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Apple’s upcoming Argylle movie looks so bad – and some Swifties see a Taylor connection

Published Jan 9th, 2024 9:49PM EST
Argylle on Apple TV+
Image: Apple

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Tuesday marked the official publication date for Argylle, a spy novel that has absolutely confounded me — and likewise bewildered more than a few amateur Internet sleuths — for months now.

Where, oh where, to begin with this one.

I’ll start with the easy part. On February 2, the same day that Apple’s new Vision Pro goes on sale, the company has another and far less consequential release also teed up: It’s Argylle, a romp of a spy thriller from Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn that will eventually stream on Apple TV+. The cast includes Dua Lipa, Henry Cavill, John Cena and Bryce Dallas Howard, and it’s based on the book of the same name that I mentioned above. I have to be honest, though — judging from the first trailer that’s been released, the movie looks like … there’s no other way to say this … absolute garbage.

Argylle on Apple TV+
Henry Cavill, Dua Lipa, and John Cena in “Argylle.” Image source: Apple

Speaking as someone who’s addicted to thought-provoking spy dramas, from writers like John le Carré, Graham Greene, and Mick Herron, Argylle looks like something you might get from a high school student rather than from a professional screenwriter for a major Hollywood production. That point, though, leads me to perhaps the only interesting thing about Argylle: The mystery of just who, in fact, wrote it.

Let me briefly stop here, dear reader, and take a moment to apologize. Because there is a ridiculous and unnecessary mystery behind the identity of Argylle‘s author that requires you, like Alice, to tumble down a bit of a rabbit hole. Which is to say: This is about to get a little weird.

When I say that we don’t know who wrote the Argylle novel that Argylle, the movie, is based on, that’s not entirely true. The author is one Elly Conway.

Ok, great — now, just who is Elly Conway? Therein lies the mystery.

Forget Googling her. She exists almost nowhere online, outside of a detail-free yet verified Instagram account as well as a sparse IMDb bio that reveals the following: “Elly Conway is the author of the debut spy thriller novel, Argylle, which is set to be released on January 9, 2024. She was born and raised in upstate New York. She wrote her first novel about Agent Argylle while working as a waitress in a late-night diner.”

Apple certainly knows who she is. At least, I think Apple knows who she is. The company paid a reported $200 million to acquire the rights to Argylle, long before the first copy of the novel was available — so surely they did some due diligence, right?

Having said that, take a look at the Argylle movie trailer at the bottom of this post, and then try and tell me with a straight face that you can understand why Apple wanted to shell out that much money. No, the only thing that makes sense to some people who’ve found themselves befuddled by this whole saga is that Apple wasn’t banking on the story, but rather on the person behind it.

In other words, Elly Conway has to be a pen name — probably being used by someone famous. What’s even weirder, though, is that more than a few Swifties seem to think that Elly might be … Taylor Swift herself (I told you this was going to get wacky).

The basic plot of the movie is that an author named Elly Conway, played by Howard, is trying to write a spy novel. Whatever she writes, though, ends up actually happening in the real world. And … that’s pretty much it, in a nutshell. The cat that’s seen throughout the movie’s trailer, meanwhile, is one of the many things that’s made Swifties sit up and take notice.

Argylle on Apple TV+
Samuel L. Jackson in “Argylle.”

You can see that feline in question yourself, as it peers through a backpack, in the still image for the trailer below. The cat is a Scottish fold — and Swift, I have since learned, owns two cats of that breed. “In broader popular culture, I do kind of feel like (Swift) has cornered the market on that cat breed,” Nora Princiotti, a staff writer for The Ringer, told The Washington Post.

“But the smoking gun, to the extent that there is one, is the cat backpack. Because I’ve seen that (backpack) one other time in my entire life, and it is on Taylor Swift’s back in Miss Americana, toting her cat.”

Should I interject here that I don’t actually believe that Swift — who’s busy being a recording artist and world-touring pop star — sat down and wrote Argylle? Nevertheless, some hardcore Swift fans seem to be fully onboard with this idea, while the official Argylle account on X is also fully leaning in to this madness by tweeting out Swift lyrics.

Taylor herself loves peppering her social media posts with esoteric clues and Easter Eggs about forthcoming releases, which is the same thing that some Swift fans are kind of convinced that Conway’s Instagram account is doing. That Instagram account consists of mostly promotional Argylle content, as well as bland imagery of the “Look at this sky, isn’t it beautiful” variety. But just to give you a sense of how out of control the mystery behind the author has gotten, take a look at some of the comments from this Dec. 27 Instagram post from “Elly,” with a caption that raves about the Shari Lapena novel Everyone Here is Lying (a clue, perhaps?). Many of the comments are filled with Swift’s lyrics:

  • hi tay I mean elly lol
  • Thanks for the book rec, Taylor ❤️
  • midnights become my afternoons…….🤔
  • Well done @taylorswift “the greater the spy, the bigger the lie.” 🕵️👏

Vanity Fair claims to have sources that confirm Swift is not the author of the book. But that’s not to say that there aren’t still plenty more weird details and head-scratching oddities: “On October 22,” the magazine notes, “TikTok users like Jessica Lynn Slocum and Chloe (@chloeandpercy) began making their case for Swift: Bryce Dallas Howard shares a resemblance, they said, to the red-headed author Swift plays at the end of All Too Well: The Short Film. Swift also has a documented love of argyle clothing.”

I need to just stop here, because all of this is starting to feel a little QAnon-ish, but also because I have my own dumb theory about what’s going on here. Again, this is much more interesting than the Argylle content itself looks to be:

My sense is that this is all just a super complex marketing gimmick, such that Argylle bridges both the real and movie worlds. In other words, that novel that Bryce Dallas Howard-as-Elly Conway is struggling to finish in the movie? You can now buy the actual thing, in real life — and even read it while listening to Taylor Swift music in the background, if you like.

Fun fact: The book is copyrighted by Marv Quinn Holding Limited, and Marc Studios is also the name Vaughn and director Guy Ritchie’s production company. I’m not sure of anything, but I’m leaning toward the idea that whoever is behind this decided to just start having fun with the Taylor rumors, similar to how The Beatles began messing with fans once the “Paul is Dead” rumor became a thing. Clearly, the joke is on us.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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