By Crash redaction

Anya Taylor-Joy is the new global ambassador for women’s fashion and makeup at Dior. Anya will partner with the brand, celebrating the iconic heritage of Dior, and showcasing the designs and creations of women’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri and creative and image director of makeup, Peter Philips. 

Anya burst onto the scene with her performance in Robert Eggers’ ‘The Witch.’ She most recently captivated audiences globally in Netflix’s critically acclaimed limited series, ‘The Queen’s Gambit.’ Her performance as Beth Harmon garnered her a Golden Globe, a Critics’ Choice award, a Sag award as well as an Emmy nomination.

With a jam-packed schedule of filming ahead of her, and in celebration of this new partnership, we take a look back at our interview and shoot with the actress from our Issue 87.
Discovered by a modeling agency while walking her dog, Anya Taylor-Joy ultimately revealed her true talent on screen. At the age of nineteen, she earned her first part in the indie horror film The Witch, offering an excellent performance in this radical and terrifying work that won the Best Director Prize at Sundance in 2015. But it was her collaboration with M. Night Shyamalan that truly introduced audiences to Taylor-Joy, as she earned the lead roles in Split, released in 2017, and its much-anticipated sequel, Glass. In just three years, the British-Argentine actress has already played twenty-two characters, blending into each new role with chameleon-like talent. Compiling an eclectic filmography, she appears in period pieces and voices animated features all with the same spellbinding passion. She posed here for artist Torbjorn Rodland, who has long awaited this opportunity to photograph the actress…

You’re in the middle of promoting the movie Glass by M. Night Shyamalan which is in theaters now. How’s that going?

It’s amazing! You do all the press for it and the premieres and then you go back home and try to catch up with friends. All of a sudden your inbox is flooded with emails from people getting excited about it. It’s like a weird double life going on right now. But I’m obviously thrilled.

I’m sure you want to relax after all these glamorous events.

Yeah, I just want to go to concerts with my friends. Just hang out and be a twenty-two-year-old for a second. It’s just a weird double life! (laughs)

How did the shoot go with Torbjørn Rodland?

I loved him so much! I think he tried to weird me out at the beginning and I was like: “Do not try to out-weird me because I will win”. (laughs) We spent the rest of the shoot trying to out-weird each other with different ideas. We got along really well. He’s definitely my kind of person.

Were you familiar with his aesthetic before?

Yeah. I always take it into consideration whenever I’m shooting. It’s an artistic collaboration so you want to get to know their work beforehand.

Do you get into characters when you’re on photo shoots?

Yes, every time. As a person, I don’t have my picture taken at all so in a professional setting, it doesn’t feel like me. It’s more like an extension of my artistic quality. I very much see myself as an artist and that includes having your photograph taken. Fantastical or avant-garde photography is where I feel most at home.

You started your acting career in The Witch in 2015. How did that all happen?

Well I started modeling when I was sixteen years old. I was walking my dog in heels one day. It was my first time ever wearing heels, and I was basically scouted in the street. On my third shoot, I met an actor who put me in touch with his agent and it all started from there. The Witch is one of the first auditions I ever did. But it did have a different feeling to it. I remember I didn’t really question it at all. Looking back on it, I was an eighteen-year-old girl going off to Canada by myself, into the wilderness with a whole bunch of strangers to film a really dark movie. It’s an interesting thought process that I did not question any of it. I was not scared at all. The actual filming experience was so beautiful and it taught me the right way movies should be made, which is that everyone contributes something and is passionate about their work. The people that I worked with took care of each other like a family.

Since it was your first time ever acting, how did you approach the character of Thomasin in The Witch?

Not saying that I have any idea of what I’m doing now, but at the time I had absolutely no clue. Each character has come to me in a very different way. I think Thomasin and I were into a lot of the same things. I didn’t realize while I was working on The Witch, because I had never acted before, that characters were real for me. So when The Witch ended and I went home, I felt so depressed. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so sad, especially because I was still hanging out with the crew everyday. Ours bonds hadn’t broken so I should have been happy. But one day I realized it was Thomasin I was missing. I missed spending time with her and taking care of her. That instantly changed the way that I would react to any other character in the future. I now walk into a situation knowing that this is a real person, at least for me. Thomasin was my introduction to everything. It was a very vulnerable but strong place to be in at the same time, because I felt like I was experiencing what she was going through. (laughs)

Do you feel like this experience defined your acting career?

It didn’t define my future, but it defined my work ethic for sure. That’s why my approach is very no-nonsense: I’m here for the integrity of storytelling. All the directors I’ve worked with are artists.

Had you studied acting or performing arts before your debut?

No. (laughs) I did drama in school and I was always quite bossy because I want to direct one day. I definitely took charge of the drama class. But it was only school stuff.

You want to direct?

Yes, for sure. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I want to do. But right now, my heart is very much preoccupied with acting.

It feels like it’s been a non-stop journey since your first film. Do you ever have a break?

Yes, but to be honest, I’m a very intense individual. I never live in the middle. I have literally been growing up on these sets with these characters, learning so much. Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous. But this year is the first time I’ve shown up to a premiere and relaxed. I’ve done this a million times before, I kind of know what I’m doing now. (laughs) I’ve made twenty-two movies, maybe I’m ok. (laughs)

Glass is in theaters now and it is the sequel to Unbreakable and Split, where you played the role of Casey Cooke. It’s your second time working with M. Night Shyamalan. Is there a special artistic bond that formed between you two?

Touching on the point you were talking about earlier, I really have shot everything back to back. I had shot The Witch, then Morgan immediately after, and then I got Split. Nothing was out yet at that moment. I went to meet Night with two giant suitcases because I had no idea where I was going. At the time, I hadn’t quite mastered the art of packing yet. (laughs) From the second I walked into the room with Night, there was this connection. I felt like I knew this man a lot better than I actually did. I also felt like I knew what he wanted from the performance. When I auditioned for the role, there was “Girl number 1”, “Girl number 2” and “Girl number 3”. When he asked me what girl I wanted to read, I chose number 3 and that happened to be Casey. The two scenes I read gave nothing away on the film, but I managed to understand some aspects of the character. Then when we were on set, I got closer and closer to Night with whom I’ve cemented a really strong friendship. Getting to come back and do Glass was so gratifying on two accounts. On the one hand I was getting to return to the character that I loved so much and work with the crew which have become a family to me. On the other hand, I got to watch my friend launch something that he’s been thinking about for nineteen years. To see him be so excited and have such a good time was amazing.

Shyamalan’s movies always catch the viewer off guard with twists. Did you feel that element of surprise when you saw the movie for the first time, even though you played in it?

It was different for Split and for Glass. For Split, I knew the script but I didn’t have the best understanding of Night’s style. With Glass, it was definitely the movie I envisioned in my head when I read the script. Also, with Split we felt like we were going out, exploring and creating something really wacky and wild. With Glass, there’s almost a sense of closure that felt very different. Watching it, I still need to hold on to a loved one’s hand, squeezing it really tight because I hate watching myself on screen. I never relax! In any case, Glass feels quieter, in a very positive way. I feel like the characters are finally being taken care of and I can leave them be.

Is there another director that you’d love to work with?

There are so many. Rather than naming names, I’d love to work with auteurs, people that have a very specific vision and want to make pieces of art. That could be in any genre. I’m so impressed with the new filmmaking voices that are coming out, as well as the ones I have admired for years. I’d love to work with any Spanish director. Making a movie in Spanish would be amazing!

You also played in the new X-Men franchise The New Mutants, which is considerably different from your previous roles.

Everything I do seems completely new since I haven’t been acting for that long. I try not to come on set with any expectation. I like to adjust accordingly. With Illyana, I loved her so much. She’s a much bigger character than I’m used to. She’s over-the-top, really sassy and very…aggressive. (laughs)

X-Men brings along a whole universe with comic cons and very dedicated fans. Did you enjoy immersing yourself in that world?

Yeah, that’s so much fun. I think anybody that loves anything so passionately is winning at life. It’s wonderful to care about something that much. Comic book fans have such a love for the characters, it makes you excited!

As a viewer, what movies do you love?

I like movies that really make me feel something. I know it’s a broad way of speaking but I don’t like to limit myself to genre or style. I like to focus on the emotions the movie is conveying. I just watched The Favourite and it left me bleeding afterwards, I couldn’t talk. I like to watch movies by myself and usually I can’t be around anyone for a couple hours after. It’s amazing when a film moves you to the point where it makes you feel uncomfortable. I’m interested in films that really provoke something in the viewer.

When you’re not acting, what do you enjoy doing or learning about?

I love to read, I also write a lot of poetry and music. I pretty much don’t do anything that’s not creative. Not out of choice, it’s just the way I was born. I’ve always needed creative outlets. I’ll go and have a full day on set and then come home and write poems and dance around in my room, read somebody else’s work, go see an art exhibition… Everything has to come from a place of art. All that keeps me sane.

What kind of music do you like to play and listen to?

Again, I’m so sorry to be so vague but if I could just take everything in all the time, I would. I’ll easily go from Nat King Cole to Bikini Kill.

Did you see that Bikini Kill will be playing some shows in America next Spring?

Oh yes, I did see that and immediately told my friend! We were like “Oh my god!” Sadly, I’ll be in England at that time. But anyway, if you spend an hour at my house, you’ll see the playlist moves from one genre to another. All the musicians I listen to have one thing in common: they do it well and with passion.

You’ll also be starring in Radioactive directed by Marjane Satrapi. Was it your first time working with a woman director?

It was and it meant something special. I’ve been so lucky with my male mentors but I think all of the women that are more advanced in their careers than I am have been so kind to me as well. I’ve made some incredible supportive women friends in the industry. Teachers even. Marjane very much falls into that category. The second I met her I loved her. I’m pretty sure she felt the same. (laughs) Getting to be on that set and work with her was just so positive and warm. It’s really important for women to support other women and I know Marjane wants nothing but the best for me. I love that environment. It feels like we’re all part of a sisterhood, pushing each other forward.

Are there any future projects you’d like to talk about?

I’m about to begin shooting in Jane Austen’s Emma and that’s a dream come true.

Most of the world has been in lockdown for over a month now due to the COVID-19 crisis. A moment frozen in time, when people are faced with solitude, grief or anxiety and see their daily lives shift for the better or the worse. In this time of extreme uncertainty, we can also take the time to reflect, create and enjoy the passing of these strange elastic days. We thought it would be interesting to ask musicians around the globe how their creative process has changed during the quarantine and if it has been an inspiring or rather daunting experience… with a quick snapshot of themselves in lockdown. Today, get to know how French musician and artist $afia Bahmed-Schwartz is spending her time. With a sultry voice, she explores the boundaries of sensuality, absurd humor and erotic dreams. With her, there’s never a dull moment as she takes her music to new levels with each EP, mixing hyperrealistic lyrics with soft, funky or ambient productions. She recently released a music video for the track « CyberSilver », made for La Souterraine’s Rurbaines compilation and her next album $afia Bahmed-Schwartz PASSÉ/PRESENT/FUTUR which will be out in June.

How has your daily life changed since lockdown began?

Everything fell apart in the first days of lockdown, but then I got more structure. All the new measures, gradual restrictions and information overload kept me from really doing anything. Having to reorganize everything was a lot of work. But when it comes down to it, apart from my weekly singing lessons and work sessions, my daily life hasn’t changed much. I work at home a lot.

Have you had to rethink the way you create?

I’ve found a new sense of joy in creating again, immersing myself in work, writing, editing, painting, for hours on end with no deadlines or appointments to spoil the fun. At the very beginning I was physically and mentally devastated by what was happening. I was in a state of shock. But then I told myself that I had to do things that make me happy, so I found an immense joy in creating and going with the flow. Now that I’ve gotten used to things, I’m trying to stick to a schedule and have some structure in whatever I’m working on.

Did you realize anything in particular during this time?

I started painting portraits of people I love and miss more than ever right now. Painting involves a longer, slower sense of time, and I love spending that time with my loved ones. I’ve also gotten into music production, since I’ve never had time to dive in and learn.

Are you worried?

After the first wave of restrictions, things were postponed and rescheduled for the near future, like concerts and events. It was annoying but not too worrying. But after the second wave of announcements and Macron’s speeches on and after April 13, nothing was certain anymore, and it seems like we will have to rethink the music industry’s economic model. Aside from the income, I miss getting on stage. I miss all those moments of celebration, togetherness and group fun. Not knowing when it might happen again makes me depressed.

Do you feel more inspired or paralyzed by the lockdown?

The quarantine in itself doesn’t inspire me. I don’t want to paint what I see out my window or inside my house, or even talk about being quarantined. It would be like a 404 error in my brain, I think. Nevertheless I think it’s the perfect time to dive even deeper into myself, see what’s there, and bring out some wonderful things.

Have you started or returned to any activities that you do not normally have time to do?

I wanted to make bread (just like everyone else, right?), but it came out more like an inedible frisbee. So I decided to focus instead on what I do best: making art. Especially before quarantine, I was working every day to finish up a compilation project called « $afia Bahmed-Schwartz PASSÉ/PRESENT/FUTUR ». That, plus my sacred daily hour of erotic painting and the hubbub of everyday life meant that I didn’t have much time left over. I also started writing a novel about a serial killer who slays men for revenge. I’ve gone back to working on it now and it’s really enjoyable. It’s like living outside of quarantine again, in another person’s body and mind. I can make her do whatever I want or go wherever I want (even without authorization). It’s a great escape and it’s very enjoyable.

What do you think you’ll take away from this shutdown?

Some positive things, as long as we have the chance and privilege. This is the perfect time to get organized, to really get to the bottom of things, find out what you like, what you don’t like, your rhythm, your problems and their solutions, without all the whirlwind of contemporary life or scrutiny from other people. Some negative things, because not only is this a suspended period of time, it’s also a time of suspended crisis, and I get the impression that even the first round of suspensions will erase everything we were fighting for, thinking about and organizing. Like Simone de Beauvoir said: « at the first sign of crisis it’s women who will go under » (I’m paraphrasing). I’m nervous about what consequences the quarantine will have on people and minority groups.

How do you see life after this crisis?

Good question! It will take strength, resilience, kindness and structure.

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