The Funny Thing Sam Riley Forgot About Diaval As He Was Getting Back Into Character For Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil

Elle Fanning Angelina Jolie and Sam Riley in Maleficent Mistress of Evil

When you take into consideration that the Maleficent made over $750 million at the global box office, it’s surprising that it took as long as it did for it to get a sequel. Most movies that earn that kind of cash turn around a follow-up within two or three years, but we’ve now been waiting a full five for the arrival of Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil. That’s a good amount of time, and apparently was enough for actor Sam Riley to forget an interesting part of his performance from the first movie: his accent.

Hailing from Menston, West Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, Riley speaks with a distinctly raspy British accent, but that was something that was concealed by his performance in the first Maleficent. As a part of his turn as the raven-turned-human Diaval, the actor changed things up by taking on an Irish accent, but that was something that slipped from his mind up until he realized something was off when he was suited up in costume and performing.

Sam Riley told me during a recent interview,

Honestly, as soon as they put the gear back on it was like yesterday. I didn't do all of the bird homework and stuff again. The only funny thing that happened was I put all the stuff on, and I started talking and going through my lines, and I thought, 'Something sounds wrong.' And I forgot that I was Irish!

In the making of the first Maleficent, Sam Riley took some extra steps in his preparation to fully understand his character – specifically by doing research about birds and the way they both think and move. That wasn’t a process that he felt he needed to repeat in the making of Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, already having the information stored and feeling comfortable, but the way Diaval, spy and servant to the titular anti-hero, speaks is one thing that slipped his mind.

As Sam Riley was explaining this, it sparked a question in my mind: why did Diaval speak with an Irish accent instead of something closer to his normal British inflection? As the actor explained, it’s actually something that was tied into the mythology of the first Maleficent – and while it wasn’t something explicitly featured in the movie, it’s also why Sharlto Copley’s character, King Stefan, spoke like a Scotsman instead of a South African. Said Riley,

It was an idea that the Moor folk would have a Celtic connection, which is why Sharlto Copley's character was Scottish, because he was sort of Halfling, and that was the idea. - I don't know if that was in there first movie., That's just how it ended up. I enjoy doing accents because it gives you something else to create, something different from yourself.

Sam Riley’s Diaval is one of many returning characters in the cast of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which also brings back Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville, while also introducing Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harris Dickinson, Ed Skrein, and Warwick Davis to the continuity. The movie arrives in theaters this Friday, October 18th, and keep it here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with the cast and director of the blockbuster.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.