Anya Taylor-Joy on ‘Thoroughbreds,’ Anton Yelchin, Women in Movies and What’s Next

Anya Taylor-Joy is a former BAFTA Rising Star nominee and one of Variety’s 2018 Brits to Watch.  Having starred in Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” she can now be seen in “Thoroughbreds,” described by Variety as a “remarkable debut” for playwright and first-time director Cory Finley.

The film set in wealthy Connecticut and follows two rich girls, Lily (Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke), as they scheme to murder Lily’s stepfather with the help of Tim, played by the late Anton Yelchin. The movie opens in the U.K. on Friday.

Taylor-Joy can also be seen in the upcoming titles “Glass,” the follow-up to “Split,” and “X-Men: The New Mutants.” She is currently filming “Radioactive,” a biopic of Marie Curie (starring Rosamund Pike), in which she plays the double Nobel Prize-winning scientist’s daughter.

She spoke to Variety about “Thoroughbreds,” her career, and the business.

You were filming Netflix’s Barack Obama biopic “Barry” when “Thoroughbreds” came together. What did you make of it at first read?

I was very much in that 1981 world and chasing Barack Obama and all of a sudden there was this script I was completely blown away by. I loved how sharp and witty the dialog was, and that it was two young girls in these roles. I said to my agent, “I need to meet this man, I need to play this character.”

I knew Olivia was attached, but I didn’t know to play which character. I only ever saw myself as Lily. Then I met Cory and we got on really well. I started filming the day after “Barry.”

What was it you saw in the character of Lily?

I could hear her voice instantly, which is always a good sign. When you first meet her she is very polished and has a very pristine facade, everything is perfect, everything is fine. She is a thoroughbred. As the movie goes on those layers start to fade…and you’ll see the chaotic messy person on the other side of that.

Lily and Amanda are both rich girls. Is “Thoroughbreds” about wealth or friendship, or both?

These two girls are detached from society. They live by different rules: When something goes wrong, their first thought is not how messed up it is; it is ‘I must call the family lawyer.’ It’s a different world.

Friendship at that age is so incredibly intense. When I look back at my school days, the breakup I had with a friend was so much worse than with a man because you confide everything in them, and there is a sort of obsession you have. Couple that with the wealth, and the boredom of the summer…and the devil makes work for idle hands.

It must be poignant and difficult seeing Anton Yelchin in “Thoroughbreds”?

It is very difficult because he was my friend, and because I deeply miss him and love him with all of my heart. Actually watching the film for the first time was a shock, but now I get lost in it because his performance is so bloody good. It’s brilliant and it’s wonderful to watch somebody that is so talented fire up the screen. In [promoting] this film it’s been so humbling and spine-chilling how much people loved him and adored him, and it feels like a collective loss.

There is debate about the number of challenging roles for young female actors, but you seem to have overcome those obstacles.

I have an incredible team around me of mostly women who filter that out for me. They never really put me up for roles I would find frustrating. That said, I’m very aware that I am an anomaly, and that should be the norm. Characters should always be three-dimensional and fleshed out. It’s a really good sign that audiences are starting to demand that from filmmakers.

You think change is happening in that respect?

I think it’s a question of demand, and if the audience demands these stories and if movies like “Thoroughbreds” do well and actually make money. I still think we have a way to go, but luckily, the conversation is happening.

You are also starring as Marie Curie’s daughter. Where is that project at?

I’m still shooting “Radioactive.” Marjane Satrapi is my first female director, a force of nature and incredible to work with. I’m excited to get this story out because you mention the name Marie Curie, and people know she is famous and did great things, but they don’t always know what she did.

What can you tell us about your role in “X-Men: The New Mutants”?

I can’t say too much about my character, but she’s Russian, she’s a handful, and she’s got superpowers, and that’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to see it because, obviously, when you’re making it, you’re pretending stuff is happening. [But] when I see it, I will actually see my superpowers.

How was it working with M. Night Shyamalan and the “Split” team again on “Glass”?

Making that was one of the coolest experiences of my life because everybody on that set was so aware of how special it was. The man has been working on it for 17 years, planning a trilogy, and all of a sudden this incredible group of people are all around trying to realize that vision. The thing about Night is he always works with the same crew, so I was working with the  same people three years after “Split,” and then the people from “Unbreakable.”

And you are working with Robert Eggers again in “Nosferatu,” when is that happening?

I’ve no idea, but Rob and I are very good friends and love each other very much and hopefully we’ll get the chance to work together again soon.

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