Writer/director/producer M. Night Shyamalan returns to the captivating grip of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs with Split, an original film that delves into the mysterious recesses of one man’s fractured, gifted mind. Following last year’s breakout hit The Visit, Shyamalan reunites with producer Jason Blum (The Purge and Insidious series, The Gift) for the thriller being hailed as “Shyamalan’s most terrifying film to date.”
Though Kevin (James McAvoy, X-Men series, Wanted) has evidenced 23 personalities—each with unique physical attributes—to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Tony Award winner Betty Buckley, The Happening, TV’s Oz), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others.
Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch), Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him—as well as everyone around him—as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.
For the film The Guardian calls “a masterful blend of Hitchcock and horror,” Shyamalan and Blum reassemble their core team from The Visit, their wildly successful 2015 collaboration.
Their fellow behind-the-scenes team on Split include producer Marc Bienstock (The Visit, Quarantine 2: Terminal) and executive producers Ashwin Rajan (The Visit, Devil), Steven Schneider (The Visit, Insidious series) and KEVIN FRAKES (John Wick, The November Man).
Split’s accomplished behind-the-scenes team combines frequent Shyamalan contributors with those who are newcomers to his crew. They are led by director of photography MICHAEL GIOULAKIS (It Follows, John Dies at the End), production designer MARA LEPERE-SCHLOOP (Django Unchained, TV’s True Detective), editor LUKE CIARROCCHI (The Visit, The Happening), costume designer PACO DELGADO (The Danish Girl, Les Misérables), composer WEST DYLAN THORDSON (Joy, Dixieland) and music supervisor SUSAN JACOBS (Unbreakable, The Visit).
The Root of Terror:
Moviegoers were first introduced to the mysterious and intricate universe of M. Night Shyamalan in 1999 with the worldwide phenomenon The Sixth Sense, which was followed by such blockbusters as Unbreakable and Signs.
The filmmaker began a new chapter in 2015 with his terrifying The Visit, which grossed almost $100 million worldwide. Following the same model as that movie’s production—and to allow for complete creative freedom—Shyamalan made the decision to return to his independent roots by self-financing Split.
“I want to make something new with every single film by doing something that nobody’s ever done,” Shyamalan says. “That’s exciting for me, and it’s also dangerous and problematic, especially when selling it to the world.”
After the global success of The Visit, Shyamalan again teamed up with Blum and his Blumhouse Productions for Split.
Blum, known for his industry innovation in helping to shepherd small-budget films into worldwide blockbusters, discusses the partnership: “Night can tell these extraordinarily character-driven stories against a backdrop of a larger subject matter. Split isn’t a typical small-budget film; it’s a large vision on a limited budget. It is not CGI or hundreds of millions of dollars that makes Split feel so epic—it’s Night’s incredibly provocative story.”
With a more intimate setup, Shyamalan was able to primarily focus his energies on the story and character development by eliminating some of the noise and variables that come with a larger film. “It’s easy to knock me out of my comfort zone, which is a reason why I make smaller movies,” Shyamalan says. “That way I can turn down certain factors so I can hear that creative voice telling me if something we’re doing is off track.”
Shyamalan pitched the idea for Split over dinner with Rajan, his longtime collaborator and president of production for Shyamalan’s Blinding Edge Pictures. “I was immediately blown away. I thought it was the perfect film for Night; it’s a convergence of all the types of stories he tells,” Rajan says. “He scribbled some ideas and a couple of scenes on a piece of paper, and they were all just riveting.”
Blum immediately responded to the drama and complexities of Shyamalan’s new offering, and how the film didn’t follow typical thriller conventions. “Audiences will enjoy Split on both a visceral ‘popcorn’ level, and at the same time, it will force them to reflect on human nature, which is the real underlying theme and preoccupation of Night’s career.”
Shyamalan’s filmmaking style also goes beyond a single genre. “Each film is uniquely his own,” says executive producer Schneider. “He weaves together folktales, legends and other narratives, and blends them with his background and experience. All of his films cover complex themes and characters, and I was amazed by the depth of Split.”
Schneider believes audiences will not only be entertained by Split, but they will be challenged by it. “My hopes are as ambitious as Night’s that the film’s strength in storytelling will spark debate about the complexities of human identity,” he says.
Whether it was looking into clairvoyance for The Sixth Sense, superhuman strength for Unbreakable or sundowning for The Visit, Shyamalan starts his stories with ideas inspired by phenomena in the natural world. But that is simply a beginning point: Shyamalan then takes his characters’ journeys to an extraordinary realm, letting narrative arcs arise from the struggles of the characters themselves.
As a storyteller, Shyamalan pairs comprehensive research with pure imagination. His films in the suspense and supernatural genres lead him to draw from the mysterious and fascinating, using those premises as building blocks for his imagination and ask, simply, “What if?”
Shyamalan explains: “I’m taking something you believe and pushing it into the fantastic realm. I wondered what would happen if, in Dissociative Identity Disorder, each individual personality believes they are who they are, 100 percent. If one personality believes they have diabetes or high cholesterol, can their body chemically change to that belief system? And what if one personality believed it had supernatural powers? What would that look like?”
During his time at NYU, Shyamalan took courses in which the subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was discussed, and over the years, the filmmaker has remained fascinated by theories surrounding the diagnosis.
When Shyamalan started to craft the Split screenplay, he read a great deal about the most documented cases—and these stories of those involved made a huge impact on his imagination. To inform his supernatural tale, Shyamalan spoke with psychiatrists in the field and gained practical knowledge about how therapists would conduct themselves in sessions with patients in this population. That inquisitiveness fleshed out the characters who became Kevin and Dr. Fletcher.
“This film is a convergence of skillsets and storytelling that Night brings to this medium, and there’s an incredible ride at the center,” says Rajan. “The performances are stunning, and I think that will resonate with audiences.”
As a specific and precise director hailing from the school of Hitchcock, Shyamalan labors over every scene. “Night’s a perfectionist, and he obsessively storyboards each shot to make sure he’s following his original vision,” producer Bienstock says. “He wants every shot, every moment to be the very best, and that’s inspiring.”
Like everything Shyamalan does, the look of Split is also incredibly specific. “It’s a dark film but visually stunning with a beautiful color palette and use of shadows,” says Blum. “Night has an unparalleled talent for creating dread and fear in the seemingly mundane and commonplace, which makes the film quietly threatening instead of overt or in your face.”
Getting Into Characters:
Nine Rolls in One
Shyamalan felt there were only a handful of actors who could play the demanding role of a man with 23 personalities in Split. It was paramount for the writer/director that Kevin’s personalities not be viewed as caricatures but as fleshed out personas that audiences would embrace with sympathy. To that end, Shyamalan sought out James McAvoy—a dynamic actor who handles blockbuster roles and small, intimate parts with equal aplomb—to play the lead character’s many roles.
Shyamalan saw McAvoy as absolutely up for the challenge. “This is the most complex character I’ve ever written. I was thinking, ‘Does he understand what I’m asking him to do in this piece?’ And he did; I’ve never worked with an actor so fearless.”
Shyamalan intentionally sent the actor the script with little context, hoping to draw from his performer ideas about Kevin he could never have imagined. The filmmaker recalls: “James asked, ‘What’s the name of the character I’m playing so I know, just so I don’t get confused.” And I said, ‘I can’t tell you, just read the script.’”
McAvoy was immediately intrigued with the story’s many twists and turns. “I read the first 10 pages and thought, ‘Wow, what is this?’ Then I read the next 10 pages and thought, ‘What is that?’” he says. “It felt like I was being continually confronted with something completely different. That’s the joy of what Night does so well. He keeps an audience on their toes trying to figure out what the film is: Are we watching a thriller, a psychological drama, horror, sci-fi or something supernatural? And this film is all of those genres.”
Shyamalan’s commitment to creating and funding his project was an inspiration for McAvoy. “He’s brave and bold for bucking the trend that says, in order to tell a good story, you must spend $200 million,” he says. “Instead, he’s clearing away all the interference so he can tell a really quality story. It’s a privilege to work with a director who has that attitude and approach when it comes to storytelling.
Shyamalan and McAvoy worked closely to ensure the actor’s performance remained incredibly singular as he transformed into each role with authenticity.
“Night’s demanding and almost forensic in what he wants you to do,” McAvoy says. “He has a very specific idea of what he wants in his mind, yet he’s extremely collaborative and giving.”
Changing colors and characters—sometimes within the same shot—was particularly demanding. “You hope the audience will buy you as one character,” McAvoy explains. “Then you need them to buy you as this next persona and make that transition interesting without alienating viewers.”
Still, the role presented the seasoned stage and screen actor with an extraordinary opportunity. “To be honest, I quite enjoy playing each character, because as an actor you rarely get the chance at this type of performance,” he says. “It’s quite exciting to radically change what you’re thinking, who you are and what makes you in a moment.”
The duo worked diligently to ensure each personality had a distinct voice and presence. “James is Scottish, but most of his career he has performed with an American or British accent,” says Shyamalan. “I rifled through his encyclopedia of accents, and would throw out an idea like, ‘How about Hedwig has a lisp?’ And James was just brilliant at adapting.”
When embodying young Hedwig, McAvoy walked a fine line between playing a child versus a simplistic version of an adult. “That’s how most people play a child,” says Shyamalan. “Hedwig’s very smart—he just happens to be 10 years old. I would tell James, ‘You’re not playing a dumb adult; that’s not what we’re doing. Use your eyes; you’re very smart. But you’re 10, so you don’t know what that gesture means.’”
McAvoy and Shyamalan continued to delve into the flavors and motives of each of the alters. “James would ask why a character responded a certain way, and since I was so close to the story, I was able to walk him through my logic,” offers Shyamalan. “It was essential to discuss each character until this persona was real for both of us.”
While Shyamalan strictly sticks to his script, he encourages actors to add their own color between the lines. “One of the ways to achieve this authenticity is by ad-libbing, and that comes out, in a way,” he says. “But I treat the script like a play—that’s always how I refer to it—and I don’t alter lines.”
For Shyamalan, there are millions of ways to perform a scene without altering words. “I want actors to realize they’re much more pliable than they think they are,” he says.
McAvoy performed between the lines with incredible artistry and expertise. “He said the exact words in the script but ad-libbed with this face and physicality,” says Shyamalan. “James would bring these incredible new aspects to the table. We got into that wonderful rhythm where things that were sacred to me weren’t touched but only heightened.”
The performer’s athleticism also proved a huge asset. “He was doing very physical feats like jumping fences and climbing,” says Shyamalan. “We would have the stunt person there just in case, but James is so agile and his physicality was a definite strength.”
Beyond performing stunts, the actor seems to shrink three inches when playing Hedwig and stiffens as strong Dennis. “Whether he was playing a child or a severe woman, he approaches each character with great comfort in his physicality,” states Shyamalan. “He’d finish a scene and the crew would break into applause because we knew we were watching something extraordinary.”
“When you think about what James had to do in this film, it’s astonishing,” raves Blum. “Not only was he seemingly effortless as he switching between alters on certain shooting days, he switched between them during certain scenes. You’re seeing an actor at the top of his game, and we were all awe-struck by what he managed to do as an extraordinarily disciplined actor. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope his performance receives the critical acclaim it deserves at the hands of Night’s deft direction.”
Casting the Thriller
With a modest production budget and a core cast of five, Shyamalan was painstaking in his selection of performers, choosing veteran actors along with a new crop of talent.
Shyamalan explains his process: “I prefer young, inexperienced actors because they’re just perfect in their energy and light, and then hyper-trained theater actors like Betty and James who are brilliantly extemporaneous.”
The director penned the part of Dr. Fletcher with seasoned stage and screen star Betty Buckley in mind. “Night is full of joie de vivre and mischief, and I love mischief,” says Buckley, who previously starred in Shyamalan’s The Happening.
A singularly focused therapist, Dr. Fletcher cares deeply for those she treats and bucks convention by viewing Kevin’s condition as a possible asset instead of a hindrance. “She sees him as having remarkable potential as a human being, perhaps more than the average person,” says Buckley. “Dissociative Identity Disorder is how Dr. Fletcher diagnoses Kevin, but she is more intrigued with the evolution of one of these personalities—what Kevin is becoming.”
Buckley researched her role including consulting with a psychologist experienced in this type of treatment. “I wanted to make sure I was accurately responding and relating to each one of the manifestations of the various characters that James plays,” she explains. “Her goal is to help this human find a central being where he can integrate these aspects of himself that have been fractured. Each personality behaves and thinks differently and has a different agenda. It’s very complex, and my performance needed to feel authentic.”
Shyamalan’s laser-like knowledge of the story provided an important avenue for collaboration. “He conceived of the script and has a clear idea of every single detail, which allows him to be very collaborative,” the actress says. “If you have an idea, he’ll help you develop it more or tell you right away if it’s not within the scope of what he envisioned.”
Beyond the thrills of the script, Buckley was drawn to the film’s distinct themes of loneliness, particularly within her character. “She’s chosen a solitary life, in order to be dedicated to her work and patients, and I tried to bring that awareness and feeling into the movie,” she says. “Overall, Split felt very much like a French film in its themes and artistic style, which is an unusual combination for a film meant to scare you to death.”
Buckley also appreciates how Shyamalan taps actors with strong theater backgrounds. “Night is smart to use actors like James who have roots in theater,” she commends. “Artists in that arena have an understanding of storytelling and discipline, and Night brings that craft to his filmmaking.”
To play the extraordinarily intelligent Casey—a survivor with a dark past of her own—filmmakers turned to Anya Taylor-Joy, one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming stars. Audiences first learned of Taylor-Joy’s extraordinary talents following her breakout role in the 2015 horror film The Witch. Shyamalan says of her performance, “She had this amazing rawness. I felt very lucky she said yes to Split.”
Before joining the cast, Taylor-Joy had the opportunity to first see the script. “Initially, they wanted me to sign on without having read it, but I pleaded to get a copy,” says Taylor-Joy. “I was shocked and amazed by the story; it occupied my brain for days.”
Taylor-Joy quickly found a path into her character as she easily related to Casey’s outsider status. “That quality of not fitting in could be her saving grace, which is such an intriguing idea,” she says, adding that she also admired Casey’s resourcefulness and strength. “She’s tough because she had to survive experiences no one should go through, but that background gave her the exceptional ability to break down problems by seeing the situation as it is, not how she wants it to be.”
Shyamalan’s distinct directing style was an asset for Taylor-Joy, especially during the supernatural thriller’s most terrifying scenes in which her character went head to head with one of Kevin’s alters. “I’ve learned there’s such a thing as generalized fear, panic or despair, and these feelings can’t be generalized—they must be specific to the character,” she says. “In a scene where I’m acting overwhelmed or terrified, Night would say, ‘I don’t know who that was, but that wasn’t Casey.’ And he’s always right.”
The writer/director also worked to make each take unique by having actors approach a scene with a different thought on their minds. “As actors we’re feeding off each other: If James does something different then I’ll respond differently,” says Taylor-Joy. “It was fascinating to see how the scenes played out. James is one of the best actors of our generation and watching him up close was a master class.”
Intense scenes prompted McAvoy to become protective of the young actress. “It would have been difficult, and perhaps psychologically affecting, to do this role with a method actor,” says Taylor-Joy. “Fortunately, James wanted me to feel as comfortable as possible, and would often joke between takes to lighten the mood.”
To portray the seemingly wholesome Marcia filmmakers looked to Jessica Sula (TV’s Recovery Road), who shot her audition for Split with the help of a friend and an iPhone. “It was not a quality recording,” she laughs. “I sent it in at 1 a.m., and the next day, I got a call to meet with the casting director in Los Angeles to reshoot the audition.”
After signing on to the project, Sula was blown away reading Shyamalan’s quietly menacing script. “Each page felt like a cliffhanger,” she says. “This is an extremely frightening, well-rounded thriller with substance; it is quintessential Shyamalan.”
A challenge for Sula was giving Marcia depth, and she worked closely with Shyamalan to add complexity to her character, one who is trapped in a cell and scared to death. “She’s a normal teenager who comes from a good family and finds herself in a horrific situation she never could have imagined,” says Sula. “I didn’t want to play her as just a shaking, scared girl. Night knows these characters inside and out, and he helped me hit all of the marks that added dimension.”
The film’s intensely emotional scenes took a toll on Sula and the entire cast. “We were often very quiet and reserved and didn’t speak in between certain scenes,” says Sula. “I listened to a lot of classical music, like Beethoven, because it helped me empty my brain without taking me out of a mood.”
Next up, filmmakers sought out Haley Lu Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen, TV’s Recovery Road) to play popular valedictorian Claire.
Richardson recalls auditioning one of the film’s most intense moments without first reading the script. “Night is pretty secretive about his projects before filming, so it was definitely a challenge to do the audition without knowing where I was or what was going on. I had to make up a world based off a single scene and blindly commit to it,” she says. “Once I finally got to read the script, I realized the film was more twisted and terrifying than I even imagined.”
Richardson and Shyamalan shared several conversations about her character and how to break the female stereotypes of horror films. “In so many scary movies, the ‘popular blonde’ dies first, and we wanted Claire to be much more complex than that,” says Richardson. “She’s a strong leader and believes with all of her soul that the three girls can work together and survive. Casey just happens to have had different experiences in her life that lead her to disagree with Claire, but no matter who’s way is right, Claire never gives up.”
An Altered Look:
Design of Split
Shyamalan again returns to his hometown of Philadelphia to shoot Split. “Philadelphia is where Night makes all his movies,” explains producer Bienstock. “He is incredibly passionate about that.”
Production designer Mara LePere-Schloop worked alongside Shyamalan to bring Kevin’s gritty reality to life. “This is a complicated film because there are so many layers to the story and what the audience is privy to at any given moment,” says LePere-Schloop. “We wanted nuances and subtleties that hinted at what was to come without giving anything away.”
LePere-Schloop and her team employed color to reflect Kevin’s different personalities. “These are hyper forms of people, and we had a very long discussion about using a new color for new character we were introducing into this world,” she explains.
The subterranean world of the basement also had color strategically threaded throughout. “We tried to desaturate everything else so that a pop of color was impactful,” LePere-Schloop explains. “Moving through the set, the wall colors are saturated and desaturated, depending on the scene. In the space where audiences see the most intense and violent action, we employed the most vibrant use of color.”
Shyamalan’s remarkable preparation and rigorous use of storyboards helped LePere-Schloop bring to life what was in the director’s mind. “Night has the whole movie in his head, and he’s generous with his time going through key pieces,” says LePere-Schloop. “I had a very thorough understanding of what was going to be expected of these worlds we were building and the exact shot he wanted.”
In addition to meticulous planning, LePere-Schloop often had to work quickly without compromising the film’s broader scope. “You can never make an isolated decision about anything when you’re making a film this size. You must think in terms of the larger context,” she says. “We were forced to put on our thinking caps and be efficient about everything.”
Shyamalan was always game to discuss ideas or questions, even down to the smallest details. “On any given day, we might have a thousand decisions to make from wall color to the type of light bulb needed,” LePere-Schloop says. “Night is able to multitask and is always eager to talk through any aspect of his vision.”
Costume designer Paco Delgado also kept with a more minimal palette. “Aesthetically, the whole idea was to produce a very stark image,” he says.
To dress Casey, Delgado opted for layers and oversized clothing to hide her body. “She’s a damaged person who has suffered abuse, and she doesn’t care about fashion or fitting in with the other girls,” he says.
Delgado dressed Dr. Fletcher in a restricted palette of camels, grays and blues. “I wanted her wardrobe to include elegant, high-end clothes but without being flashy since she’s such a scholar.”
The costume designer also used colors to draw distinctions between Kevin’s various personalities. “Dennis is the strongest personality, and he reminded me of a soldier keeping everything under control,” he says. “We reflected that policeman quality with a strong grey color.”
Imaginative Barry wore soft colors and materials including wools, explains Delgado. “We wanted his wardrobe to embrace his creativity.”
For young Hedwig, Delgado drew inspiration from the boys in Philadelphia’s nearby schools. “We dressed him in a tracksuit, which was popular with kids his age, and we added a little bit more color since he’s a child.”
Patricia was one of the more difficult personalities to dress for the supernatural tale. “We had discussions if James would wear a wig and actually look like a woman,” he says. “Ultimately, we decided that Patricia needed to look like a man wearing women’s clothing.”
One element that was consistent between each personality was McAvoy’s minimalist haircut. “I didn’t want to try to do anything with hair styles or wigs,” says Shyamalan. “His shaved head creates an empty slate where just the actor’s expressions take you from one character to the next.”
ABOUT THE CAST
Golden Globe Award-nominated actor JAMES MCAVOY (Kevin) won over American audiences with his critically acclaimed breakthrough performances in The Last King of Scotland and Atonement. Having been referred to as “The best young British actor of our times” by Empire magazine, McAvoy continues to test himself with a wide variety of work on stage, television and film and is regarded as one of the industry’s most exciting acting talents.
While McAvoy began his career in the theater, he came to popular attention on the small screen with the role of Josh in the 2002 Channel Four adaptation of Zadie Smith’s popular novel White Teeth. In fall 2003, McAvoy played Dan Foster in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award-winning BBC political drama series State of Play. The series ran in the U.K. and on BBC America, and became one of the most successful U.K. exports of the last decade. He also left a lasting mark on high-profile television projects such as the World War I drama Regeneration and HBO’s Band of Brothers.
McAvoy’s popularity grew when he appeared in the BAFTA Award-winning Channel 4 series Shameless as the car thief Steve. In 2004, he earned a nomination from the British Comedy Awards for Best Comedy Newcomer for his performance.
In 2005, McAvoy starred in the title role of in Damien O’Donnell’s Rory O’Shea Was Here. McAvoy earned a Best British Actor of the Year nomination from the London Critics’ Circle for his performance. That summer, he traveled to Uganda to take on the lead role of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan in The Last King of Scotland, directed by Oscar® and BAFTA Award winner Kevin Macdonald. He earned nominations from BAFTA, BIFA, London Critics’ Circle and the European Film Academy for his performance. In December 2005, McAvoy was seen in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He earned a nomination for British Supporting of the Year from the London Critics’ Circle for his performance.
In 2007, McAvoy starred in Joe Wright’s Golden Globe Award-winning drama Atonement, which also starred Keira Knightley and Saoirse Ronan. McAvoy received Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Award nominations for Best Actor and was awarded a Best Actor of the Year award from the London Critics’ Circle, the Virtuoso Award from the Santa Barbara Film Festival and a U.K. Regional Critics Award for Best Actor.
In 2014, McAvoy reprised his role as Professor Charles Xavier in 20th Century Fox’s highly anticipated X-Men: Days of Future Past, which earned over $90 million in the domestic box office in its opening weekend and is the highest-grossing film of the franchise thus far. He also was seen as corrupt cop Bruce Robertson in the U.K. acclaimed sensation Filth, for which he received a BIFA Best Actor award, London Critics’ Circle Best British Actor of the Year award and an Empire Award for Best Actor. The film, which McAvoy also served as producer on, was released in the U.S. in 2014 by Magnolia Pictures. In 2014, he was also seen in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them opposite Jessica Chastain. McAvoy recently completed production on The Coldest City opposite Charlize Theron and Submergence opposite Alicia Vikander.
McAvoy’s other film credits include Becoming Jane (2007), Penelope (2008), Wanted (2008), X-Men: First Class (2011), The Conspirator (2011), Gnomeo & Juliet (2011), Arthur Christmas (2011), Welcome to the Punch (2013) Trance (2013), Victor Frankenstein (2015) and X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).
McAvoy has also played a large role in the London theater scene. In 2009, McAvoy took to the stage at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End where he played the two roles of Walker and his father Ned in Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain. His performance earned him an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor. He was also seen in Breathing Corpses at the Royal Court (2005), Privates on Parade at the Donmar Warehouse (2001) and Out in the Open at Hampstead Theatre (2001). In 2013, McAvoy starred in Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios. His performance earned him an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor and the show was nominated for Best Revival. In 2015, McAvoy starred in The Ruling Class, which earned him a London Evening Standard Award, an Olivier Award nomination, and a WhatsOnStage nomination for Best Actor.
McAvoy was born in the Scotstoun area of Glasgow, Scotland, in 1979 and is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Selected by The Hollywood Reporter as their “Next Big Thing,” ANYA TAYLOR-JOY (Casey Cooke) was singled out universally for her breakthrough and debut film role of Thomasin in A24’s The Witch, released in early 2016 to a record-high opening weekend in A24’s three-year history. Nigel Smith of the Guardian praised Taylor – Joy as an Oscar® contender, and Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair said, “She holds the camera with an ethereal, but slightly menacing, energy. She could be destined for big things.” Justin Chang of Variety said, “If there’s any one performer to whom the movie belongs, it’s Taylor-Joy.” Directed by Robert Eggers, who won the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature at the London Film Festival, the supernatural horror follows a devout Christian family in New England in the 1640s.
Since the premiere of the film at Sundance Film Festival, she has gone on to film five leading roles in hugely anticipated films and has become one of the most in-demand actresses of her generation.
In 2017, Taylor-Joy will be seen in Thoroughbred, which also stars Olivia Cooke and the late Anton Yelchin in the story of the tempestuous friendship of two suburban teenage girls. She was recently seen in Vikram Gandhi’s Barry opposite Devon Terrell, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Inspired by true events, Barry explored the time when a young Barack Obama was trying to find his way as a college student in a new city, forging a relationship with a fellow student (played by Taylor-Joy), as he is faced with questions about race, culture and identity. She most recently completed filming the psychological thriller Marrowbone — the debut of director Sergio G. Sanchez—the story of four siblings that, afraid of being separated after their mother’s death, hide from the world in their abandoned farm, which within its old walls hides a terrible secret. The film also stars Mia Goth, George MacKay and Charlie Heaton.
In 2016, Taylor-Joy was seen as the titular character in Luke Scott’s Morgan, a Ridley Scott-produced sci-fi thriller, which also starred Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti, Toby Jones and Boyd Holbrook. “…Confirming the promise shown in The Witch (“Screen Daily”), Anya plays an artificially created humanoid being, which a corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate.” Taylor-Joy’s previous credits include the independent feature Viking Quest, the second of the BBC fantasy drama series Atlantis and Vampire Academy.
BETTY BUCKLEY (Dr. Karen Fletcher), who has been called “The Voice of Broadway,” is one of theater’s most respected and legendary leading ladies. She is an actress and singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around the world. In 2012, she was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Buckley won a Tony Award for her performance in Cats. In 2014, she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for the world premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends at the Signature Theatre, also directed by Michael Wilson. Additional major theater credits include Triumph of Love (Tony Award nomination), Sunset Boulevard (Olivier Award nomination), 1776, Pippin, Song and Dance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Carrie and the London production of Dear World. Television credits include HBO’s Oz, Eight Is Enough and numerous guest-star appearances on several series. She has received two Daytime Emmy Award nominations. Buckley has worked with the filmmakers M. Night Shyamalan, Brian De Palma, Bruce Beresford, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Lawrence Kasdan. A teacher of scene study and song interpretation for over 30 years, Buckley is also an accomplished concert and recording artist. She received two Grammy Award nominations, and has released 16 albums including the T Bone Burnett-produced Ghostlight, which was released in 2014.
Welsh-born JESSICA SULA (Marcia) is currently shooting Godless, a six-part Netflix miniseries for Scott Frank. Early next year, Sula will be seen in The Lovers for A24 opposite Debra Winger and Tracy Letts. She most recently starred as the lead role of Maddie in Freeform’s drama series Recovery Road.
In 2015, Sula starred as Layla in the British independent film The Honeytrap, written and directed by Rebecca Johnson, which made its American premiere at the South by Southwest Festival to critical acclaim. She can also be seen in season five and six of Skins in her breakout role of Grace. Other television credits include Fox’s Lucifer, MTV’s Eye Candy and iTV’s Love & Marriage.
A Phoenix, Arizona, native, HALEY LU RICHARDSON (Claire Benoit) is a young actress whose career already showcases her wide range of talents and a maturity far beyond her 21 years.
In the few years since her start in Hollywood at 16 years old, she has amassed a sizeable repertoire of film credits, including her most recent accolade as one of just a short list of actors who have ever appeared in lead roles in two full-length features at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Richardson’s first feature film was The Last Survivors, a gritty post-apocalyptic thriller that tells a tale of a survivor (Richardson) left behind after a devastating drought. Her second film The Young Kieslowski, also starred Ryan Malgarini. The Last Survivors was released on August 4, 2015, and The Young Kieslowski was released on July 24, 2015.
In March 2016, Richardson appeared in the Sundance Film Festival hit The Bronze as Maggie. Richardson joined executive producers Jay and Mark Duplass and the hilarious cast of Melissa Rauch, Thomas Middleditch, Sebastian Stan, Cecily Strong and Gary Cole in a dark comedy set in the world of gymnastics. Rauch played Hope Greggory, a washed-up former Olympian. She has no career prospects—or even aspirations—until a local rising athlete (Richardson) seeks her help.
Richardson was most recently seen in The Edge of Seventeen, opposite Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. The film was released on November 18, 2016, but first premiered as the closing night film at the Toronto International Film Festival.
This past year, Richardson also completed production on Columbus, opposite John Cho and Parker Posey.
Aside from her film credits, she has made a name for herself in the world of television. She currently stars in Recovery Road on Freeform, a new drama that is based on the popular young-adult novel by Blake Nelson. She is best known for her recurring role as Tess throughout the 2013-2014 premiere season of ABC Family’s Ravenswood—a supernatural spin-off of the immensely popular Pretty Little Liars series.
Richardson has also appeared in a variety of guest roles on other television programs. In 2013, she was featured as a dancer in Disney Channel’s Shake It Up!, which starred Bella Thorne and Zendaya, and as Destiny in the 2013 television movie Adopted. Other guest appearances include her roles as Mackenzie in the television series and web miniseries Awkward. (2014), Cassie Cage in Mortal Kombat X: Generations (2015), Jenna Davis in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2015) and Maya in Your Family or Mine (2015). She also appeared as Julina alongside Jack Falahee in the Lifetime original movie Escape from Polygamy.
Richardson currently resides in Los Angeles, California.