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We’re evaluating the evidence so you don’t have to.
Of all the things Taylor Swift fans were excited about when it came to the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), the long-fabled original, 10-minute version of “All Too Well” was easily number one on the list. And since Taylor Swift has a long history of dropping Da Vinci Code–level clues and puzzles into, well, everything, those same die-hard fans immediately set about overanalyzing the new lyrics in the song.
One of the first mysteries that caught fans’ attention came in the third verse, when Taylor sings about an unnamed “actress” who comforted her in a bathroom during a low moment in the relationship the song is based on (most fans agree the track documents Taylor’s three-month ’ship with Jake Gyllenhaal). Here are the lyrics in question:
The lyrics collectively had Twitter like:
some actress asking me what happened, YOU. that’s what happened: YOU.#AllTooWell pic.twitter.com/fJHhn8ApGr
the actress who asked “what happened” listening to all too well 10 minutes version pic.twitter.com/jGdfvSPyEF
So who exactly was the actress who took the time to ask Taylor what happened in that party bathroom? Naturally, the internet has thoughts. A *LOT* of thoughts. Here’s a breakdown of the top theories.
One of the most shared theories about the identity of the actress suggests that it was none other than Rachel Green herself who checked in on a 20-year-old Tay during her party bathroom sobfest.
This theory can be traced back to a NY Daily News story from 2011 in which an “insider” told the outlet they had spotted Jennifer Aniston passing some love-life wisdom on to Taylor at the People’s Choice Awards (and, you know, awards shows are a kind of party…just not a kind of party that we mere mortals get to chill at).
This theory is just plain juicy. It’s the kind of tea we’ve all been thirsty for without realizing it.
streets are saying that the actress in a bathroom lyric from all too well is about jennifer aniston ohhh my god pic.twitter.com/GyI4znPRHu
Unfortunately, while it’s definitely eyebrow-raising that Jennifer Aniston was reportedly seen giving Taylor love advice at around the time she would have been reeling from the “All Too Well” relationship, we can’t fully endorse this theory.
According to the Daily News report, Jen told Tay to “hang in there,” but that advice was reportedly “in the face of relentless press about her love life,” which doesn’t totally track with the vibe we get from the song (which seems to imply that when the actress in question asked what happen, Taylor made it clear she was crying about a very specific person and not the more general and pervasive problem of the media covering her love life).
The Daily News story went on to say that “we hear the two had not previously met, but Aniston ‘wanted Taylor to know everything will be okay’” and that Jen told Taylor to “go out there and have fun.”
The Daily News report didn’t include mention of Taylor crying (which any anonymous celebrity tipster worth their salt would have mentioned, no?), but since Jen had a personal connection to Taylor’s love life—they both dated John Mayer circa 2009—she wouldn’t have really needed an instigating moment like witnessing bathroom weeping to strike up a little love-life convo with the singer.
But also this:
the whole rumour how jen aniston is the actress from all too well (10 min version) and i just remembered how jake gyllenhaal said jen was his crush when filming the good girl?? FUNNY HOW THIS COMES FULL CIRCLE
The other top theory circulating about the “All Too Well” actress’s identity argues that it was Anne Hathaway who witnessed the bathroom cry sesh. We can thank an interview Anne gave in 2015 to Glamour UK for this one.
In the interview in question, Anne shared her love and admiration for Taylor along with a *very* brief anecdote about meeting the singer. The anecdote is so brief, in fact, that the only firm detail it includes is that it occurred when Taylor was 20 and dating Jake Gyllenhaal (who, remember, is pretty much universally thought to be the inspo behind “All Too Well”).
“She just seems to be following her heart,” Anne said. “I met her—I hope it’s okay to say this—when she and Jake [Gyllenhaal] were together. She was 20 at the time, and we hung out one night. I was like, ‘You are a magnificent creature.’ She was on fire and I’ve watched her become this force of nature.”
Well, the Anne Hathaway theory certainly has timeline consistency on its side. Also, unlike the Jen/Taylor encounter, this one is totally verified and on the record because it comes from Anne herself. Also, there’s a subset of Twitter that is BEYOND here for it:
ANNE AN ALLY WHO ELSE SCREAMED
the lyric about the actress in All Too Well, i guessed Anne Hathaway last night just cause I know of that circle of friends back then but um… maybe I was right 👀 pic.twitter.com/huFxmohSYO
happy birthday anne hathaway your present this year is being referred to as “some actress” in the ten minute version of all too well https://t.co/syd6hrEwTu
And honestly, as “All Too Well” actress theories go, we have to admit we like this one. The timing is SPOT. ON. Anne costarred with Jake in Love & Other Drugs around the time he and Taylor dated and they had previously worked together on Brokeback Mountain, so we could even see her being on the guest list for a dinner party similar to the one highlighted in All Too Well: The Short Film (meaning the “party” in question could have been much more low-key than an industryevent).
We just…like it. It feels like it could be true. We’re giving this theory a very solid maybe.
While Jennifer Aniston and Anne Hathaway have definitely been the focus of most of the fan theories about the “All Too Well” actress’s identity, there is a small group of people who just feel in their guts that the actress is none other than Jake’s sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
the actress who asked taylor what was wrong as she weeper at a party in all too well is maggie gyllenhall in this essay i will pic.twitter.com/SOfFXav1TB
Proponents of this theory take the “party” line in a super-intimate direction and see it as a reference to a family get-together Taylor attended (she *did* spend Thanksgiving with him in 2010).
Critics of this theory are very quick to point out that Maggie already has a mention in the song—in the “I left my scarf there at your sister’s house” line. Why, they ask, would Taylor refer to Maggie as her lover’s sister in one lyric and as “some actress” in another? TBH, we’re in the camp of people who doubt Taylor would miss the opportunity to drag the fact that her ex’s own sister came to her aid in a bathroom if it had, in fact, been Maggie.
Also, Maggie has publicly claimed a lot of ¯_(ツ)_/¯ when it comes to the lyrical revelations of “All Too Well.” Case in point: During a 2017 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, she made it clear that she’s v confused about why people constantly ask her about Taylor Swift’s old scarf.
“I never understood why everybody asked me about this scarf. I am in the dark about the scarf,” she said when asked about the current status of the infamous accessory. “It’s totally possible, I don’t know.”
Based on the current prevailing theories, we’re most swayed by the evidence that Anne Hathaway is the mysterious actress in the bathroom Taylor mentions in the 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” We’re still very open to other theories and evidence, so send them our way if you dig anything up, plz?