Hollywood's Next Big Thing: 'The Witch' Breakout Anya Taylor-Joy Goes From Ballet to Studio Thrillers

Emily Berl
Anya Taylor-Joy

The actress (and secret rapper) has parlayed Sundance buzz into lead roles and almost-"it" girl status.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Anya Taylor-Joy became one of those brief Sundance sensations in 2015 with her very first movie role, playing the eldest daughter in a Puritan family threatened by witchcraft in The Witch. A year later, A24 finally is set to release the film Feb. 19. But she's used the time well. Raised in Argentina and the U.K. as the youngest of six children, the former ballet dancer already has shot lead roles in Morgan, Fox's sci-fi thriller directed by Luke Scott, Ridley Scott's son, and M. Night Shyamalan's new thriller Split. Next up is the drama Huntsville opposite Shea Whigham.

What do you love about acting?

I never feel happier than when I’m on set. I never fit in as a kid. I always felt that there was something different about me. And when I’m on a movie set, it sounds cheesy, but I really do feel complete.

How did you get the role in The Witch?

I put an audition on tape. I read the script the night before, which was dumb because I did not sleep. In the script, my character was written as sort of plain, and I thought, "I'm sort of weird looking," so I didn't think I would get it. I later found out that I was the first tape [director] Rob [Eggers] saw, but he thought, "It can't be that easy," so then he watched 1,000 more tapes before he gave it to me.

What filmmakers would you love to work with?

Everyone? (Laughs.) I would love to work with [Quentin] Tarantino. I'd love to work with the Coen brothers. And Steven Spielberg. E.T. was big for me.

What was your first audition?

Maleficent. As the biggest Disney fan, I was dying. I was so nervous, I was shaking. I cried for a very long time after I didn't get it.

Whom have you been starstruck around?

Dan Romer, who scored Beasts of the Southern Wild. I listen to that soundtrack all the time. And I would die if I met Saoirse Ronan. When I was 15, I watched all of her movies in one day.

Do you have any secret talents?

I'm a surprisingly good rapper. I was hanging out with the director of my next film [Huntsville's Eric England], and he put on "Rap God" by Eminem, and I rapped the fast bit. I love it. It wakes my brain up in the morning.

What are you looking for in the future?

I’ve been very lucky with the roles that I’ve played in that they were wonderful roles for women. They’re incredible, flawed characters that I really gravitate toward. I just never want anybody to be able to put me in a box.

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Vital Stats

Age 19
Born Miami
Big break Sundance 2015 hit The Witch (Feb. 19)
Reps CAA, Troika and Felker Toczek

"I never fit in as a kid. I always felt that there was something differ­ent about me. And when I'm on a movie set, it sounds cheesy, but I really do feel complete," says Taylor-Joy, photographed Feb. 3 at Pad90210 in Beverly Hills.


"I'm a surprisingly good rapper," said Taylor-Joy of her secret talent. I love it. It wakes my brain up in the morning."

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