Maleficent is celebrating a $170.6M international debut! What better way to add to the party than an exclusive interview with the dark fae’s right hand man…er…raven? Sam Riley.
Sam Riley plays “Diaval”, a raven turned companion to help Maleficent on her crusade against the royal family. No stranger to the camera, Sam is most widely known for his indie success in films such as On the Road (2012), 13 (2010), Brighton Rock (2010), and his portrayal of singer Ian Curtis in Control (2007). He took a few moments out of his hectic schedule to speak with us about Maleficent, movie jitters and being a new father with his wife, Control co-star, Alexandra Maria Lara.
What was it like to work on a new, but yet very old, story?
SR : Oh, it was really exciting. Most of my films are sort of independent-type cinema that not many people go and watch usually. But they’re all great, obviously. The script was really great. I loved it and the lady who wrote it had written the Lion King as well and lots of other big, lovely Disney movies. They do a lot of remakes and rehashes of things these days, but I thought the way they did this was really interesting. What would make a woman or a sorceress curse a little baby? It’s like one of the worst things you could possibly do.
Did you do research to get into your character?
SR : Well I watched the old [animated movie], but it doesn’t really do very much in that. The raven always looks half asleep or something. They organized it so that they could bring a real raven into a room. I’d never seen a real raven before. I thought they were like crows, but it’s like this big (holding hands apart) and it could do tricks and stuff, which is pretty scary. When it gets its wings out it’s as long as the table or something. You know, really huge. And they’re very intelligent and they’re kind of vain as well which I thought was funny. But, I just watched this raven in a room for awhile – just to see if anything would rub off on me – that I could steal something from it while I’m the man part. And there was a really nice lady who helped me – a movement coach. We tried to copy bits of his movements. And by the end of the session I was actually running around the room flapping my wings.
She was like, “We should film this.” So I was like, “Under no circumstances do I ever want to see myself running around a room on YouTube going [SQUAWK].” It was awful.
How much hair and makeup did you have to go through every day?
SR : It’s about three and half, four hours something? But I couldn’t really complain ’cause there were other people that had been in there since three o’clock in the morning.
I’ve just had a baby– well, my wife — so we were, after a couple of weeks I managed to be able to lie down in the chair and while people were gluing things to my face I could actually sleep through it which is pretty impressive. Until one morning they turned the seat back up and realized they stuck my nose on the wrong way, it was sticking up. So they wouldn’t let me do it anymore after that.
What’s your most memorable scene?
SR : The first one because I was really nervous. I met Angelina before, obviously, we rehearsed and things like that, but I’d never seen her in the full costume. And they drive you from your little trailer whatever on a golf buggy which was pretty — they don’t usually do that on indy films anyway. And, then they had this amazing set there and she was already stood there so I was worried that I’d been keeping her waiting or something which wasn’t a good start.
She had her back to me and the way it was all lit amazingly — then when she turned around it was like… It’s weird because it looked… you know it’s not real,the cheekbones and the contact lenses. But, when you look at her in all that stuff it kind of…. natural is maybe not the right word but it fits. You don’t think it looks fake. In fact I only really saw her in costume for like the first four weeks of the shooting. So, it was strange to see her in her normal clothes afterwards. You got so used to seeing Maleficent every morning.
Can you tell us about your audition?
SR : It was pretty classic, really. More or less they send you the scenes, you learn them at home. I flew to London and met Rob and the casting director. And then you do the scene. I didn’t hear anything for quite a long time. My agent who is really nice said, “Yeah, but you’re not really Disney material, are you?” He’s got a great sense of humor. Then about three weeks later my American agent rang, which is always at night in Europe, and, um, he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Oh, I’m in a pub.” And he said, “Well, buy yourself another drink because Angelina saw the tape and you’re Birdman.” So exciting.
Was this the first time that you got to work with small children on the set?
SR : [Angelina told me that] two of her kids were big fans of my character. They came for lunch one day on set so I thought, oh well I’ll go and, uh… And I got within about ten meters of them and two of them started crying.
Congratulations on your baby. Did you have a boy or a girl?
SR : A little boy. He’s four and a half months.
Have you already started reading stories to him?
SR : Not really. We sing to him. You try absolutely everything at the beginning, don’t you? We were thinking about whether to bring him over for this, but he just started sleeping through the night so we thought if he comes over here…because I mean… I’m completely jet lagged. By the time we take him back home he’ll be sleeping through the day and not through [the night], so.
But, we’re really lucky. He’s actually sleeping. It was like a holiday the first — although you you wake up like four times the first night that he did sleep sort of wondering what’s wrong.
Your character plays [Maleficent’s] conscience throughout the movie?
SR : At the beginning he’s more like a servant and he’s scared of her because she’s all-powerful and everything. But they spend every day together for sixteen years. She’s isolated herself so I’m the only one who talks to her. So, we wanted them to be a bit more like a bickering married couple by the end of it and have these lighter moments. When I read the script and realized that I’d have every single scene with her I was like, “Oh, well, this is pretty cool.”
Did you get to improvise much?
SR : A little bit of it, sometimes. The script was so great, you didn’t really feel like you were forcing things. Sometimes with lines it doesn’t feel very natural to say them. But this time it was really great. But there were fun little things. She was always teasing me that she was gonna turn me into a squirrel.
Did you get to see any of your transformations while you were filming?
SR : No, but the director had lots of beautiful drawings that he’d drawn — all the animals that I turn into — so I had some idea what it would look like. And I think there’s one brief bit of transformation in one of the trailers, but like for a split second. And all my friends are like, “Yeah, that could be anybody, man, you know?” So, I’m really excited.
Maleficent is in theaters now. You can get more information, watch clips and even order tickets on Disney.com