It’s been crazy for me, all this Maleficent coverage I have had the opportunity to bring you. With this being the final interview that I have to share with you, I can’t promise I won’t stop talking about this film anytime soon. And this interview is just as good as the ones I shared of Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley and Director Robert Stromberg.
So who is Sam Riley? Sam is an English born man with a few acting years under his belt starting in 2002 with some TV movies. He has a lot to offer his role and was a pleasure to chat with about working on Maleficent.
SAM RILEY: Plays a perfect Diaval in Maleficent
Q: What was it like to work on a new but yet very old story?
Sam: 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. But 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 lovely Disney movies. They do a lot of remakes and rehashes of things these days. I thought the way they did this was really interesting. ‘Cause, I mean, what would make a woman or a sorceress curse a little baby? It’s like one of the worst things you could possibly do. And before everything’s so black and white and these days, I mean ladies are still waiting for a prince sometimes but to just lie there asleep, it’s not really the modern way is it or something, so. And the fact that Angelina was gonna play Maleficent was very exciting.
Q: Was there research you had to do to figure out how to get into your character? Or did you have creative license because it wasn’t something that you knew?
Sam: Well I watched the old cartoon and things but it doesn’t really do very much in that (sense). The raven always looks half asleep or something. They organized it so that they could bring in a real raven into a room about this big. I’d never seen a real raven before. I thought they were like crows but it’s like this big and it could do tricks and stuff, which is pretty scary. I mean, 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, like, rub off on me and, that I could steal something from it while I’m the man part of the, of the thing. And there was a really nice lady who helped me doing a movement coach. And we, like, tried to copy bits of his movements. And by the end of the session I was actually running around the room flapping my wings.
It was horrific, yeah. 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. But it helps. ‘Cause when you do something really stupid and embarrassing at the beginning, then like when she turns me from a bird into a man at the beginning I wasn’t wearing very many clothes, which was a strange conversation to have for a Disney movie. Like, how much bottom can you show? Um, so once you’ve done something really silly then everything else, it makes you more relaxed, you know. I should have done it before coming in here actually.
Q: How much hair and makeup did you have to go through every day?
Sam: Um, 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, so it was crazy). ‘Cause they, they have to wake them up that early so that they’re ready to work at nine, you know? So the ladies and guys that were putting all this stuff on, they probably work some of the hardest ’cause they have to be there at that time and then the whole day they have to make sure things aren’t falling off. After a couple of weeks I managed to be able to lie down in the chair and while people were, like, 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.
Q: What’s your most memorable scene?
The first one really ’cause 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, but…she had her back to me and the way it was all lit amazingly or something and then when she turned around it was like… It’s weird because it looked, you know it’s not real, you know, the cheekbones and everything and the contact lenses. But when you look at her in, in all that stuff it kind of, it looks — natural is maybe not the right word but it fits, you know? You don’t think it looks fake or something. 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 know you got so used to seeing Maleficent every morning.
Q: Can you tell us about your audition?
Sam: It was pretty classic, really, which is more or less they send you the scenes, you know, they email you them and then you, you learn them at home if you’re a good boy. Then I flew to London and met Rob and the casting director. And then you do the scene and the lady plays Angelina or whatever. Sometimes you think you’ve done it well and then you never, it’s, it’s still don’t call us, we’ll call you type of thing. I didn’t hear anything for quite a long time and my agent who is really nice said, “Yeah, but you’re not really Disney material, are you?” So I was like…(we laugh) But he’s got a great sense of humor. Um, yeah. I sacked him. So then about three weeks later my American agent rang, which is always at night in Europe, 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.
Q: Your character almost plays Maleficent’s conscience throughout the movie. What was that like?
When we talked about it in the beginning she said that at the beginning he’s more like a servant and he’s scared of her because she’s all-powerful and everything. But if you think about it they spend, like, every day together for sixteen years then. I mean, she’s isolated herself somewhere, so that 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.
And yeah I can sense that there’s good in her, which she likes, she doesn’t want to admit or something. I mean, when I read the script and realize that I’m gonna have every single scene with her I was like, “Oh, well, this is pretty cool.”
Q: Did you get to improvise much?
Sam: A little bit of it, sometimes. The script was so great you didn’t really feel like you were forcing things. Sometimes with lines or something it doesn’t feel very natural to say them. But this time it was really great.
I think that you too will agree that Sam Riley plays the part of Diaval perfectly. Have you watched Maleficent yet? It’s in theaters now!
MALEFICENT is rated PG and releases in theaters everywhere NOW!
*I was invited by Disney on a press trip to LA to screen Maleficent, as well as interview the various people connected to the film. All opinions are my own. Images credits go to Disney, unless otherwise noted.