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It was a fellow Brit that sparked Andrea Riseborough’s passion for performing: William Shakespeare.
The English thesp began reading the Bard when she was 8 years old, acting in plays when she was 9.
Raised in the seaside hamlet of Whitley Bay, Riseborough wasn’t one for academics, preferring stage work — as a teen, she earned high marks for her turn as Miranda in “The Tempest” — to homework. Riseborough quit school when she was 17 and worked a series of odd jobs before earning a plum spot at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
The ingenue soon made a splash on the Theater Royal Bath stage, snagging the Ian Charleson Award for her performances in “Measure for Measure” and “Miss Julie.” Her first British TV series, “Party Animals,” became a huge cult hit, and she went on to appear in Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky.”
But it’s Riseborough’s role in the heartrending “Never Let Me Go” — where she plays opposite Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield — that marks her first official foray into American cinema.
“We had a bond between us,” says Riseborough of her U.K. castmates. “It was a very happy set in terms of our dynamic, which is strange because the subject matter is so hard.”
For her part in “Dagenham,” which dramatizes the 1968 strike at the Ford car plant, Riseborough spent months training in a factory alongside co-stars Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike and Sally Hawkins. “It’s so interesting,” she says of the film, which won rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival. “The movie has such a beating heart.”
And Riseborough’s portrayal of Rose, a messed-up teen in director Rowan Jaffe’s forthcoming “Brighton Rock,” is also generating buzz. The film, based on the Graham Greene book (and featuring Helen Mirren and Sam Riley), “is about good versus evil,” explains its star: “Rose comes from a broken home. She’s had no encouragement, no sense that she should be noticed.”
Also, Riseborough has signed up for WWII pic “Resistance” and just wrapped another project — the Madonna-helmed “W.E.,” about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
“We had a real complicity,” notes Riseborough of her relationship with the pop star-filmmaker. “From the moment we met, the world has been about the Duke and Duchess and Madonna. It’s been a complete journey into another time.”
LUCKY BREAK: “When my teacher Miss Greenwood set a copy of ‘The Greatest Works of William Shakespeare’ on my desk in class. That was a seriously lucky break.”
FAVORITE FILM: “There’s not one that made me realize I wanted to be an actor. There are some beautiful moments in so many films.”
THE CAREER I’D LIKE TO EMULATE: “I want to be involved in good work.”