It sounds heavy: Shooting your first movie — the Sundance horror indie “The Witch,” hitting theaters everywhere Friday — in the woods of remote Ontario.
“I really should have been more concerned about going,” says star Anya Taylor-Joy with a laugh. “I had just turned 18, I was going to be alone with no WiFi, no cell service, and I’m going to be making this really, really bizarre movie. But it never entered my mind. I was just like, ‘I’m going!’”
The acclaimed film stars Taylor-Joy, now 20, as Thomasin, a teenager in a Puritan family who take up in a cabin on the edge of a forest. There, they find their worst fears coming true: namely that evil exists in the form of a frightening witch, who first takes the family newborn then comes back for more.
Being her first film, Taylor-Joy also didn’t realize till later this is not how all movies are made. They had a limited budget, which meant dealing with things like camera dollies sinking into the marsh. There was also the fact that, even way up north, the snow wasn’t going to stick around forever.
“The whole film had to be gloomy, so when the sun came out we’d be like, ‘Damnation!’” she recalls, mock shaking her first. “Eventually it got to the point where all of us were in the woods picking buds off of trees, so it could still pass as winter. We willed this film into existence.”
Taylor-Joy was born in Miami, but she’s never lived in the States. Her family immediately relocated to Argentina before moving to London when she was six. “I did not enjoy that decision. Now as an adult I can say, ‘Thank you so much, you gave me so many opportunities,’” she tells us. She even refused to learn English for her first two years there, but she thinks that wound up helping her acting.
“I don’t personally enjoy this quality of myself in real life, but I can’t help but mimic people,” she explains. “If I’m in a room I will pick up on the way people are speaking and I will go there. It’s not a choice. That’s great for movies.” On “The Witch” she could always grasp the broad Yorkshire accent the family has by chatting with Lucas Dawson, who plays her younger brother.