“I have a checklist of things I’d like to do in movies,” says Talulah Riley. “One of them is get possessed. Die on a deathbed with a ghostly pallor—that’s on my list.” For now, the 24-year-old British actress will have to settle for playing the femme fatale in Inception, the new Christopher Nolan film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard. “I’m not entirely sure what it’s about,” she confesses. “No one really is. I get to wear a nice dress, pick up men in bars, and shove them in elevators. It was good to do something adultish. Usually I play 15-year-old English schoolgirls.“ A voracious reader and fan of BBC costume dramas as a child, Riley graduated from weekend drama classes to roles in Pride & Prejudice (2005; she was one of Keira Knightley’s younger sisters) and St. Trinian’s (2007), a British film about a girls’ boarding school, featuring Rupert Everett (in drag) as the headmistress. Now based in Los Angeles, Riley feared culture shock on the Inception set—which was built in a hangar opposite The Dark Knight’s (2008) Gotham City—but found the biggest challenge was staying vertical in high heels: Parts of the set rotated on a 45-degree angle, requiring prop men to keep her from sliding out of camera range. “It was the most businesslike set I’ve ever been on,” she says. “Everyone had a job and was doing it. I’m used to working in the relaxed British style, so it was nice to feel like part of a huge machine.” And next? “Ideally, I would like to play roles in as many classicsas possible: Rebecca, Hedda Gabler,” she says. “I’m fond ofa corset.”
Photo: Talulah Riley in Los Angeles, April 2010. Blouse: Equipment. Bra: Alexander Wang. Shorts: Emilio Pucci. Hair products: Moroccanoil, including glimmer shine spray. Styling: Keegan Singh/Streeters. Hair: Maranda using Moroccanoil/www.themagnetagency.com. Makeup: Melanie Inglessis for Dior Beauty/www.themagnetagency.com. Special Thanks: Milk Studios L.A.