Life is strange. And Sam Riley is clearly still trying to fathom how, in just six years, he has gone from lead singer of indie band 10,000 Things to Angelina Jolie’s co-star in a Disney film. In between, he’s landed roles in Control, Brighton Rock and now the eagerly-anticipated cinematic adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s cult novel On The Road. ShortList joined the Berlin-based Yorkshireman to work out where it all went right.
Are you happy On The Road is ready to be released?
I felt a huge weight lift off me at Cannes, because I’d been apprehensive from the day I was given [the part]. And I kind of had the feeling that it’s out there now, people can sh*t on it or like it.
How did it go down in Cannes?
The reception after the film was great. There was a big standing ovation – I think someone timed it and it was six minutes – which was better than the tomatoes I was expecting. Then, one of the first pages that comes up when I turn my computer on is The Guardian film page, and I saw the two stars, and I was like, “Ah, f*ck! Way to ruin it!”
Were you a big fan of Kerouac’s book?
I didn’t read it. I missed out on the book when I was a young man. A lot of my friends read it, and they went travelling and things like that. Around that time I was having to read books for my A-levels. I didn’t want to read anything else.
The book has had its critics – were you worried the film might come in for stick, too?
I figured 50 per cent of the cinema guys or people that are interested in it would hate it before they saw it. They’d hate that I was in it, or that Kristen [Stewart] was in it, or that Garrett [Hedlund] was in it, or that it was being done at all because it’s misogynistic. But I couldn’t turn it down.
What was it like filming in all the different US cities?
New Orleans is a dangerous city, but it was great fun. San Francisco is cool, but we weren’t there for very long. When Steve Buscemi was there, after the day’s shooting we would ask him if he wanted to come and have a beer with us, and he said, “Yeah, come and knock on my room,” and I thought, “This is trippy – I’ll have a shower and then I’m going to knock on Mr Pink’s door.”
And did he answer?
Yeah! And he had a drink, and we tried to coax him to have a few more. We were just pestering him with questions about The Big Lebowski, but he was very sweet. He had some great anecdotes.
So if you’d been out at night, how was filming the next day if you all had hangovers?
Well, I’m a Yorkshireman. I’ve got the constitution of an ox. It was the others I was worried about [laughs].
Did Kristen Stewart attract a lot of attention?
Once, we arrived in this little airport and I walked out first, and there were two little old dudes with cameras, and I thought, “F*ckin’ ’ell, it must be slim pickings being a paparazzi here. This is their payday!” They were taking photos of me, and I could see out the corner of my eye Kristen going out the door, into the car and f*cking off. One of them came up to me with a piece of paper, and went [in poor Argentinian accent], “Christian Stewart?” and I went, “No [points at his name], I’m this one, that one’s just walked off!”
Any other incidents?
Some kids found out where the hotel was. They were crossing a river to stand outside the window, and when I opened the curtains, they were like,”Kristy! Kristy!” all night. It was mental. And when we got back to the airport, her bodyguard said, “We’re going to put the producers in the car they think is her car, and drop them off…” And we had to run through the airport, and I saw how aggressive some of these photographers can be. It’s a strange job to chase a 20-year-old girl around…
Is she used to the attention?
She deals with it well. I’d have a caution for thumping them by now if they followed me around like that.
Did you get closer during filming? Garrett barely had a shirt on throughout, and there were sex scenes too…
Man. I’ve seen his penis more than I have my own brother’s! By the end of it, I didn’t even bat an eyelid. There was a scene where we all sat naked on a rock together, which never made it into the film, but it was so funny – we never looked down, we just looked at each other, like, “You all right?”, “Yeah, I’m fine, yeah.”
So what are you working on now?
I’m doing a Disney film called Maleficent with Angelina Jolie. I’m her sidekick.
Wow. How’s that?
It’s quite strange. She turns me from a raven into a man. And, er, I only play the man part. It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before; blue screen and four and a half hours’ prosthesis. I auditioned for it because I thought I can’t just sit in Berlin all the time and wait for things to come. I think I largely have her [Angelina] to thank, from what I’ve heard. She saw my tape and, well, she liked Control. I mean, sometimes you just think, “What the f*ck?”
On The Road is at cinemas nationwide from 12 October
(Image: All Star)