In a sea of superhero flicks and YA adaptions (both fantastic in their own right), Corey Finley’s neo-noir thriller Thoroughbreds feels decidedly fresh. Equipped with a palatial setting, sharp-witted dialogue, and an original score so weird and unnerving it makes your hairs stand up, the film is an exciting ride from start to finish. Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy are nothing short of fantastic as Amanda and Lily, two bored Connecticut-bred teens who, alongside a lowlife drug dealer (the late Anton Yelchin in one of his final performances), plot to murder Lily’s stepfather. I mean, what could go wrong?
After an evening celebrating the film—complete with a special screening and immersive after-party that put its attendees in an almost exact replica of Lily’s ominous mansion—we sat down with Cooke and Taylor-Joy in Los Angeles to talk all things Thoroughbreds and play a quick game of Crazy or Cool: Fashion Edition. It’s an interview you don’t want to miss! Keep reading for more.
Before last night’s screening, writer and director Corey Finley said he hoped the film made us think and made us laugh. I would love to know what you thought reading the script and/or seeing the film for the first time.
Anya Taylor-Joy: Reading the script and watching the film are quite different experiences. Reading the script, [I thought] this is amazing and how wonderful to have two messy, dark, and complicated women speaking such witty, intelligent, but horrifically nasty lines to each other. Like this could be really good fun to play.
Watching the film, to me, it was the soundtrack. I had been badgering Corey when we were filming, like, “What is it going to sound like? What’s it going to sound like?” He was very vague about it, and then seeing it, I was like holy shit. It just really elevates it to something unique and complicated and interesting. And so that was a really wonderful surprise.
Olivia Cooke: Yeah, I think the same thing. I was really turned on by how incredibly meaty and fleshed out these characters were and how their dynamic was just so interesting. It was a dynamic I had not truly seen in film before. You see it, and it’s like a side story or it’s a scene somewhere, but you don’t see it completely for the full duration of a 90-minute film. And then seeing the film for the first time, [the script] was funny when I was reading it, but I didn’t realize how much the comedy really translated and really lifted off the page with the performances and how it was edited, and the sound design, and the cinematography, and how Corey orchestrated the two of them. It was really wonderful because you always have this vision of how the film is in your head, and then to see it as a fully fledged film was wonderful.
The music was definitely unnerving, it made you feel uncomfortable.
ATJ: It’s almost tribal in a sense. It kind of really gets to a primal part of your soul.
It seemed like you had a lot of fun with these characters. What did you love most about playing Amanda and Lily?
OC: I enjoyed trying to find the depth of Amanda’s very shallow well and how she uses the art of manipulation and trickery in order to try and connect with people. And not only does she claim to have no emotion, but trying to find the ebbs and flows within that. That was fun.
ATJ: I’d like to think I’m very different from Lily, even though we both come from a place of feeling everything a bit too intensely, but the bit of her I enjoyed playing because it’s so separate to me is just her general disdain for everything. She walks into the room and she’s like I’m fabulous or I’m above all of this. And actually that scene with Anton [Yelchin] where he is like, “I’m moving forward in my entrepreneurial skills,” and she’s just like, “Clearly.” That’s something I would never say, so I quite enjoyed putting on that skin for a split second, even though I was very glad to leave it behind at the end of the day.
Olivia, as an actor, did you find it more difficult to portray someone with no feelings/emotions?
OC: It was just different, and it was a lovely challenge to have, because I think in other characters where you are playing these hyperemotional people, you have the challenge of like, “Oh fuck, I’m going to cry today. I’m not going to cry. I don’t feel like crying. I’m quite happy today. I can’t be bothered to be all sad again.” But it was quite liberating to express myself in a different way and try to find the humanity and also the realism of this character that also comes from the prism of me. My mom watched it, and she was like, “Olivia, it’s just you.” I was like, “What?!” And she was like, “It’s when you are at home and your delivery, it’s just you.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?!” So my mom thinks it’s the closest character I’ve played to myself.
I love how snarky and sharp-witted the dialogue was throughout. What is your favorite line from the film?
ATJ: “It’s kind of fascinating in a way, like a video of a giant zit being popped or a baby born without a face—love that video.” I find that one amazing!
OC: Yeah, I like your line to me: “You kind of smell weird.” And I’m like, “Do I? Sorry, I tried.”
ATJ: [Laughs.] That bit continues to make me laugh. It’s like yes, girl!
There is some obvious teenage rebellion happening in this film. How did you rebel as teenagers?
ATJ: It’s quite an English thing to do! And you do it a lot earlier. When I first came over to America, I remember thinking there were people who were having their first experiences, doing general teenager-y things, like drinking and partying or whatever, and I was like I did this at 14, I’m quite over it now.
OC: It’s like, I’m sober now.
ATJ: Pretty much! You go into the club, and you’re like, “Get your shit together. You really need to handle it.” But yeah, I think everybody in some way or another rebels in a certain stage of their teendom because they are trying to find their own limits as an adult that they are going to carry forward. And that’s what’s really interesting about Lily and Amanda is that they both don’t know who they really are. They’re just trying on people, and so they are trying on all these different facets of their personalities that are then going inform them as adults.
OC: Yeah, it’s kind of like the terrible twos again.
ATJ: Yeah, you’re teething.
OC: You are just wondering how much you can get away with. If I put this here, if I do this, if I defy you one more time, if I say I’m sleeping at a friend’s house, but I’m actually going to a field with vodka.
ATJ: Why is it always a field? Why is it always an English thing that you go to a field? Fields and parks, rebellious English youth.
What is your fondest memory working with Anton Yelchin?
ATJ: It’s difficult to pinpoint a memory. I think he’s imbued all of us with a wonderful sense of being. I think from the second he got onto set, his energy was so infectious, and he was just there. And I don’t think that feeling has ever gone away. The beauty of having the film is that we get to share that with other people. Having toured the movie for a couple of days now, the love that he inspires from every single audience—it’s just so astonishing to see the reach that someone can have. I think he’s incredible, and I don’t think he will really ever leave us, so there isn’t just one memory, it’s a feeling.
Any funny stories from set?
OC: Nighttime we had downtime, but when we were on set, there was no real time to hang.
ATJ: Olivia learned chess!
OC: I mean, I learned the choreography of chess. I don’t know how to play it. I learned how to say my line on this piece, and then how to say that line on that piece, and walk off to there and do that line on that piece. But yeah we did lots of dinners and did karaoke.
ATJ: We had bikes.
OC: Yeah, we would bike to the beach.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
ATJ: Olivia’s is Cher, and she is really good. And I had never done karaoke before, so we ended up doing—what was the first one we did together?
OC: “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Corey, the director, surprised all of us.
ATJ: It was amazing!
OC: It was only a couple of days into the shoot, and we thought he was really shy and he just blasted out Seal’s “Kiss by a Rose.”
ATJ: And literally all of us, we’re there having a drink, and slowly, every single head turned. It was like, “You are so suave, oh my god.”
So plotting your stepdad’s death is pretty crazy, but I think you two are pretty cool, so I want to play a quick game of Crazy or Cool: Fashion Edition. I will show you an of-the-moment look or trend, and you have say whether you think it’s crazy or cool.
High-fashion dad sneakers (Louis Vuitton):
ATJ: They look practical and comfortable.
OC: I don’t mind them, but I have the skinniest ankle. I always go over. I just feel like I would trip over myself.
ATJ: So practical but impractical?
OC: For me, yeah. But actually my makeup artist wore them yesterday and she rocks them.
ATJ: Wait, what?! Holy fuck!
OC: Are they their own heads?
ATJ: Expensive, very expensive. Could be donated to charity?
OC: I’m kind of into this.
ATJ: Meta, very meta.
OC: That would be cool to see that coming down the street.
ATJ: In nature of the movie, cool.
OC: So impractical. They don’t block the sun at all. You get wrinkles.
ATJ: But this is thing, though. I remember when I first saw them, like Matrix-style back in the day, I was just like, eh, I don’t really like them. But then I’ve seen some really cool girls with like, if you style them properly, like, oh fuck, you can really pull them off. That’s really cool.
OC: Yeah, but then everyone is wearing it. As soon as a Kardashian wears it, then is it trendy anymore? I don’t know.
ATJ: I go for cool if you can pull it off. But not for everyone.
OC: It’s like the sun is coming into my eyes—half an iris is exposed!
ATJ: I don’t like Crocs; I can’t help it. I love a platform, don’t like Crocs.
OC: This seems like a lot of weight, and where’s the support?
ATJ: I love how we’re both taking it from such a practical point of view. No, but I do like the weight because it makes you feel more settled into the ground, but I do not like Crocs. I’ve never liked them. No offense.
OC: I do like a platform, but I feel that’s just a no.
OC: I think if it’s like a little one…
ATJ: Yeah. And I don’t like it slung over the shoulder. I think if you’re going to wear a fanny pack, just wear a fanny pack. Practical! Go for it. I also enjoy saying it.
ATJ: Love, always, absolutely, Christmas all year round.
OC: No. It’s so hard to get glitter off. I think it’s nice editorial-wise, but for daily wear—unless you could get a wearable glitter lipstick that doesn’t smudge and doesn’t go into your mouth.
ATJ: Oh, I’m not thinking daily wear, but I love textures, so anytime I’ve got something on my lips I’m just like, I don’t know why I feel like a Christmas present, it’s amazing!
In the beginning of the film, you are prepping for some sort of SAT-type test, so I want to finish with an analogy.
Sugar is to sweet as Thoroughbreds is to __________.
ATJ: Nasty is what I was going to say.
OC: Nasty. Pungent.
ATJ: There’s something about the word nasty. I like that.