The Scottish Mail on Sunday
How Anya the little senorita grew up to become Jane Austen’s Emma
STRIKING a stylish pose in her pink Flamenco dress, the young – and precocious – Anya Taylor-Joy looks at ease in front of the camera, a place where she fully intended to remain.
Now on the verge of major stardom in the title role in the latest film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, Anya was just five when she was filmed telling her mother that she was going to be an actress. Two years late she was asking her parents for an agent.
The childhood photograph, exclusively published here, was taken in Buenos Aires, where the Miamiborn actress lived as a child. Soon after, the family moved to Britain.
But despite her early ambition, Anya had to wait until she was 16 before she could step into the limelight. While on a shopping trip to Harrods, she was spotted by Sarah Doukas, the founder of Storm Models – and the woman who similarly discovered Kate Mos.
Anya embarked on a catwalk career, then broke into the film business in 2015 in the horror movie The Witch. Recurring TV roles in Atlantis and Peaky Blinders followed. But it is her portrayal of Emma Woodhouse, the aristocratic matchmaker, that is set to propel the 23-year-old to greater stardom when the film opens on Friday.
Blessed with a photographic memory that means she has to read a script only once to know her lines, she has already been cast in both The New Mutants, the 13th and final instalment of the X-Men series, and Last Night In Soho, a 1960s-set psychological horror film featuring Matt Smith due out later this year.
She also boasts an ability to deliver perfect accents, helped by her nomadic early life. ‘I grew up in lots of different places. Belonging to all of them, you also belong to none of them,’ she once said. ‘I was born in Miami to a Scottish-Argentinian father and a African-SpanishEnglish mother, and then we moved straight away to Argentina… Then we moved to London.’
But when her father, who gave up his career as an investment banker to become a powerboat racer, moved the family to the UK,
Anya refused to speak English for two years. ‘I didn’t learn English because I was stubborn and I wanted to go home,’ she said.
The youngest of six children, Anya, 23, was also bullied at her elite West
London private school. ‘I was too English to be Argentine, too Argentine to be English, too American to be anything,’ she said. ‘The kids just didn’t understand me.’ Now her success is the greatest revenge.