For an actress who ‘seems to have jumped on the scene’ The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor-Joy is actually a very accomplished actress since she is only 24 years old. In the role of Beth Harmon, she mesmerized viewers with her critical thinking skills and drove people crazy with … chess. Yes, you read that right. Any actress who can get chessboard running just might be the one who can save the ailing movie industry.
However, Anya Taylor-Joy had created a very impressive body of work long before Beth Harmon’s story made her (literally) a household name. In fact, her performances were so chameleon-like that many viewers didn’t realize she was in the movie until they watched it or finished watching it. For a stage actor who wants to ‘build his brand’, this actress has certainly taken an interesting path. Let’s take a look.
Set in 17th-century New England, this 2015 Gothic story follows a family who has run away from their community and settled on a farm away from everyone else. Once they get there, strange things start to happen, people start to disappear, and this movie quickly becomes a matter of farmers testing their faith, perhaps the root cause of the family problem that is a member of it. This member is Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) in a role she seemed destined to play. With those haunting, soulful eyes, she literally owns every movie frame she finds herself in. The witch is a horror mystery that keeps viewers guessing all the time, and it also raises questions about how we watch outcasts and the bonds that bind (and strangle) a family unit.
Taylor-Joy is captivating in the title role of this dystopian sci-fi horror thriller produced by the legendary Ridley Scott. Basically, this movie is Frankenstein with a technological and gender twist. The story follows Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) as a corporate cog who travels to a distant location to watch something called the L-9 project. She is going to decide whether SynSect, the company she works for, should continue to fund the project that created a synthetic human named Morgan. What follows is a creation gone wrong, in which Weathers soon realizes she’s not in control of anything, and Morgan (a 5-year-old in the body of a teenager) can actually end Weathers (and whoever) whenever they want. Full of suspense, shock reactions and the kind of ethical questions these movies usually ask, Morgan is one of the more interesting movies to come out in 2016 and the lion’s share of this is due to how Taylor-Joy plays this rich character.
The cast in this movie about a man of 23 personalities is so strong it is easy to overlook how good Anya Taylor-Joy is. In fact, James McAvoy is so strong in the role of Kevin Wendell Crumb that it makes the power of Taylor-Joy’s nuanced performance even greater. As Casey, a person kidnapped to be murdered by Kevin’s 24th personality, Taylor-Joy uses every bit of screen time she has to get in touch with Kevin’s personality that isn’t cunning. This begins a dangerous game of manipulation where the clock is ticking for Kevin’s ability to keep his mind and personalities together. What follows is a deadly cat and mouse game in which Taylor-Joy shines against the ironclad performance of McAvoy’s many characters. Sold as a horror thriller, Divide is one of those rare movies that is as artistic as it is scary. As part of M. Night Shyamalan’s comeback story, Taylor-Joys’ performance is as good as the brilliant McAvoy’s.
The new mutants
You might be wondering what could be special about a movie with 5 (yes, 5) release dates. Initially, this saga of 5 mutants in the X-Men universe who are just growing up was delayed release for new shootings and then our current situation. It eventually came out in the fall of 2020 and got poked pretty hard by just about everyone. However, there is always a ray of hope in movies like this and one of them is Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of Illyana Rasputin aka Magik. With the powers of wizardry and teleportation, Taylor-Joy gives a layered performance in a film that can be seen as nothing more than an action movie of superheroes. With her glittering blonde locks, the actress straddles the line between presenting evil but having a strong core of goodness. There are also other highlights in this cast (Strange things Charlie Heaton is one of them), but what The new mutants may eventually be remembered for presenting this standout performance by Taylor-Joy before everyone discovered her on that Netflix TV show.
Taylor-Joy plays a smaller role in this Rosamund Pike-led story about renowned scientist Marie Curie (she was a pioneering physicist who researched the field of radioactivity). In the role of Irene Curie, Taylor-Joy stars again as Marie Curie’s daughter. Through Irene’s character we see what it is like to live in the great shadow of her mother. The role is admittedly of a supportive variety, but it clearly showed that Taylor-Joy can hold her own against the likes of Pike, Sam Riley and Aneurin Barnard. Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), Radioactive is the kind of movie that brings up again the point that to be really great, you have to push hard against the forces that hold certain settings in place. Anya Taylor-Joy is excellent as the character who acts as a kind of surrogate for us as we watch Rosamund Pike work her way through various hurdles of convention.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
This short-lived fantasy series from Netflix featured the voice talents of up-and-coming stars like Taylor-Joy, Taron Egerton and a little older, more notable talent like Mark Hamill and Helena Bonham Carter. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance follows three Gelfling as they set in motion a plan to stop the evil Skeksis from gaining more power and destroying their world. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the role of Brea. She’s a princess who, along with Rian (Neil Sterenberg) and Deet (Beccy Henderson), help lead the fight to stop the evil Skeksis forces. This show had a very dedicated fan base and its reception when it aired in August 2019 has been extremely positive. Unfortunately, Netflix canceled the show before a second season could begin. This is a real shame as Taylor-Joy and the rest of the parties involved have all done a really good job. You have to wonder if the cost of a fantasy show like this was just too high for the streamer to bear.
In the role of Gina Gray, Anya Taylor-Joy manages to steal scenes at just about any time she has on screen. Peaky blinders tells the story of a gangster family in England in the 1920s. The family in question is the Shelbys, and they are led by the Stoic (and power-hungry) Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy). Taylor-Joy’s character, Gina Gray, marries Michael Gray (Finn Cole), but she has her mind set to step up within the Shelby Company. All Gina does is advance her position, which ultimately puts her on a collision course with everyone in her path. The role is as juicy as it gets and Taylor-Joy seems to enjoy her characters’ ability to disrupt the scenery and chew whoever she plays with.
This is the movie that really made it known that Anya Taylor-Joy was a star. The actress reprises the title character in a book-like historical piece, from a novel by the beloved Jane Austen, and is perfect as Emma Woodhouse. She’s never met a relationship she somehow didn’t want to establish, Emma has turned her life and expectations upside down when she gets into it herself. This film is brutal, tough, stupid and deftly directed by Autumn de Wilde. In what could have been a starchly performed talkie set in 19th century England, this comedy / drama ultimately finds itself in the kind of romance we all want to touch our lives. With Taylor-Joy as our protagonist, this might be the most fun you’ll have while streaming a movie in your living room.
The third film in the Unbreakable, Divide Trilogy of Movies, Anya Taylor-Joy may be a supporting character, but she is no less important than the other major players. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) manages to track down Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy). However, Dunn sees his plans for retaliation being disrupted by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), as the three men are soon trapped in a mental hospital. Taylor-Joy eventually enters into the proceedings as the only person who could help (and stop) the evil Kevin Wendell Crumb and his 24 personalities. As I mentioned, Glass is the final blow to the movies in this “superhero” trilogy by M. Night Shyamalan. While the movie itself may seem flawed (and clouded by an ending that doesn’t really work), the strengths of all of the performances here are undeniable. It’s basically proof of Anya Taylor-Joy to stand out, given the amount of screen time she’s compared to Willis, Jackson and McAvoy. Yes, Glass is not an Anya Taylor-Joy movie, but it is ultimately her presence in the movie that most influences the proceedings.
This interesting film from director Cory Finley (Bad education), sees Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke as two former best friends who become close after a while. What follows is a Hitchcockian tale of two semi-twilight unfolding in ways we do and don’t expect. Both actresses are fantastic with Taylor-Joy and Cooke showcasing incredible chemistry in this closely intertwined tale of two characters who want to be one step ahead of everyone around them. Taylor-Joy, as the top crust lily does a really good job here. Her delivery is good for the money because, frankly, we don’t know who the biggest scammer is between the two stars. Thoroughbreds is one of those films that didn’t make a big impression on landing. It’s an indy that was made for $ 5 million and it may not even have made that money back at the box office. That doesn’t detract from this movie or the work Anya Taylor-Joy (and others) brought up here. Again, this film seems likely at one point or another to be seen as one of the many films that shaped and helped Taylor Joy’s career.