At the movies

Indie darling Sam Riley in Miami, talks going mainstream as Angelina Jolie’s sidekick in ‘Maleficent’

 
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Anthony Harvey / Getty Images

Sam Riley was disappointed that he only got one day to spend in Miami to promote Disney’s (anticipated) blockbuster Maleficent, which opens Friday.

“What’s this about? I’m calling Walt!” he deadpans from the Mandarin Oriental Miami Hotel. “Oh wait. . .”

Riley’s a witty chap, and his cheeky delivery serves him well as Angelina Jolie’s shape-shifting whipping boy Diaval, in this 3D, updated version of Sleeping Beauty.

How was it getting bossed around by the evil queen?

“Well, there are worse people to be a sidekick for,” he says of the film’s star. “She’s incredibly professional but a very warm person to work with. We had a lot of fun doing our scenes and how we had to act as if we were on each other’s nerves.”

Funny thing: As a lad, Riley had no interest in the story of Princess Aurora, who was cursed to fall into a deep sleep on her 16th birthday after pricking her finger. Jungle Book was more his thing.

But here he is with top billing in one of the biggest releases this year.

Audiences (especially the little Frozen-obsessed girls this movie is hoping to entice) may not know Riley’s body of work. Before this major turn, the Brit mainly had roles in serious indie dramas such as the 2007 biopic Control, about punk rocker Ian Curtis, the Joy Division singer who commited suicide at age 23; and the 2012 film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, as narrator/protagonist Sal Paradise.

But now the former Burberry model is hanging with the A-list crowd.

“Yes, this is all new for me,” admits Riley, who is married to his Control costar, German actress Alexandra Maria Lara. The couple’s first child, a boy, was born in January. “Normally I’m not comic relief, I’m tragic relief. That’s me: tears and cigarettes.”

As for Jolie, she didn’t see herself as a baddie.

“There are people today, especially kids, that have been bullied and felt like they are outsiders or felt different,” Jolie recently told The Associated Press of her character who sports a warped Viking-esque helmet, crazy-sharp cheekbones and blood-red lipstick. “She is kind of an anti-hero for the odd man out, and when she feels abused, or when somebody hurts her, she then says, ‘Oh, all right. You’re going to mess with me? Watch me.’ 

Oh, and Riley does realize the gravitas of his situation.

When pressed to hear more about his experience with Jolie, whose children with Brad Pitt -— Vivienne, Zahara and Pax — have cameos in the movie, Riley ribs, “Oh, I haven’t been asked that question before. You’re the first reporter. Let me think of an answer. . .”

Madeleine Marr

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