October 1, 2023


New Hollywood director/ James Riley

3 min read

“I think George Orwell was right in many ways / we are dependent on our cell phones, which are sometimes smarter than us.”

James Riley is not only a professor of creative writing at the University of Arizona, he is currently directing his first film in Europe, the German-American thriller Peyote, slated to be released next year.

I meet him in a small cafe in Stockholm’s Modern Art Museum-Moderna Museet. Tanned, smiling, full of energy, and with interesting plans for the future, he talks about his love for music and film.

I come from Nashville, just like Jonny Cash, I was born in a place known for its musical tradition.

He has a cheerful, simple disposition despite an impressive list of achievements. James Ridley, 38, will be perhaps the most highly educated filmmaker in Hollywood, with a professorship also teaching design, film, creative writing, and film script. His modest, cheerful disposition inspires trust and respect.

James Riley, Ewa Korolczuk

I have lectured for fashion designers, graphic designers, interior designers, and filmmakers, he continues. I am currently in Stockholm for the production of my first film, Peyote, which is an American / German production, with Swedish actors such as Astrid Moberg among others.

We are in the process of creating a new website about the film which will be released in 2 weeks. I think George Orwell was right in many ways / we are dependent on our cell phones, which are sometimes smarter than us.

I love Polish cinema, Kieślowski is great, he says, lighting a cigarette. I know all the films Red, White and Blue, I also value Polański’s film output very much, he adds.

Coming back to my film, the production partner is Chris Hirshauser, who is also the Director of Photography. We are now creating our joint production company Caravaggio Films, for the Peyote film and future films.

We talk about filmography and books, I like early films by Spielberg, and Hitchcock, such as The Shining. I come from a great country, we make artists, but my country also needs healing, she continues. The very fact that we chose the Tramp President earlier is proof of this.

James Riley previously received a thorough education, including a Master of Arts degree from the University of Malibu, and previously studied international relations in Scotland, including the University of Saint Andrews and Cambridge.

His interest in film and creativity was awakened by his grandmother, who worked at Disney World in Orlando. As a little boy, he spent a lot of time there, fascinated by the world created by Disney. He often returned to Orlando, even after his grandmother died.

My favorite place was the MGM studio, where the Hollywood studios are located today. I remember when I saw the movie Star Wars for the first time, the movie made a huge impression on me. I also love Bergman’s cinema, I think he was a great director.

I ask how James Riley manages to combine a career at university with creative filmmaking. He replies that he was allowed to work professionally on several films and that is how it started.

My students are also a great source of inspiration for me, she adds. Finally, it changes the subject a bit, I believe in America, we have a lot of good people in the country.

Payote is scheduled to hit cinemas in May 2023. It is worth adding that the music for the film was created by a Syrian composer and violinist, and the cast of actors includes, among others, Garret Miller, USA, Astrid Morberg SWE,


14/10/2022 Stockholm

Ewa Korolczuk

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