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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 12:40 GMT
Film star Riley's promising path

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Sam Riley with girlfriend and Control co-star Alexandra Maria Lara
Sam Riley with girlfriend and Control co-star Alexandra Maria Lara

Actor Sam Riley's compelling performance as Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in the film Control has won him Bafta recognition as a talent to watch for the future.

The 28-year-old's debut in a lead role could land him the Rising Star award at the ceremony, while the picture has three other nominations including best British film.

The Leeds actor is sporting an eye-watering burn on the palm of his hand, which he admits was caused by an accident with a flaming Sambuca, but soon turns his attention to the "incredible" Bafta nomination.

"It's a dream come true. The Baftas is the big one. James McAvoy and Eva Green won it and they did all right," he says, referring to past Rising Star recipients.

'Two fingers'

If he walks off with the prize at Sunday's star-studded event, Riley says he intends to "stay sober, behave myself and not cry".

Sam Riley as Ian Curtis in Control
Sam Riley as Ian Curtis in a scene from Control

The actor says if Control wins best British film, that will also be an endorsement of director Anton Corbijn's decision to pluck him from obscurity to play tragic rock star Curtis, who committed suicide in 1980.

"He really deserves it. He took a big risk hiring me and was told it was a bad idea to shoot the film in black and white.

"It's a big two fingers up to his doubters," adds the film star.

Riley is quick to play down his performance in the film, which won critical acclaim and caught Bafta's eye.

Dental visit

"You're only as good as the people you work with," he explains. "I was lucky to have Samantha [Morton] there and the other boys who played the band members and were more experienced than me.

"The first time I saw it I was in Cannes with an audience of 600 people so it was quite bewildering. It was like being at the dentist," adds the actor.

"I was watching it convinced I might do something in each scene that I'd be disappointed with. By the end I wasn't sure whether I was there or not.

Samantha Morton
Samantha Morton is Bafta-nominated for playing Deborah Curtis in Control

"There were moments I thought it was good, others I thought could have been better. If I thought I was perfect I'd be in the right business!" he quips.

Riley, who lives in Berlin with Control co-star Alexandra Maria Lara, has since been working on Franklin alongside Ryan Phillipe and Eva Green in what he calls "more of a supporting role".

"The pressure was not as much as playing Ian - I really enjoyed it."

He is looking ahead to the future, but remains pragmatic about lasting success in the movie business.

"I want to do good work and stuff I'm interested in watching myself. I'd like to work in Hollywood because they make some of the best movies. But I wouldn't want to live there," explains the actor.

"You can't see yourself too far in the distance - this business is completely intangible," adds Riley.

Sam Riley performs as Ian Curtis

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