The Queen’s Gambit break-out star Anya Taylor-Joy has been in plenty of movies where viewers might know her from. Since the new series hit #1 on Netflix, Taylor-Joy’s performance in the rousing chess drama has garnered her great press and exposure. Though Taylor-Joy has worked as a professional actress since 2014, when she was only 18 years old, her role as Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit marks the actress’ first leading role in a more conventional serial drama. Her performance thus far has captured audiences’ attention and critical acclaim, which might be in part due to the production and talent teams’ authentic portrayal of the chess games.
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A potential Hollywood A-lister lifestyle might not faze Taylor-Joy, since the actress has already been on the move for most of her life. Taylor-Joy and her family moved to Buenos Aires when she was only an infant, so the actress exclusively spoke Spanish until she moved again to the UK at the age of six. When she was 16, Taylor-Joy was scouted by a modeling agency while walking outside of a department store in London; the actress met and signed with an acting agent shortly afterward.
In many ways, playing Beth Harmon is a logical next step for Taylor-Joy. Though the genres she’s worked in differ from The Queen’s Gambit, the actress has a penchant for playing strong, willful, and determined young women. Taylor-Joy is causing a lot of buzz as Harmon, a chess genius who is plagued by a serious pill addiction, and it just might be enough to propel the actress to true Hollywood stardom. As her career continues to flourish, it’s possible that Taylor-Joy will transform from a seasoned Scream Queen into a budding A-Lister.
Robert Eggers’ New England horror The Witch gave Taylor-Joy her early-career start. At only 19 years old, the young actress was selected out of over 1,000 video submissions to play the movie’s lead, Thomasin. The Witch follows a Puritan family recently banished from their community as they attempt to survive in relative isolation. After their new infant, Samuel, mysteriously disappears under Thomasin’s care, the family’s trust in each other starts to rapidly break down. Thomasin is accused of being a witch and colluding with one of her father’s goats, Black Philip, and she is forced to prove otherwise in order to save her own life.
After its debut at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the movie became a critical and box office hit, grossing over $40 million throughout its theatrical run. The Witch helped jumpstart Taylor-Joy’s career, who won a Gotham Award for her strong performance. The movie also created the foundation of Taylor-Joy’s working relationship with Eggers, who recently cast her as the starring role in his upcoming Viking revenge tale, The Northman.
Split & Glass
Only a year after The Witch, Taylor-Joy was cast as a lead role in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable trilogy. She appears in Split as Casey Cooke – a shy teenager who is kidnapped and held hostage by Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who has 24 different personalities (played by a jarring James McAvoy). The movie is a standalone sequel, with Unbreakable‘s fellow supernaturally-powered characters Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) and David Dunn (Bruce Willis) hardly to be found. Trapped in a bizarre underground labyrinth, Cooke adapts to Crumb’s ever-changing personalities in order to survive. When Crumb’s final personality, named “The Beast”, emerges with supernatural psychic abilities, the teen protagonist must face her kidnapper head-on with only her wits and a shotgun. Taylor-Joy’s performance solidified her place as modern-day scream queen and garnered her a London Film Critics’ Circle award nomination.
Taylor-Joy reprised her role as Casey Cooke in Shyamalan’s last installment of the trilogy, Glass, which united all the past leads (which included Willis, Jackson, McAvoy, and Taylor-Joy) for a final conclusion. While Glass didn’t see the same success as Split, it still includes a stand-out performance from Taylor-Joy. Dunn, Price, and Crumb find themselves imprisoned at Raven Hill Memorial Mental Institute by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who is determined to prove that the three men do not have supernatural powers; they are simply suffering from delusions of grandeur. At the film’s conclusion, Cooke reappears as one of three survivors who leak the footage of all the supernatural activity that happened at the facility, thereby revealing the existence of superhumans to the entire world.
In 2020, Taylor-Joy delved back into the period film genre once more as the lead role in Emma, a British comedy-drama based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. Though the movie differs in scope and tone from Greta Gerwig’s take on Little Women, Taylor-Joy offers a fresh take on the Austen’s famed protagonist, who’s had several versions brought to life on the silver screen. True to many of the countless films inspired by Jane Austen’s lengthy canon, Autumn de Wilde’s Emma revolves around the social expectations and hurdles that its protagonist, Emma Woodhouse, must constantly balance and navigate all while she falls for an eligible suitor, Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn, who is currently set to play David Bowie in Gabriel Range’s upcoming biopic Stardust).
The movie stays relatively close to the original plot of Austen’s book, which revolves around a budding, young romance in a Regency era English countryside. To keep the story engaging and relevant for today’s audiences, Wilde has sprinkled in some modern updates to Emma‘s story. One of these updates includes Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of Emma Woodhouse, which is injected with a bit more coquettish coyness and flair. Wilde’s version of Emma marked another critical and box office hit for the actress, as well as another step up in her career.
The New Mutants
Years before finally releasing in theaters, Taylor-Joy joined Maisie Williams, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, and others in Fox’s The New Mutants, a Marvel movie about mutants. Co-written and directed by Josh Boone, The New Mutants was originally scheduled to release in 2018, but it was pushed back multiple times due to planned reshoots, which never took place. Then it was delayed again because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately releasing in August 2020 in theaters. Because only a few people saw it due to the pandemic, not a whole lot of people may recognize Taylor-Joy from seeing the film, but the press surrounding the production did earn her some recognition.
Taylor-Joy plays the Russian mutant Illyana Rasputin aka Magik in The New Mutants and she’s held at a hospital along with other people like her – other mutants with superpowers. Magik is notably Colossus’ sister and someone who can summon the Soulsword, an energy-filled sword manifested from her own soul. Taylor-Joy was supposed to play the character for an entire trilogy, but whether that happens or not is unclear due to The New Mutants‘ release and poor box office haul.
Since her breakthrough in The Witch, Taylor-Joy has been steadily climbing up the Hollywood movie ladder. Her career spans independent thrillers, horror blockbusters, and period dramas, and she’ll soon be taking up the mantle as Furiosa in George Miller’s upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road prequel. It’s clear that The Queen’s Gambit is just the beginning of Taylor-Joy’s journey to stardom. What lies ahead for the young actress is sure to be impressive as she continues to rise to prominence.
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