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Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent

Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent

So far we have shared with you our interviews with Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, and Robert Stromberg. Today we get to share our Sam Riley interview who plays Diaval (the bird) in Maleficent. I loved his voice – is sounds so awesome. He is also very funny and it was so much fun listening to him talk (and use his hands a lot) to tell us about everything.

Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent #MaleficentEvent
Sam Riley with group of Bloggers during interview

Q    :    What was it like to work on a new but yet old fable?  And what was your favorite scene that you weren’t in?

SR   :    I haven’t seen it yet.  I know.  It’s outrageous.  Where are the Disney people?  {laughs) I’m terrified.  What was the start of the question again?

Q    :    What was it like to work on a new but yet very old story?

SR   :    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 big, lovely, Disney movies.

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.

Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent #MaleficentEvent
Sam Riley (Diaval)

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?

SR   :    Well I watched the old cartoon and things 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 a real raven into a 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 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 rub off on me and that I could steal something from it while I’m the man part.  And there was a really nice lady who helped me doing a movement coach.

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 when you do something really stupid and embarrassing at the beginning.  Then 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.  I should have done it before coming in here actually. {laughs}

Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent #MaleficentEvent
Sam Riley (Diaval)

Q    :    How much hair and makeup did you have to go through every day?

SR   :    It’s about three and half, four hours.  But I couldn’t really complain ’cause there were other people that had been in there since three o’clock in the morning.  ‘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.

But I managed to be able to lie down in the chair and while people were 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.

Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent #MaleficentEvent
Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) and Diaval

Q    :    What’s your most memorable scene?

SR   :    The first one really ’cause I was really nervous.  I met Angelina before. 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.  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.

And she had her back to me and with the way it was all lit amazingly 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 she, it was strange to see her in her normal clothes afterwards.  You know you got so used to seeing Maleficent every morning.

Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent #MaleficentEvent

Q    :    Can you tell us about your audition?

SR   :    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 if you’re a good boy and 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?”  But he’s got a great sense of humor.  Yeah.  I sacked him.  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.

Angelina Jolie Interview about Maleficent

Q    :    Was this the first time that you got to work with small children on the set?  And if so, how was it?

SR   :    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 [MAKES SOUND] and,  pretended it wasn’t me.

But when they tried to find little girls to play the part, it was very difficult for them when they saw her in, 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, I suppose.

Q    :    Since your character is a bird and then a human, did you have trouble transferring between the two?

SR   :    They had the special effects people there on those days to sort of try and explain when she clicks her fingers if I go down or am I going up into the air or something like that.  And the first time it was a bit strange ’cause they sort of went, “Well just go something like that.”  And  sometimes you feel really stupid doing these things.  But it was good fun.

You know if he’s flying in then he should be sort of off balance.  I’m really curious to see it.

Sam Riley Interview about Playing Diaval in Maleficent #MaleficentEvent

Q    :    I think your character plays her conscience throughout the movie.  So was it intimidating to you almost?

SR   :    When we talked about it in the beginning she said that he’s more like a servant and he’s scared of her because she’s all-powerful and everything.  But they spend every day together for sixteen years.  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.

I can sense that there’s good in her, which she doesn’t want to admit.  When I read the script and realize that I’m gonna have every, every single scene with her I was like, “Oh, well, this is pretty cool.”

Q    :    Did you get to improvise much?

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.  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.

Wouldn’t it be funny if I turned into a worm or something like that?  So, um, no, it was very easy.  But she’s so…I think she knows that everybody’s kind of nervous when they meet her.  But she’s got a very disarming sort of smile and way about her that you start to forget.  I mean you always have to forget when the camera’s on anyway who you’re playing with or something.

But it was a great atmosphere on set because she’s so nice with all the crew and everybody and, so everybody’s really happy to come to work in the morning. There was a bit of improvisation but it was just the kind of relaxed environment.

Q    :    Did you get to see any of your transformations while you were filming?

SR   :    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.

Director Robert Stromberg Interview about Maleficent #MaleficentEvent
Sam Riley (Diaval) and Angelina Jolie (Maleficent)

You can read our interviews with Elle Fanning {Princess Aurora} and Angelina Jolie {Maleficent} and Sharlto Copley {King Stefan} and Robert Stromberg {Director} as well. You can read our review of the Maleficent Movie here.

You can follow along with all of our Maleficent experiences here

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MALEFICENT is rated PG and is in theaters NOW!

Photo Credits: Disney and Louise from MomStart

Disclosure: The trip was sponsored by Disney and all posts I do on behalf of the trip are part of that sponsorship. However, all opinions are my own and they are not affected by that. I will only share information that I believe will be beneficial to my readers.

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Wednesday 4th of June 2014

This was an awesome movie, he did a great job!

Mama to 5 BLessings

Wednesday 4th of June 2014

What a great interview, this movie was amazing!


Wednesday 4th of June 2014

LOts of rave about this movie. Not sure it's a good fit for my 4 year old, so might have to pass on it this year....but I love all the actors especially Elle!

Rebecca Swenor

Tuesday 3rd of June 2014

I adore the interviews with all the actors/ actresses. Cant wait to see this movie.

Robin {Mom Foodie}

Tuesday 3rd of June 2014

Wow, 3am to get make-up done. I would die.

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