Sam Riley

Sam Riley

Born in the West Yorkshire village of Menston, England, Sam Riley was one of four children by his parents, a textile agent and nursery school teacher. He fell in love with acting and singing as a child, but failed to secure a place at either the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art or the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Riley subsequently dropped out of his public boarding school, Uppingham, to front the pop/rock band 10,000 Things. The group, which also featured Riley's brother George on bass, was a minor success, releasing one independent album before signing with Polydor to release their self-titled major label debut in 2005. Opening slots for U.K. bands like Babyshambles and a performance at the prestigious Reading Festival soon followed, but 10,000 Things eventually ground to a halt due to a lack of genuine progress. Riley soon fell back on his acting career, which he had begun in 2002 with minor appearances in several made-for-television movies.His big break came in 2007 with his turn as British band Joy Division's frontman Ian Curtis in photographer Anton Corbijn's feature directorial debut, "Control." Riley won considerable praise for his turn as the doomed rocker, who committed suicide on the eve of the band's 1980 debut in America, as well as for singing all of the Joy Division songs heard on the film's soundtrack. He also bore an uncanny resemblance to the late rocker, essentially becoming him onscreen. For his efforts, he won the 2007 British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer, as well as several acting awards from significant world critical organizations. The film also introduced Riley to Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara, who played Belgian journalist Annik Honoré in the film, and who married Riley in 2009. Riley followed "Control" with the British science fiction film "Franklyn" (2007) about a dystopian world in a parallel existence with modern-day London. Critics pilloried his next effort, "13" (2010), an English language remake of the 2005 Georgian-French film "13 Tzameti," with Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham and 50 Cent as fellow participants in a Russian roulette competition. But his turn as a psychopathic young British hoodlum in "Brighton Rock" (2011), a remake of the iconic 1947 British thriller, as well as the Graham Greene book of the same name that served as its inspiration, was a standout. A minor appearance opposite Lara in the German comedy "Rubblediekatz" ("Woman in Love") (2011) preceded his American film debut in "On the Road" (2012), director Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's landmark novel about his travels across America with friend Neal Cassady. Riley was top-billed as Kerouac's alter ego in the novel, Sal Paradise. The film attracted considerable attention for "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart's presence as Cassady's girlfriend, Marylou, who drove a wedge between the two friends, but reviews were largely mixed for the long-gestating project. After completing "On the Road" in 2010, Riley took a supporting role in Neil Jordan's vampire drama "Byzantium" (2011) and Robert Stromberg's "Maleficent" (2014), a retelling of the "Sleeping Beauty" fairytale from the perspective of the titular villainess (Angelina Jolie). Riley was cast as her familiar, a raven with the ability to assume human form. By Paul Gaita