Since completing 13, Riley has shot two roles that look set to be equally as iconic as his turn as Ian Curtis. The first is as the scarfaced gangster Pinkie in a new adaptation of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. "I was just in heaven," he says. "Sharp suit, slick hair, scar on my face, flick-knife in my pocket." He followed that with bringing the beat-lit hero Sal Paradise to life in Walter Salles's take on Jack Kerouac's On The Road, a film that's been in development for more than three decades.
Talk about setting yourself up for a fall. "I ask for it really!" Riley laughs, but he points out that the pressure was never so intense as when he took on Joy Division and their brigade of hard-core fans. "I didn't get much abuse… but I thought that was pretty destined for failure at the time." It helps, he says, that he was never a major Joy Division fan. Nor had he seen the 1947 film version of Brighton Rock - in which Richard Attenborough gave a chilling portrayal of Pinkie - or read On The Road. "I think if I'd been more of a fanboy of these things, I'd have been more petrified."
He's only just returned from On The Road's gruelling five-month shoot when we meet, one that took him from Montreal to Patagonia, Arizona, New Orleans, Calgary and San Francisco. "It's been really nuts," he admits. "I'm still recovering." To play Paradise, a thinly veiled version of Kerouac, of course, preparation ranged from reading the book out loud with a dialect coach to attending a "beatnik boot camp" for four weeks before the shoot - where he'd be "doing press-ups while reciting Nietzsche and Thomas Wolfe".
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