Sam Riley

Sam Riley Biography

Film Actor, Singer, Actor (1980–)
U.K.-born Sam Riley is a BAFTA-nominated actor known for his roles in Control, Brighton Rock, On the Road and Maleficent.


Born on January 8, 1980, in Menston, England, Sam Riley was the lead singer of the band 10,000 Things before starring in Control, playing Ian Curtis of the band Joy Division and earning critical acclaim. Other film roles followed, including parts in Franklyn, Brighton Rock and the Jack Kerouac adaptation On the Road. Riley is also featured in the vampire drama Byzantium and the fairy-tale update Maleficent.


Sam Riley was born on January 8, 1980, in Menston, located in the county of West Yorkshire, England. He attended Uppingham boarding school in Rutland and started to explore acting work, starring in a production of Nicholas Nickleby. After experiencing an emotional breakdown, Riley was taken out of the school by his parents and given space to re-focus. He later unsuccessfully auditioned for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and was denied entry into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as well.

After a National Youth Theatre role, Riley turned more fully to another passion—music—and served as lead singer for the band 10,000 Things, with his brother George playing bass. The group would release a self-titled 2005 album.

Portraying Ian Curtis of Joy Division

Riley's musical work was a natural precursor to what would become his big-screen debut—that of emotionally fraught singer Ian Curtis, the front man for the punk band Joy Division, in the 2007 film Control. The Anton Corbijn work earned Riley raves for his acting, and the actor won a British Independent Film Award as well as a nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. He next starred in the dystopic film Franklyn (2008).

The following year, Riley married Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara, one of his co-actors in Control and a star in Germany. The couple opted to reside in Berlin.

Jack Kerouac and Angelina Jolie

Riley was then featured in the high-profile drama Brighton Rock (2011), where he played the criminal Pinkie, a role once made famous by Richard Attenborough. Co-stars for the update included Helen Mirren and Andrea Riseborough.

After a part in the thriller 13 (2011), Riley landed another major role, this time as lauded Beat writer Jack Kerouac in On the Road (2012), adapted by director Walter Salles Jr. and screenwriter José Rivera from the seminal book of the same name. Starring opposite Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund, Riley spent weeks preparing for the role and traveled extensively through North America.

Around this same time, Riley was cast in the time-spanning vampire drama Byzantium (2012), directed by Neil Jordan. He was also cast in the Disney film Maleficent (2014), a live-action update on Sleeping Beauty featuring Angelina Jolie as the sorceress at odds with the princess. Riley plays a human/bird hybrid who is the title character's henchman in the film.

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