One of my favorite films of 2007 was Anton Corbijn's sad, gorgeous Joy Division biopic Control -- though "biopic" seems wrong, since the movie avoided nearly all of the pitfalls of my least favorite genre. Control had a lot going for it, but one of its biggest draws was the lead performance of 27 year-old Brit Sam Riley as the legendary punk band's front man Ian Curtis. Playing a distinctive celebrity is an incredibly tough thing to do well, since the performance always threatens to turn into an impersonation. Riley was amazing: Curtis is obviously a tragic figure, but in the actor's hands he became more than that. He lived and breathed, full of life and energy. I thought this was the arrival of a major new talent, and hyped the performance (and the film) as much as I could. Sadly it didn't make it to $1 million at the box office, and was ignored at awards time.

Worse, after three years of not-a-peep from Riley (he had a role in the British fantasy film Franklyn, but nothing else), I thought he was destined to be a one hit wonder, without even much of a hit. So for me the best news to surface yesterday -- a day mostly dominated by speculation over the mysterious J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg project Super 8 -- was that Walter Salles had chosen Riley as his leading man in his long-in-gestation take on Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Riley will play beatnik wanderer Sal Paradise, who's really a stand-in for Kerouac himself. (There is, I suppose, a trivial resemblance.) Kristen Stewart is also joining the cast.*


In addition to Riley's return, I'm also looking forward to another stateside effort from Walter Salles, whose Dark Water was pretty much the only acceptable J-horror remake, and one of the loveliest horror films of the last decade. I'm not the world's biggest Kerouac fan, but let's do this thing.

*Did I bury the lede here? Sorry.