Anya Taylor-Joy: ‘Once I learned how to read… I was never bored or lonely again’

Prince Harry hosts the draw for the Rugby League World Cup 2021

Anya Taylor-Joy covers the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Did the magazine do her dirty with this cover shot? I think so. I like Anya a lot – she’s a shape-shifter in the vein of Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and Andrea Riseborough, and much like those women, the styling, hair color and angle can make her look wildly different at any given moment. Vanity Fair wanted her to look like this washed-out blonde with a vacant expression and it’s not great. Anya is arguably one of the most hyped young actresses out there right now, in large part due to the success of The Queen’s Gambit, but also her CV full of typecasting-proof roles in Emma, Split, The Witch and Peaky Blinders. She speaks perfect Spanish (a childhood in Argentina) and can easily fall into a pitch-perfect British accent and American accent too. You can read Anya’s full Vanity Fair piece here – she comes across as very earnest, very appreciative of what’s happening, but very focused and driven. She’s lovely.

British kids picked on her for her looks: “Oh, 11-year-old Anya was an awkward phase, for sure.” Back then, she recalls, “My head was smaller and my eyes were the same size. I was waiting for my head to grow a bit. Make me look a bit more proportional. My mother raised me to always be looking at things inside of people rather than their outside.” Taylor-Joy doesn’t stare into mirrors much. “Not because I’m running away from myself, but because the most beautiful thing about me is my desire to interact with the outside world. And when you’re interacting with the outside world you’re not looking at yourself, you’re looking at the person in front of you.”

2019 was a turning point: “I’m sitting here talking to you, and for the first time, I’m like, I know what I like. I know what I, as a person, enjoy!… The whole of 2019 was me becoming a woman, essentially…. I haven’t had any therapy for the last four years, but you’re speaking to somebody who spends a lot of time dissecting her thoughts. I’m at a point where it’s like, Okay, you know how you deal with this, you just have to sit with it and figure it out until it makes sense.”

She was happy when ‘Emma’ was released on streaming services at the start of the pandemic: “I definitely thought, Thank goodness this is something fun that will bring people joy and I’m not playing somebody that’s been kidnapped and sexually abused.”

She reads constantly: “Once I learned how to read—I’m sure it was the same with you—I was off. I was just never bored or lonely again.”

She loves that people are getting into chess: “We used to joke on set that we were bringing sexy back to chess. We didn’t really think that that’s what people would actually think. I love the fact that people are like, Yeah, I’m going to go play this guy at chess, it’s going to be really hot. I’m living for it.” Famously, sales of chess sets soared by 125 percent in the weeks after the show premiered. “This is what I mean about how I think in five years I’ll understand! I don’t think you can be an even kind of sane person and be walking around, like”—she does a parodic hair flip of self-satisfaction and puts on a haughty voice to intone—“I have reinvigorated the game of chess!”

Her thoughts on the Golden Globes (before she won): “Is it awful to say I don’t think about it? Look, any kind of recognition for your work is wonderful and truly moving, but I have to show up for my movie and my director and my friends. If I were consistently thinking about things like that, I don’t know how healthy my mind would be…. I want to be quite clear about something, which is when I say, ‘I walk away’ or ‘I don’t think about it anymore,’ it’s never because I’m ungrateful for any of it. I just really think that I won’t be able to do my best work if I start believing I’m anything more than human, because people watch characters for the humanity.”

[From Vanity Fair]

She talks throughout the piece about how she really lives and breathes the characters she plays and it’s sometimes difficult for her to let go or even separate herself in the slightest way. She’s very Method, very earnest, as I said. She honestly seems like a very odd, idiosyncratic bird but that’s not a bad thing at all. She’s going to end up as her generation’s Meryl/Blanchett, you know.

Cover and IG courtesy of Vanity Fair.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

30 Responses to “Anya Taylor-Joy: ‘Once I learned how to read… I was never bored or lonely again’”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Ann says:

    That open mouth pose is so overdone and very few people get it right. Not a fan of this cover either.

    • iconoclast59 says:

      @Ann, at the first glance of the photo I thought: “Oh, no, the open mouth.” It makes people look so dopey, like they’re thinking, “Duhhhh…” Also, I can’t believe they didn’t photoshop the shadow cast by her nose — actually, they should’ve lit the photo properly in the first place. Anya has such an interesting look, and a better photographer would’ve known how to play that up.

  2. MaryContrary says:

    She does seem lovely. I think she’s very talented. That said-I could not get into Queen’s Gambit at all. I tried it twice. I made it through the third episode and I was just done. It just felt dark and depressing to me-maybe it was just my covid mood? I also find that while I’m normally a huge reader there have been several times over the last year that I could not read a book to save my life. I just did not have the attention span. Ugh.

    • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

      I’ve felt the same about books and reading, which is sad. We’re all readers here. All that changed when I gave audibles a try. Maybe that will help? It bridges the gab so you don’t have to force your brain to do something it thinks it’s boycotting lol.

      • Roserose says:

        I’ve had the same trouble with reading this year but then I got into Terry Pratchett and haven’t looked back. It’s the sort of writing that makes you feel like you’re in good hands. I started with Wee Free Men and then went wild.

      • Case says:

        Audiobooks are great. I can only physically read for short periods at a time — maybe I’ll get through 30 or 40 pages before I get sleepy. But I listen to audiobooks while I’m driving, doing chores around the house, etc. It’s the best, especially when you find a great narrator.

      • MaryContrary says:

        That’s a good idea. I keep putting books on hold at the library, excitedly picking them up, then reading the first chapter, thinking “nah” and returning them. Maybe I’ll be able to handle audibles better.

    • Kate says:

      I wasn’t sure I could get through the first episode for that reason. Like oh cool a show about a poor orphaned little girl left alone. It was too depressing. I stuck with it b/c my bff recommended it and found that it got lighter. Still some dark stuff like when she binges alcohol but it’s not as heavy as the first few episodes.

    • Sue Denim says:

      I couldn’t get into the show either, but I like her comment. Also, reading during these times…I’ve been finding short stories a good alternative, and yes, good idea re audiobooks, I should get back to that, good to get off the screen, and just listen for a bit.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I just finished The Queen’s Gambit, and I absolutely loved it. I was sad it was only 7 episodes. It’s definitely a drama and not a comedy, but it was so well done. Beautifully shot, incredible actors in all the roles, I found it to be very moving. Yes, there are some dark parts, but you can’t show how a person overcomes their struggles and grows as a person if you don’t illustrate the challenges.

  3. Ang says:

    Terrible photo. Magnificent quote. She’s fab.

  4. Sandra says:

    “Once I learned how to read—I’m sure it was the same with you—I was off. I was just never bored or lonely again.”
    What a lovely thing to say. Thank you Anya for giving me a positive start to my day.

    • iconoclast59 says:

      @Sandra, that statement resonated with me, too. I’m the youngest of 3 siblings, but there was a significant age gap between me and my older brother and sister, so in many ways I felt like an only child. I remember really getting into books, becoming so absorbed in the story that I could completely shut out the world around me.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I’ve always been a reader, and this quote hit home for me too! As a kid I used to stay up late reading, and I’d be so tired the next day at school, but it was hard to put books down.

  5. Sasha says:

    That cover looks like an outtake!! So bizarre. How could they make such a beautiful woman look so meh? She is beautiful from every angle and has such striking features.

  6. LeaTheFrench says:

    I don’t know who she is but it’s refreshing to come across an interview of an actress who is not promoting her “brand” or some product. Instead, she’s promoting…books 🙂 I like that.

  7. Lex says:

    I guess I just don’t get her hype. Every few years we get an actress/actor who does well in a show/movie and then we get inundated with how special they are. I hope she becomes as private as she can, so she doesn’t get the next JLaw backlash.

    • Sandra says:

      J-Law was absolutely and purposely overexposed as “the cool girl”, but she didn’t do herself any favors with how obnoxious she could be. She took the”cool girl” brand and went too far with it. Not to mention some of the ignorant sh*t she’s said like how she thought it was funny that she rubbed her butt on sacred stones in Hawaii. Anya doesn’t seem to come off that way.
      But the pandemic has at least put pushing the current “it girl” the way Hollywood does on hold. At least it feels that way.

      • Case says:

        I agree, Sandra. No offense to J. Law because I don’t have a problem with her, but Anya comes across as classy, intelligent and reserved…just um, quite different from Jennifer Lawrence. I don’t picture her putting her foot in her mouth in an interview or offending people regularly, nor does she seem to be courting fame outside of her work. I don’t think she’ll fall into the same trap of overexposure.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      She has hype because she is an incredible actress with a stunning look. She was mesmerizing in The Queens Gambit, but she has been putting in awarded performances from her 1st film.

  8. Case says:

    Anya is so lovely (and SO beautiful — I agree, this cover didn’t capture how stunning she is). I think she’ll have an amazing career — I’m such a fan of her role choices so far! I love what she said about Emma being released to streaming early in the pandemic — that was actually the last film I saw in theaters before everything shut down. It was the day after my birthday. I used a vacation day and took myself on a solo date and had the best time. I’ll always cherish that memory!

    Also re: books — yes. I’ve always loved BUYING books but was really bad at getting in the habit of actually reading consistently. The last year has turned me into a true avid reader and I’m so happy about that.

  9. samipup says:

    What she said. And for anyone looking for a good book to read. “West with Giraffes” is one of the best books I have read and I read a lot. A Historical novel that takes place in the Dust Bowl, depression era.

  10. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m really liking her. And I do have a strong and distinct appreciation for actors like Blanchett and Swinton. I didn’t think I’d like QG as much as I did. And I certainly didn’t expect the emotions I’d be cycling through. She’s good.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      “I certainly didn’t expect the emotions I’d be cycling through”

      Yes. this! I’ve been watching an episode every day during my lunch break, and I found them haunting my thoughts later on (and on weekends). There’s so much humanity packed into such a short series.

  11. Stacy Dresden says:

    She is the real deal. Loved her in Emma, Queen’s Gambit, etc. She sounds like an interesting and intelligent person as well.

    • Lyds says:

      I actually preferred Gwyneth’s Emma…(darts eyes nervously) Anya was too smug and snooty, with none of the charisma that makes everyone want to be Emma’s best friend. She smiled so rarely and while some people look naturally serene, she def had RBF and it didn’t fit the role at all. Emma is supposed to be a super charming elitist, which I thought Gwyneth did well.

      I didn’t appreciate Anya as an actress until I saw The VVitch. She was so young, believable and captivating; that role really sold me on her acting chops. Want to watch the Queen’s Gambit next but so far it’s felt like a huge commitment that I keep putting off for lighter fare. The comments here seem divided on its value so we’ll see…

  12. detritus says:

    As someone who read a ton as a kid because I didn’t fit in, this doesn’t describe me at all. Never bored, maybe. But not never lonely.

    It reminds me of the cool kids saying they were bullied too.

    I like her well enough, but she seems like a popular girl to me. Same with JLaw and Taylor Swift and many of the young women who are presented as the every woman. PR teams need to come up with a different angle.

  13. Merricat says:

    I always have a book in my purse, just in case. A book is as good as a friend, sometimes.

  14. Robot says:

    I like her. Have seen her in video interviews and she’s composed and elegant in personality and kind of lightly dry in that Brit way. She’s Argentinian-Brit and her Spanish is apparently impeccable (YT commenters). I like her acting in various films but never found TQG compelling in the trailers so haven’t and won’t watch it.

    Another mag cover deliberately using weird, unflattering angles to get you to look twice.