Anya Taylor-Joy, the actress who became world famous thanks to her role as Beth Harmon, a chess player in the Netflix series Queen’s Gambit , now arrives as one of the protagonists of The Menu , a film that mixes horror, gastronomy and some black humor.
The feature film, directed by Mark Mylod ( Game of Thrones ), focuses on a cruel experiment on a group of wealthy guests who travel to a remote island to enjoy an exclusive dinner prepared by celebrity chef Slowik (played by Ralph Fiennes). While it’s a gourmet experience , things begin to spiral out of control as the guests begin to examine their lives.
In this story, Anya Taylor-Joy plays Margot, a girl who reluctantly joins her partner Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) for dinner. While Tyler is a big fan of Chef Slowik, she senses that something is wrong with the restaurant and its staff. Thus, Taylor-Joy serves as the entry point into the film’s journey and once again delivers a captivating performance.
A funny and scary story
As the title of The Menu suggests , the entire film is structured around the food itself; While the scenes start out like a TV cooking show, the descriptions get more outlandish as the dinner unfolds, leading to plenty of comedic moments. In this way, the script by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy manages to convey to the viewer a funny and terrifying story at the same time.
In the film there is also a sarcastic tone about social classes and the privilege of a few. However, although the story initially seems like a simple waste of opulence and pretense, it soon turns into a nightmare full of physical and psychological violence, from which it is very difficult to escape.
The actress, who goes by the name Anya Josephine Marie Taylor-Joy, was born by accident in Miami on April 16, 1996, during her parents’ vacation, and is the youngest of six siblings. She lived in Argentina until she was six years old, later growing up in London, England. The daughter of an Argentine father, with Scottish roots, and a mother born in Zambia, of Spanish ancestry, Anya Taylor-Joy has not ceased to amaze with her performances in television series and films such as The Witch (2015), Split (2016) , Glass (2017), Radioactive (2019), Emma (2020), The New Mutants (2020) and most recently in The Northman and Amsterdam (2022).
Where did the idea for this film come from?
I understand that the screenwriter Will Tracy and his wife went on their honeymoon to Scandinavia, on the west coast of Norway, where there was a boat that would take you in 25 minutes to a private island, where there was nothing except a restaurant. So they thought this might be a good story idea: being stuck in a restaurant without being able to leave once you’ve entered.
How has this story changed your relationship with food?
Honestly, I was presented with a ton of food that was delicious, that I had no idea I could taste; but, still, I don’t think I would have gone there if I hadn’t been a part of this movie. And well, my respect for cooking has increased. I’m a terrible cook and seeing the way so many people do it as an art form was something I wasn’t aware of before making this film.
Did you learn anything in particular about cooking?
A few little things, nothing specific, since as I said, that is all an art. But without a doubt, I have been left with some curiosity to take some cooking classes when I have free time, of course, without those absurd elements that are seen in this story. But I feel like because we’re consuming so much, we tend to have an idea of how a story is going to end. And with The Menu, I really wasn’t expecting a lot of the things that happen there.
The cast of the film is very diverse. Do you think something is changing in that sense?
I hope so. I think it’s wonderful how diverse our cast is and it’s very nice because there are colleagues from all over and obviously I’m from Buenos Aires, so it’s fun to have work teams made up of people from different walks of life. It’s good that we show a representation of the diverse cultures that we have in the world, because we should all be celebrated.
How complex is it to work with scripts in which you have to deal with a high degree of confidentiality, until the film is practically released, as in The Menu?
I have never done a job in which I have not had to keep secrets, because it is an important part of the impact in a story for the audience. Usually, we all have a hard copy of the script, but every time they change, we have to send it back and they shred it. They trust us a lot because obviously with social media it could be very easy to post on Instagram about any aspect of a movie. And the reason they try to keep it a secret is so they don’t have spoilers and hurt the experience for others. It involves showing respect to the people who are creating these stories.
Let’s talk about his life. She was born in Miami, but she moved with her family to Buenos Aires when she was a baby and then she moved to London at the age of eight. How would she describe those years and what does she remember of that time?
I feel lucky to have the parents that I have. It sounds corny, but my parents are my best friends. And if I had been born in a different family, I think my life would have been very different (laughs). From Argentina, my childhood was beautiful, but I was constantly outside the house, I had dogs, cats, horses and ducklings and I was delighted with animals. Then we moved to London and I had a three-legged hamster, and that was a major adjustment (laughs). Yes, I can remember arriving in London, I was so confused and just wanted to go home. So I refused to learn English for about two years, thinking my parents would have to take me home, which clearly didn’t work out.
And it’s been interesting now that I’m an adult, because I love London so much, it’s the place where I’ve felt most comfortable being a London girl. So it’s been a long road to try to understand that I come from many different places and I feel in harmony with that; I don’t need to fit in somehow to make other people feel more comfortable. But that has taken me a long time to understand.
Is it true that you later used your savings to move to New York at the age of 14?
It is true that I ran away to New York at the age of 14. She was having a really hard time at school and she wanted to be an actress. So I enrolled in a principal’s program and I walked into that school one day and I said to my parents, “I’m not going to school, I saved up enough money to buy a plane ticket to New York. I’m going to do this and you can be a part of this with me or I’ll do it alone.” And my parents were amazing, they supported me when it could have been a potentially difficult situation.
At 16 she was discovered as a model walking outside Harrods in London. Was she also interested in modeling?
I never thought that I could be a model, it was not even in my mind. I hadn’t paid much attention to my appearance. My mother raised me to believe that my spirit was more important than my face and I am very grateful to her for that. But yeah, she was walking my dog and she was wearing high heels for the first time because she was going to a party and she wanted to practice. And a big black car started following me. I panicked and then I thought, “Oh, there’s no way he’s going to follow me.” Then a guy stuck his head out the window and said, “If you stop you won’t regret it.” Strangely, I stopped, but on second thought, it was very foolish of me (laughs).
That was very bold indeed…
Who stops when someone yells something as creepy as that? But yeah, it all worked out and I think I only did a couple of modeling shots before I got my chance to act. It was a lot of fun because it’s a way of acting, you put on the clothes and usually it’s not clothes that I would wear myself, but you have to become the person who would wear those clothes. And I was thrilled to be collaborating with these people and artists for the first time.
How did you go from modeling to acting?
It was in a session with the cast of the Downton Abbey series, because I went to visit the set, I had my exams the next day, since I was still attending school at that time. I was reading some poetry and one of the actors, Adam Leech, came up to me, asked what I was reading, asked me to recite a poem to him, and I did. Then he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told him that they probably told her the same thing all the time, but that she wanted to be an actress. He took my number and said to wait for a call. The wonderful woman who is still my agent to this day called me about two weeks later, and we have worked together ever since.
Why do you think you never fit in at school?
All I know is that I remember coming home to my mom more than once and saying, “Mommy, I feel like I’m separated from everyone by a sheet of glass. I feel like I’m on one side of the glass and everyone else is on the other side. I just can’t connect.” And for my second film they put me in a soundproof glass box. I would look at everyone else on the other side of the glass and think, yeah, okay, that’s how I felt. However, I know that I am very grateful to go off on a tangent a bit, or else my career would not have gone through what I am going through right now.