Belated Birthday Tribute to Sam Riley


I can’t believe I missed my darling Sam’s birthday yesterday!! My favorite actor turned 37 on January 8… and since he made his breakthrough debut in Control in 2007, he doesn’t seem to have aged a day!

He was born on January 8, 1980 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. I love his Yorkshire accent, spoken with his signature husky voice. He’s a chain smoker which likely contributes to that… and he’s got that devil-may-care attitude paired with self-deprecating wit that’s so irresistible!


Oh Sam Riley… how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Yes I know the word ‘underrated’ is not a popular word to use right now, but I really do think Sam is grossly under-appreciated as for whatever reason, he’s simply hasn’t gotten as much work as his fellow Brits. Maybe because he lives in Berlin, away from Tinsel Town or even the UK’s movie scene in London. And he’s a happily-married man, he’s been married to Romanian/German actress Alexandra Maria Lara for 8 years (a lifetime by Hollywood standards) and has a young boy together.

Sam w/ Alexandra on the premiere of Free Fire, Fall 2016 – photo courtesy of

They met on the set of Control, which is kind of a fairy tale romance in itself, and they worked together again in Suite Francaise in 2014.  Look at these two, such a gorgeous couple!!

I was literally hyperventilating last week when I saw BBC ONE’s preview featuring SS-GB … can’t wait to get my copy of the February edition of EMPIRE magazine. Lookie here, Sam in a glorious spread as a Scotland Yard detective, decked in a dapper suit and fedora? YES PLEASE!!


Courtesy of @CarryOnScarlett tweet

I’m also super excited to see Sam in Free Fire! I’ve posted the first trailer here, which looks like a hoot w/ a terrific cast! So there are at least two of Sam’s work I’m looking forward to in Spring, hopefully more to come later in the year.

Photos courtesy of AdoroCinema

Well, I did a Sam Riley marathon last year which made me appreciate him even more as an actor. He’s so self-deprecating that he often says in interviews that they only hire him ‘to blow smoke rings and cry’ as his debut role as Ian Curtis is a forlorn, suicidal tortured soul who smokes like a chimney. But clearly he’s more versatile than that, having played a psychopath (Brighton Rock), Beat Generation pioneer Jack Kerouac (On The Road), a naval vampire (Byzantium), an Austrian cowboy (The Dark Valley), a man bird (Maleficent), a French farmer (Suite Française), and of course, Colonel Darcy (Pride + Prejudice + Zombies)… the role I fell head over heels in love with.

So in my tribute to the phenomenal actor who I think should get more leading roles… here are five key roles that will forever mark me as a Sam Riley fan.

CONTROL (2007)

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.


Since January 8th was also the birthday of rock icon David Bowie, it’s only natural I include THIS very scene from Sam’s debut role in a feature film. It’s been a decade since that film came out and I think it’s still regarded as one of the greatest, most poignant rock biopic ever made. Sam’s devastating performance doesn’t just capture Ian as a musical genius, but he captured the enigma and inner pain of the young man, who’s dealing with epilepsy and depression as his band gained fame beyond his control.

On the Road (2012)

Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.


Sam once again portrays a real-life persona, as his character Sal is basically Jack Kerouac. He sports an effortless American accent as a quiet, reflective writer observing his wild and carefree friend Dean. He works well with Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, who at the time was at the height of Twilight’s mass hysteria. He’s the kind of actors who can disappear into his roles, he has an earthy every-man quality about him, yet he makes even the most mundane activity like typing or just scribbling in a notepad seems so darn sexy.


Byzantium (2013)


Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

Sam didn’t have a big part in this film but his role of Darvell is an important one to the story. Like the rest of the cast, the actors portray their roles in two separate timelines centuries apart. I’ve done a full review of it here, it’s quite a mesmerizing film by Neil Jordan… eerie, ethereal and mysteriously romantic. Wish I could find the exact clip, but I love all the scenes between Sam and Gemma Arterton. It’d be cool to see them do a film together again one day.

The Dark Valley (2014)

Through a hidden path a lone rider reaches a little town high up in the Alpes. Nobody knows where the stranger comes from, nor what he wants there. But everyone knows that they don’t want him to stay.


This is the film I tell everyone to see if they’ve only seen Sam in Control. It’s an excellent Schnitzel Western (read my full review) shot entirely in the Austria Alps where the characters are Austrian/German except for Sam. He learned German when he married his wife, and to me he sounds very much believable as a taciturn, lone-ranger type who exacts vengeance on a group of townsfolk in a meticulously-calculated way. I always love actors who could convey a lot of emotions with his eyes and facial expressions alone, and Sam certainly got to do that here, whilst also being a bad-ass cowboy at the same time!

Check out my Music and Cinematography appreciation for this film here.

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016)

Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies.


Well, THIS is the role that got me to notice Sam, which is a major reason why PPZ is on my top 10 list of the first half of 2016. Though I’m a huge period drama fan, for some reason I’ve never been into Mr. Darcy. Give me Captain Wentworth or Colonel Brandon any day over Darcy, but that is until Sam’s COLONEL DARCY came along. From the moment Lizzy saw him arriving at the ball (beginning at 01:48 in the clip below) I was a goner!

Then of course there’s the initially-awkward proposal scene that ends in a glorious, sexually-charged battle between the two… woo wee… THIS is the kind of Darcy I’ve ever hyperventilated over. The chemistry between him and Lily James is off the charts!

Some might say Sam isn’t as dastardly handsome as Colin Firth (which I beg to differ), but he certainly imbued his Darcy character with an extra dose of badassery without sacrificing his romantic side. In fact, in his second proposal scene, he’s perfectly swoon-worthy!

Favorite Sam Interviews

Well I always say that I can’t fall for any actor who lacks personality… no matter how good looking *cough* Henry Cavill *cough* But Sam’s interviews are a hoot, they’re almost as entertaining as watching him act.

His voice is music to my ear too, and he’s just as entertaining to listen to in a podcast interview!

I literally could go on and on in this post about Sam… but I better wrap it up and post this. I hope you learned a bit more about the talented actor, and hopefully check out more of his work!

What film(s) have you seen Sam Riley in? 

26 thoughts on “Belated Birthday Tribute to Sam Riley

  1. I’ve only seen him in Control yet… I didn’t know his B-day is January 8th. That’s the same birthday as Elvis, Bowie, Stephen Hawking, and Graham Chapman of Monty Python. Talk about cosmic. After all, Chapman is a member of Monty Python that made the hilarious Monty Python and the Holy Grail which is a favorite movie of Elvis while Hawking is a longtime Python fan as he contributed a sketch about the universe and Bowie is another Python fan who appeared in a post-Python comedy called Yellowbeard as a shark. If Riley is a Python fan, then he is part of a very cosmic and funny universe.

    1. Hi Steven! CONTROL is essential viewing for any rock fans, regardless whether they like Joy Division or not. WOW, Sam is in GREAT company w/ those music, science and comedic legends!! I bet Sam is a Phyton fan, he’s a Brit and they love those zany, irreverent humor! I know he’s a big fan of Bowie too, must be fan for him to act imitating him in the film.

  2. I haven’t seen Control, but I could see he would be perfect for the role. I enjoyed the video you included. Happy Birthday, Sam, for I would know little about you if it weren’t for Ruth!

    1. You’ve seen The Dark Valley right? I know you’re a music fan Cindy, so I think you’d enjoy Control. I’d even be happy to lend you my dvd if you like, anything to get more people to appreciate Sam’s work 😉

        1. Hopefully SS-GB will come to PBS as usually they have shows from BBC like Sherlock and Victoria. Sam would be perfect in a WWII setting as well I reckon 🙂

  3. Ruth! Please tell me your Birthday post is belated because you were totally at his party and not because you forgot?!
    Joking aside, I have you to thank for watching Pride & Prejudice & Zombies last year which I thoroughly enjoyed!

    1. Ahah well of course I was at his party, Allie, I was just um, sworn to secrecy y’know 😉

      Oooh I’m glad you had fun w/ PPZ, it really is a hoot to watch for me as an Austen fan, as it’s a spoof AND an homage at the same time, and Darcy + Lizzy are so romantic even amongst those zombies!!

      P.S. I LOVE your Avatar pic w/ Elden Henson aka Foggy! 😀

        1. Ehm yeah, just don’t tell anyone 😉

          That is so cool that you went up to him, I tried that w/ Lance Reddick once but then the comic-con organizers said I shouldn’t do that so I didn’t even get a picture w/ him 😦

    1. Hi Shivani, oh I have no shame fan-girling over my crushes 😛 I’ve been mad over him since seeing him in Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (a hoot for Austen fans I’d say). I think he’s so wasted in Maleficent but all his press interviews for that movie was so much fun! CONTROL is an outstanding film, shot in stark BW but it’s one of the most beautiful films out there. Every one of his movies here are highly recommended 😀

  4. You sure are obsessed with this man Ruth! Lol. I only saw The Dark Valley and to be honest with you, he didn’t really make an impression on me. I look forward to Free Fire so maybe I’ll change my mind about him when I see other films of his.

    1. He..he.. well I think he’s terrific! If you’ve seen him in Control and maybe On The Road, you’ll see why I think he’s a versatile actor, as the role he did in The Dark Valley is starkly different from those two, and pretty much everything else he’s done. In another language no less so I do think he’s a more skilled actor than most that Hollywood champion these days, I think he’s better than Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans combined! Hopefully you get to see him as a detective in SS-GB, a role I know he’d be perfect for.

    1. Hi Becky! I hope PBS will carry SS-GB so you can see yet another talented Brit in an alternative universe WWII setting like Man in a High Castle 😉

  5. I like Sam Riley too. He was good in Control and on the Road. Perfect roles for him. I was particularly impressed by his impersonation of Ian Curtis, every movement was spot on. I love Joy Division and would not have let anyone touch the band…except maybe Riley 🙂

    1. Hi there! Glad to hear! It’s too bad he’s not getting enough love, he’s such a terrific and versatile actor. Yes his performance in CONTROL is phenomenal… and Oscar worthy!

      1. Agreed! Two weeks ago I re-watched “Brighton Rock” with Riley, and although I didn’t like the movie, it was a pleasure to watch Riley. I think what he needs is a “BIG” movie to make a great break. He deserves it.

  6. Pingback: Spotlight on BBC One’s miniseries SS-GB + Interview with actor Maximilian Dirr – FlixChatter Film Blog

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