Sam Riley Joins Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Ghost in the Shell’ in Villain Role
Pre-production on Rupert Sanders’ (director of Snow White and the Huntsman) live-action adaptation of the seminal manga series Ghost in the Shell has been moving right along, accumulating cast members and staying right on schedule for a March 31 release in 2017. Scarlett Johansson has already signed on to play the lead role, a skilled female hacker who breaks up cybercrime in the employ of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission’s covert ops unit. Earlier this month, Borgen actor (and Johansson’s former co-star in the mind-bending Lucy) Pilou Asbæk joined the cast as her second-in-command, a lethal fighter in his own right.
Variety reports that the buzzy production has now taken another emerging star into its ranks: Sam Riley is in talks to play the Laughing Man, the film’s villain figure. Like so many dangerous historical figures, he’s obsessed with J.D. Salinger’s coming-of-age novel The Catcher in the Rye (the Laughing Man moniker is an allusions to the similarly-titled Salinger short story) and frequently quotes the book in addition to encoding references to it in his many online crimes. In the cyberpunk future of Ghost in the Shell, there’s no real limit to what hacking can accomplish, enabling those with the know-how to take over other people’s brains, digitally edit out their own presence on the visual plane, and really everything they might’ve left uncovered in The Matrix.
This role is the latest in a series of good gets for Riley, as he launches a promising career. The young actor first drew critical attention for his harrowing performance as suicidal Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in the 2007 film Control, but has since scored roles in higher-profile projects such as Maleficent and next year’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as the Ben Wheatley project Free Fire. His name may not be too widely known at the present, but Riley’s engineering a big breakout for himself. Keep an eye out.