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From Chess Queen to The Big Screen: Anya Taylor-Joy’s Rise To Fame

Image Courtesy Of @anyataylorjoy
A 17th-century witch, a Jane Austen matchmaker, a 1960s chess prodigy. 
It appears that actress Anya Taylor-Joy is a professional time traveller. Where's she off to next, you ask? London’s swinging sixties. 
The 25-year-old is the star of director Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho
A psychological thriller, the film follows Eloise Turner, an aspiring fashion designer with a sixth sense. Played by Thomasin McKenzie, a Freaky Friday-esque moment occurs when Eloise finds herself transported back in time to the glittering lights of 1960s London. 
She lands in the body of iconic nightclub singer Sandie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Quickly, Eloise discovers the dark underbelly of the era and that maybe Sandie’s life isn’t so glamorous after all. 
Known for her work in period dramas, it’s no surprise that Anya Taylor-Joy’s latest film blends past and present together. While Last Night In Soho is set to take the actress's career to another level (she even sang a haunting rendition of Petula Clarke’s 1960s hit Downtown for the soundtrack), how did Anya Taylor-Joy become one of the leading ladies of our time? 
The youngest of six children, Anya was born in Miami, Florida while her Princeton-educated banker father and psychologist mother were on holiday, making Anya an automatic US citizen. 
The actress spent her childhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina before her family emigrated to the UK during the political and economic instability of the 1990s and early 2000s. 
Anya lived in the central London suburb of Knightsbridge, attending Queen Gates School, the alumni of which includes the likes of Nigella Lawson, Tilda Swinton and Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles. 
Despite landing her privileged upbringing, Anya refused to learn English and struggled to adjust to her new life. The actress told Vulture in 2018, “Argentina is all green and I had horses and animals everywhere. All of a sudden I was in a big city and I didn’t speak the language.” 
Like most dual or triple citizens, Anya grappled with her heritage, telling the Evening Standard, “When I was younger I didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere. I was too English to be Argentine, too Argentine to be English, too American to be anything.” 
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At the age of 16, the budding star penned an emphatic essay on why she should quit school to try and make it as an actress. 
While her family were initially “terrified”, it’s clear that the risk has paid off with a then 24-year-old Anya being cast as Elizabeth Harmon, the lead character in one of Netflix’s most successful series of all time, The Queen’s Gambit
According to Deadline, by the end of 2020, the series had been watched by 62 million households worldwide and launched the humble game of chess back into popularity
But what made Anya’s performance as the orphaned genius so captivating?
Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name, The Queen’s Gambit follows a prodigy through her journey of becoming an elite chess player. Battling with both personal issues and drug and alcohol problems, the audience sees Elizabeth grow up before their very eyes. 
Variety described Anya’s performance as “magnetic” and it propelled the young actress to leading lady status. 
In the same year, Anya dazzled in (yet another) screen adaptation of Emma. The Jane Austen classic (that inspired the 90s film, Clueless) became one of 2020's most anticipated releases. 
The Jane Austen credit seems to almost be a rite of passage for Hollywood’s biggest stars. Keira Knightley’s fame rose to even higher levels after her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice while Kate Winslet gained praise for her role of Marianne Dashwood in 1995’s Sense And Sensibility. She scored the huge role of Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio just two years later.
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Considering that Anya’s first few movie credits were horror films such as The Witch and Split, it could’ve been easy for the actress to remain in the “scream queen” camp for years to come. But, gaining the coveted Austen credit seems to have revealed Anya to a whole new audience. And of course, Netflix took her stardom one step further. 
Like Elizabeth Harmon and Emma Woodhouse, it appears that Anya has been drawn to a complex female lead once more in Last Night In Soho. After all, it’s what she does best: a female protagonist with a deeper, darker side. 
As the actress is honoured with Face of the Year at the CFDA fashion awards, it’s clear that Anya Taylor-Joy’s genre-breaking range and star power is only just beginning.
Last Night In Soho is in cinemas from November 18
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