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Joe Alwyn

Former Partner

Joseph (Joe) Matthew Alwyn is a British actor and songwriter. He was Taylor’s partner from September 2016 to April 2023. His accolades include the “Trophée Chopard” at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and the Grammy Award for “Album of the Year” with Taylor’s folklore (2020).
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Early Life and Education

Joe grew up in Tufnell Park, a well-to-do neighbourhood in north London. His mother Elizabeth is a psychotherapist. “I never felt like I was lying down on the couch and being analysed every evening, which is probably a good thing. I managed to escape that. But she’s great with people and great to talk to. People always think that must be strange, having a mum who’s a therapist,” he told The Guardian in 2022. “It’s an amazing job. I actually think if I didn’t do this [acting], I would be interested in doing something like that.”

His father Richard is a documentary film-maker who also teaches film-making. He instilled a love of films in the young Joe by giving him stacks of VHS tapes for his birthday and Christmas presents. “He makes fly-on-the-wall, observational human stories. When I was growing up, he was often away, and I remember him being in these far-flung places a lot, bringing back cool gifts for me and my brother.”

Joe also has two brothers, one older, Thomas, who works for an NGO, and one much younger, Patrick, who was born when Joe was at secondary school, and has just left school himself. Joe went to a private boys’ school, on a scholarship and bursary. He enjoyed it, and made a group of friends that he still speaks to all the time, even today. He didn’t really act at school; he mostly played sport. “I was good at football. Tennis. I just like athletics, generally…‘Just generally’. It sounds so arrogant! ‘All of them’.”

Joe said he “secretly would look up drama schools online” as a teenager. He kept his burning theatrical desires quiet, à la Zac Efron in High School Musical. He told Vulture in 2022 that he had an early obsession with Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and how he was brought up watching “random French movies” with his father and mother. Occasionally, he broke free from the chains of jockdom and played Banquo in a version of Macbeth performed entirely on Rollerblades, and Snowy the dog in a production of Tintin despite looking exactly like Tintin: “Snowy was more of a stretch.” Once in university, he applied to four drama schools and was rejected by all but one.

Career Beginnings

People weren’t surprised that Joe wanted to be an actor, he told The Guardian. “I feel like I’d given enough hints that it wasn’t a complete bombshell when I wanted to do it, but I do think there was probably a feeling of, why?” He studied English and drama at Bristol University, and then went to drama school in London.

Immediately after his final showcase, he signed with an agent and was asked to audition for Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning director of Brokeback Mountain, Sense and Sensibility, and The Ice Storm. “It was as mad as that,” Joe said. He sent over a tape, and got a call saying Lee wanted to meet him that weekend. “So they put me on a plane. I hadn’t been to America before.” He landed in New York, in the snow, and immediately went out to find a New York slice of pizza. “Within five days, I’d left school, had a visa and was in boot camp in Atlanta. As it went on, I managed to relax and enjoy it. But at the beginning, in the first week or two of shooting, I was shitting myself.” And then it was over. “Everyone else stayed in America. I had to go back home and walk the dog the next day, it was pouring rain and I was back in this garden,” he smiles. “And life continued.”

After Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Joe had a run of nasty characters, historical figures, and sometimes both. He was a slave-owner in Harriet, and the son of a Nazi in Operation Finale. In The Favourite, he has a comic turn as Masham, who seduces Emma Stone’s Abigail, dances a silly dance with Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah, and is a thorn in the side of Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne. Masham is a supporting character, a small-ish role, but Joe decided early on that he would rather take smaller parts with directors he admired than always go for the big, splashy jobs. “There are a couple of things I probably did just because I wanted to work, but I’ve tried to be pretty picky,” he said to The Guardian. “The idea of being the lead role just for the sake of it seems ridiculous. Well, it doesn’t seem ridiculous. Each to their own. But I’d much rather play an interesting support role in an interesting film. I find that more attractive.”

Relationship with Taylor

Since September 2016, Joe has been in a relationship with Taylor. The two live together, and are mostly based in London. Joe prefers to keep their relationship to himself. “It’s just not for other people. And I don’t say that with aggression.” He told The Guardian:

«I don’t know how best to talk about it. I mean, I’m aware of people’s interest, and that world existing. It’s just not something I particularly care about, or have much interest in feeding, I guess, because the more it’s fed, the more you are opening a gate for intrusion. I think that’s just my response to a culture that has this increasing expectation that everything is going to be given. If you don’t post about the way you make your coffee in the morning, or if you don’t let someone take a picture when you walk out of your front door, is that being private? I don’t know if it is. So I just don’t really feed that.»

His own Instagram is strictly work-based, and there is little hint of anything beyond a film set. “If you and I were having a conversation, and having a shandy in my house, and it wasn’t being recorded, then, of course, other things would be said,” he says, echoing what Taylor told The Guardian in 2019. (“If you and I were having a glass of wine right now, we’d be talking about it – but it’s just that it goes out into the world,” she said, back then.)

In April 2023, media outlets reported that Taylor and Joe had broken up after more than six years together. Sources close to the two of them confirmed the news.

Music and Songwriting

One thing Joe likes to talk about is their musical collaboration, which turned him into a Grammy winner in 2021. When Taylor released folklore, two of the songs, “betty” and “exile“, credited a mysterious co-writer called William Bowery. Fans speculated as to who it might be, and Taylor later revealed that it was a pseudonym for Joe, who also co-wrote some of the songs on its follow-up, evermore (2020). “That was a surreal bonus of lockdown. That’s an understatement.”

“It wasn’t like, ‘It’s five o’clock, it’s time to try and write a song together,’” Joe told The Guardian. “It came about from messing around on a piano, and singing badly, then being overheard, and being, like, ‘Let’s see what happens if we get to the end of it together.’ ” He liked it because there were no expectations and no pressure. “I mean fun is such a stupid word, but it was a lot of fun. And it was never a work thing, or a ‘Let’s try and do this because we’re going to put this out’ thing. It was just like baking sourdough in lockdown. The Grammy was obviously this ridiculous bonus.”

Joe didn’t really have any musical ambitions before. “I like music, and I played a bit of guitar awfully in a school band when I was 12.” They were called Anger Management, and they covered Marilyn Manson’s version of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. “I can play piano pretty badly, but never with the intent of, ‘Right, it’s time for my jazz-fusion album.’ Unfortunately.”
General Information
BornFebruary 21, 1991
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
PseudonymWilliam Bowery
Alma materUniversity of Bristol
Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
PartnerTaylor Alison Swift (2016-2023)
BrothersThomas Alwyn
Patrick Alwyn
ParentsRichard Alwyn
Elizabeth Alwyn