Born into money, the two Connecticut princesses of Thoroughbreds eventually swivel to murder. It’s a fierce vision of idle savagery, written and directed by first-time filmmaker Cory Finley, who stunned Sundance with a new American Psycho. As played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) and Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), the characters come to life and even approach human-being status. We caught up with the co-stars to talk about evil.
These girls have way too much time on their hands. What do you think spurs them to crime?
Anya Taylor-Joy: I think it’s really speaking to what it is to be a teenage girl. Obviously, they’re surrounded by wealth and privilege, but there’s an element of boredom and loneliness, too. I think they’re isolated, so when they come across each other, it’s almost like a catalyst for transformation.
Lily and Amanda start as opposites—good girl and bad girl—but they have a lot in common.
Olivia Cooke: Their two personalities mold into each other and reverse at the end.
AT-J: Honestly, the dialogue is what really inspired us—how intelligent and witty and sharp and horrible it was. It was a continuous one-upping of each other. I’d never read anything like it.
OC: Neither of us have done theater. This is the closest we’ve ever come to doing a real two-hander, and these scenes were so long and juicy. Selfishly, it was a real treat for us. Thoroughbreds was originally written as a play. Cory was imagining it onstage.
Wealth is a big part of Thoroughbreds, especially the way you both swan through it, barely noticing. What was it like shooting in those insane homes?
OC: You arrive at this huge mansion with the long driveway, and you’re just shocked by the gluttony. To me, I found it incredibly creepy. A little revolting, actually.
I need to know: Does the movie’s “technique” (choking yourself in order to fake-cry) really work?
OC: I don’t think it does. I tried to do that—just cut off any oxygen and breathe in tiny gulps—and, no, it doesn’t work. I think it was something that completely sprang from Cory’s imagination.
Yelchin, right, and Taylor-Joy
It’s sad to have to ask this question, but what was it like working with the late Anton Yelchin?
AT-J: From the first moment we met him, he was so enthusiastic and full of life. He was really present, such a student of film, and he knew the tone of the movie. His was actually the kindest character. After Anton came in, he made Tim—sort of a sad role on the page—huge and sympathetic. When Olivia and I met, we started creating these two symbiotic snakes, but Anton played [his role] so vulnerably that he allowed us to go even further.
Was it hard to say goodbye to these roles?
AT-J: It was definitely good fun. I’m protective of my characters, so when people on set were like, “God, Lily’s such a bitch,” I was like, “You don’t know where she’s coming from!” Only after the shoot was I able to realize, Wow, she’s really quite toxic. I didn’t want to inhabit her skin anymore.
OC: You have to be protective of your characters, otherwise you can’t play them.
What are some of your favorite teen movies?
AT-J: It sounds obvious, but I love Heathers. I’ve watched that one so many times. Also, Mean Girls—that’s just a classic.
OC: Superbad, as well. You’re just rolling on the floor at how heinous and graphic it is.
Thoroughbreds opens Fri 9.