Twenty-seven year-old British actor Sam Riley seems to fit his role in Anton Corbijn‘s “Control” to a T. In the film, he plays the lead as the ill-fated lead singer of early ’80s Manchester band Joy Division, deftly portraying singer Ian Curtis who fronted a band that has continued to increase in notoriety among generations of fans, many of whom were born after the singer committed suicide the night before the band was to fly across the Atlantic for their first American tour.
“We live in a time of manufactured pop idols, but [Joy Division] did it all themselves and with such a ‘fuck you’ attitude,” Riley, a musician himself, told indieWIRE during a conversation at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.
Though on the surface Riley seems to share some background with his character (he grew up in England and was first drawn to music at an early age, even taking up guitar when he was eight–“My brother and I wanted to be The Beatles…”), he was also lured by the stage. “I was in the school play in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at 13 playing the lion, and I got a great response… And like anything, if you get a good response, you want to do it again,” commented Riley. Eventually the actor found some television projects and even a part in a forerunner to “Control” — Michael Winterbottom‘s 2002 feature on the Manchester scene, “24 Hour Party People.”
“‘Control’ came along, but I was anxious because I knew there were going to be die-hard fans watching,” Riley said. “I was also initially anxious about acting with such great actors as Samantha Morton and Alexandra Maria Lara, but I figured this is my big opportunity and I was going to give it my all…” Riley was also anxious once the film hit the festival circuit, though it seemed to get easier as the reveiews came in. “I only watched myself nervously in Cannes, but in Edinburgh, I really enjoyed the whole thing. Plus, the Scots were really up for it. Honestly, I really couldn’t believe my luck in getting this role.”
Luck also came Riley’s way on a more personal level after he met co-star Alexandra Maria Lara on set. “The second she walked in the door, that was it for me,” Riley told indieWIRE, smiling. The couple now live together in Berlin. And if the actors’s performance in “Control” is any indication, he should have no trouble venturing away from home to more festivals with new roles that will come his way. “I loved getting up every day and doing this,” he concluded.
Next up for Riley is a role in Gerald McMorrow‘s “Franklyn,” according to trade reports. The Weinstein Company releases “Control” in the U.S. beginning October 10, 2007.