Tuesday 26 September 2017

Finding a hunky Irish hubby would give me tremendous Joy

From model to social misfit Anya Taylor-Joy is an accomplished actor and she's still only 20

Anya Taylor-Joy, who at just 16 was discovered by a modeling scout
Anya Taylor-Joy, who at just 16 was discovered by a modeling scout

Anne Marie Scanlon

'I'm going to marry an Irishman," nine-year-old Anya Taylor-Joy announced to her father as they watched the film Titanic. It was the steerage passengers dancing below decks that did it for her.

"Those are my people," she remembers telling her dad. "My soulmate is waiting for me in Ireland, I know it."

It's somewhat humbling to realise that the conversation the 20-year-old star of Split is recalling happened just over a decade ago as she already has an impressive acting CV.

In person, wearing a tight-fitting red Altuzarra dress and black Armani heels with an ankle strap, Taylor-Joy, who has just made six films back to back (including the critically acclaimed The Witch), is an odd mix.

The actress sounds far older than her years yet she looks far younger than 20.

While Taylor-Joy has Argentine, Spanish, English and Scottish ancestry through both her parents, her nine-year-old self was on to something when she thought her fate lay in Ireland as it was two Irishmen who got her into acting.

Taylor-Joy, the youngest of six children, says she always wanted to act.

At 16, she was 'discovered' by a modelling scout and signed to prestigious agency Storm the very next day.

While reading a book of Seamus Heaney poems on a shoot, Taylor-Joy drew the attention of Irish actor Allen Leech (who played Branson, the chauffeur in Downton Abbey).

Leech asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and when she revealed her acting ambitions, he asked her to recite some of the Heaney poems.

"He took my name and number and said 'expect a call'," the actress recalls.

"His agent is now my agent. She told me he was quite persistent about it, saying, 'have you called her yet, you need to call this girl'.

"It's unbelievable because he had no reason to do that. He gave me my first shot in life, he opened up all of this.

"The next time I saw him was on stage at the London Film Festival whilst he was presenting us an award for The Witch.

"When I saw him I said 'you did this, you did this for me, thank you'.

"He's lovely."

The actor also has high praise for her Split co-star James McAvoy.

"He's amazing. He's brilliant," she says. "He's so good. Take aside the fact that he is the nicest man," she says giving each word massive emphasis.

"He's so nice and kind and really, really funny. Wickedly funny. On a movie like this it's important that you get along with your co-stars.

"He's just so unbelievably talented. This performance to me is a moment in cinematic history. He's ah-mazing... He kills it in this movie."

Now this might sound like typical Hollywood plamas, but having seen the film I can tell you that Taylor-Joy is not exaggerating.

McAvoy always turns in wonderful performances but in Split he is quite simply astonishing as he plays a character with 24 different personalities (see review, on opposite page).

Kevin, McAvoy's nominal character, suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) - what used to be called a 'split personality'.

Although there is no use of make-up or prosthetics between character shifts in some of the 'alters', McAvoy is physically unrecognisable as himself.

Taylor-Joy plays Casey, one of three teenage girls, kidnapped by Dennis, one of Kevin's 'alters', and held captive in a basement.

Casey, unlike the other two girls, is an outsider, a loner, a misfit. Taylor-Joy tells me there are some crossovers between her and her character. "I never fit in with people my own age," she admits.

"I never fitted in at school. Then all of a sudden, the first time I ever felt I belonged somewhere was on the set of The Witch."

Taylor-Joy goes on to say there are plenty of differences between her and her latest character. "She's incredibly patient, I have no patience whatsoever. She's far more quiet than I am, I'm pretty loud and chatty."

She is indeed very chatty, and great company, quick to laugh and not afraid to swear when it's warranted. Unfortunately, she's not chatty enough to confirm that she has been cast in the X-Men franchise.

The actress filmed her second movie Morgan in Belfast, so did she meet her Irishman after all? Is there a romantic interest in her life? "Well, I am 20!" she replies, giving me a cheeky smile.

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