Back in 2007, Sam Riley burst on the scene with a starmaking performance in the critically acclaimed film Control. Poised to be the latest hot British import to invade U.S. shores, Riley followed Control up with two intriguing-on-paper titles — Franklyn with Ryan Phillippe and Eva Green and 13 opposite Ray Winstone, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgaard. The rest, as they say, is history — though maybe not the kind Riley initially envisioned.
Despite expectations, both films were little-seen flops that slowed down Riley’s trainride to international stardom. Not that the actor was deterred. He took the role of Pinkie Brown in Rowan Joffe’s updated adaptation of Graham Greene’s famed ’30s-set noir thriller Brighton Rock, as well as the potential part of a lifetime: Sal Paradise in the long, long, long gestating adaptation of On the Road opposite Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart.
Riley rang up Movieline from the garden of his home in rainy Berlin to discuss what led him toBrighton Rock (out Friday), how much pressure he felt to live up to the Sir Richard Attenborough-starring original film, and why he almost said no to On the Road.
(. . . . .)
You’re following Brighton Rock with another seminal literary classic, On the Road…
Rub it in, why don’t you! Rub it in!
What led you to that film?
Walter Salles had seen Control, and I think he saw a lot of people — every young guy who is interested in acting wanted a piece of this. I auditioned with Garrett Hedlund, who had already been given the part. It was three and a half years ago. It looked like it was gonna happen, then nothing. We didn’t hear anything, it disappeared. Then, a year and a half ago, my agent rings me up and says, ‘It’s happening in two months, you’re shooting for six months all across America. Start dialect sessions tomorrow; call the personal trainer, it’s on.’ You know, I almost felt like I didn’t even have an opportunity to say, ‘Well…’ I was thinking these things: I wasn’t sure, I was intimidated, I just got married, I didn’t want to go away for six months. But, you know, it was just one of those crazy, lucky things that happened. It’s a dream gig, on paper, for a young actor to play another iconic role in such a short career. The pressure is enormous on this one. As a cast we stuck together and tried to make it as free and fun as we could, without the weight of, ‘Shit, Johnny Depp maybe played my part. And Brad Pitt. And Jack Kerouac really wanted Marlon Brando to play it.’
No one could ever get it made. The very first day of shooting, it pissed down so badly with rain that we couldn’t shoot. It was like it was never meant to be. There were many other days like that in what was a very arduous shoot in many ways for everybody — for Walter particularly, and for all those who were there for the full six months. It’s a battle to get this done. But then it was a battle to getApocalypse Now done, and Easy Rider, so… fingers crossed.
Read the full interview: Movieline