The Rise of an Elvis Scion: Riley Keough on Her Famous Family and Competing With Kristen Stewart
2012 Tribeca Film Festival portraits
This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
As Elvis's granddaughter and Michael Jackson's stepchild, Riley Keough has lived in an improbable celebrity vortex for all her 22 years. She's been asked every Elvis question and shyly confesses that the most annoying ones have to do with "people thinking I was alive when he was alive," since Keough was born 12 years after he died. Regarding the eccentric Jackson, who married her mother, Lisa Marie, in 1994, Keough says she mainly knew him as the stepdad who went swimming with her, dropped her off at school and indulged her candy fixes at Neverland from the time she was 6 till she was 11. A few years after divorcing Jackson, her mother wed Oscar-winning professional firebrand Nicolas Cage, which barely registered on the infamy scale with a teenaged Keough, long since inured to the tabloid gold mine that was her family.
Not a public train wreck by any means, the reserved, childlike actress, who is featured in Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, opening June 29, talks about her family's notoriety as if it all happened to someone else. "It felt normal because I didn't know any different," says Keough, sitting in West Hollywood's Cecconi's wearing a baggy white T-shirt and gray cardigan in mid-April. "As I've gotten older, I'm like, 'Wow.' Honestly, I think it's because people draw it to my attention all the time. When they're like, 'Was that crazy?' I'm like, 'No, no, no,' to the point where now I'm just sort of like, 'Was that crazy?' "
Since she started modeling at age 14, Keough (who goes by middle name Riley instead of her first name, Danielle) has not overtly traded on that notoriety. (She politely declines to talk about her personal life, though during a photo shoot she un-self-consciously displayed a beautiful ring, an emerald surrounded by diamonds, symbolizing her engagement to fiance -- and Magic Mike co-star -- Alex Pettyfer.)
Three years ago, after walking the runway for Dolce & Gabbana and being the face of Christian Dior perfume, Keough left modeling behind and began fighting for roles in indie films such as The Runaways, in which she played sister to Dakota Fanning's Cherie Currie; The Good Doctor, opposite Orlando Bloom; and Jack and Diane, which premiered at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Now she is enjoying a career step up to studio films with Magic Mike, a Warner Bros. look into the world of male strippers.
In Mike, which shot in St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla., last fall, Keough plays Nora, a stripper who has a brief dalliance with Pettyfer's up-and-coming erotic dancer. "Her character is young and really wild, kind of like a siren who leads Alex's character down the rabbit hole," says Mike writer-producer Reid Carolin, who claims he wasn't aware of her legacy before she became a front-runner for the role. "Somebody said something like, 'Elvis Presley's granddaughter,' but honestly, I feel like I heard that after we saw her audition. But as you'd imagine for a Soderbergh movie, every big actor auditions for every tiny part. She put herself on tape and went straight to the top of the list."