Maleficent was Top Box Office Movie over the weekend and after seeing it I am certainly not surprised. It’s an incredible movie filled with incredible actors including Sam Riley who plays Diaval, (the raven) in the film. Besides Maleficent, of course, he is probably my favorite character in the movie for many different reasons. I don’t want to give out any spoilers but if you have seen the movie you will understand. We got a chance to sit down and have an exclusive interview with Sam Riley a couple of weeks ago. We chatted about what it was like to work with Angelina Jolie, play a bird man, the birth of his new baby, and how he found out he got the part.
What was it like to work on a new but yet very old story?
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. I loved it and the lady who wrote it had written the Lion King as well and lots of other big, lovely Disney movies.
I thought the way they did this was really interesting. 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 is not really, it’s not really the modern way is it. And the fact that Angelina was gonna play Maleficent was very exciting.
Was there research you had to do to figure out how to get into your character?
Well I watched the old cartoon but it doesn’t really do very much in that. The raven always looks half asleep or something. They organized it so that they could bring in a real raven into a big room. I’d never seen a real raven before. I thought they were like crows but it’s 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. 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 thing.
And there was a really nice lady, movement coach, who helped me. And we 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. 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. Because when you do something really stupid and embarrassing at the beginning, 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? So once you’ve done something really silly then it makes you more relaxed, you know. I should have done it before coming in here actually.
How much hair and makeup did you have to go through every day?
It’s about three and half, four hours something? But I couldn’t really complain because there were other people that had been in there since three o’clock in the morning, 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 really, work some of the hardest because they have to be there at that time and then the whole day they have to make sure things aren’t falling off.
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, they don’t usually do that on indy films anyway. And then they had this amazing set there and she was already there so I was worried that I’d been keeping her waiting or something which wasn’t a good start.
And she had her back to me and the way it was all lit amazingly and then when she turned around it. It’s weird because it looked, you know it’s not real the cheekbones and everything and the contact lenses. But when you look at her in all that stuff it kind of looks natural, that’s maybe not the right word but it fits. 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. It was strange to see her in her normal clothes afterwards.
Can you tell us about your audition?
It was pretty classic, really, which is more or less they send you the scenes, they email you them and then you learn them at home. 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 but it’s still don’t call us, we’ll call you type of thing.
And 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?” But he’s got a great sense of humor. And then about three weeks later my American agent rang, which is always at night in Europe, and 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.
Was this the first time that you got to work with small children on the set? And if so, how was it?
I wasn’t there the day that Angelina’s little girl was there. But she told me that, two of her kids were big fans of my character. And they came for lunch one day on set so I thought, oh well I’ll go. And I got within about ten meters of them and two of them started crying. So I just sort of went and pretended it wasn’t me.
But,I think when they tried to find little girls to play the part, it was very difficult for them when they saw her in costume. A lot of them were terrified. So I think that’s partly the reason why Vivian got the part. And obviously she’s got it in her genes.
Did you get to improvise much?
A little bit of it, sometimes. I mean, the script was so great you didn’t really feel like you were forcing things, you know sometimes with lines or something it doesn’t feel very natural to say them. But this time it was really great. But there were fun little things that, does she turn me into a squirrel at all? She was always teasing me that she was gonna turn me into a squirrel.
Did you get to see any of your transformations while you were filming?
No but the director got lots of beautiful drawings that he’d drawn all the animals that I turn into so I had some idea what it would look like. And I think there’s one brief bit of transformation in one of the trailers, but like for a split second. And all my friends are like, “Yeah, that could be anybody, man, you know?” Come on. So. No, really, I’m really excited.
Maleficent is rated PG and now open in theaters EVERYWHERE! If you are wondering whether it’s an appropriate movie for kids check out my Maleficent movie Review.