and a belt to cinch the waist, for a pre-BAFTAs party. 2017.
Another Gucci moment for Taylor-Joy, this time in a shocking violet hue, at a cocktail party to launch new film series The Performers. 2017.
Simple in nude, Taylor-Joy was a true star in this printed number at the BAFTA 2017 Film Gala Dinner.
A tough take on the ballerina tutu, Taylor-Joy paired a buttoned-up tulle dress with embellished heels. 2017.
Suiting up in head-to-toe marron, Taylor-Joy took in the Mulberry Fall 2017 runway show as part of London Fashion Week.
Taylor-Joy looked super chic in a tuxedo mini-dress paired with architectural booties at the Elle Style Awards 2017.
Go big or go home. That was the style motto behind the actress’s 2017 BAFTA dress, a tiered Gucci confection complete with a sequined lion.
For the Christopher Kane Fall 2017 show, Taylor-Joy paired a leopard-print dress with simple black accessories, including strappy heels. 2017.