EDUCATION: Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls in Hertfordshire, England.
BACKGROUND: Riley’s mother is a retired security consultant, and her father is a former chief of Britain’s National Crime Squad who now writes crime dramas for British television. Riley began acting professionally the day after she graduated from high school, and is best known in Britain for her role as the sensitive Annabelle Fritton in the TV and big-screen versions of “St. Trinian’s.” She also appeared opposite Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Ehle in “The Philadelphia Story” at London’s Old Vic theater in 2005.
BIG BREAK: 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley. “Joe Wright was looking for unknowns to play the Bennett sisters and I played Mary. I was bookish and nervous — that’s probably why I was cast.”
ON FILMING “PIRATE RADIO”: “Some of the cast got seasick, but I loved being on a boat. We did all kinds of fun things. I remember playing golf in high-heeled shoes. Music was playing all the time.”
ON HER CO-STARS: “The boys played a prank on me in the cabin that’s used as a mortuary,” she says. “Rhys invited me to come and see it. I had a big glass of Ribena [a nonalcoholic blackcurrant drink] in my hand. I found Chris O’Dowd lying on a slab, covered in white paper towels. I screamed and my Ribena went everywhere. It looked like blood. Richard helped me clean up, as all the boys had scampered.”
EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Before moving to Los Angeles to be with her fiancé, Elon Musk (the 38-year-old co-founder of PayPal), she was studying physics at London’s Open University. In between acting projects, she’s squeezing in classes at CalTech in Pasadena. “I think [studying physics] is the only real way to answer questions, and I think it’s a really exciting time. The next big leap in understanding is imminent, and I’d love to be involved in some way.”
UP NEXT: “Inception,” written and directed by Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe and Marion Cotillard.