Lover & Fighter:
Sienna Miller has no reason to dwell on the past: her present is spectacular enough. In just the last couple of years, the 35-year-old actress has starred in an Oscar-nominated movie (American Sniper), mastered one of Broadway’s most iconic roles (Sally Bowles in Cabaret), and is now a lead in Ben Affleck’s gangster epic, Live By Night. But while the accolades no doubt give her a sense of accomplishment, there’s surely added satisfaction in defying her detractors.
After putting her stunning looks to good use in movies about two notorious womanisers – Alfie (2004) and Casanova (2005) – Miller began to earn her stripes as a serious actress in dramas such as 2006’s Factory Girl. But, throughout, her off-screen relationships and ‘It Girl’ status saw her hounded by the paparazzi and even wiretapped by the British tabloids.
However, Miller fought back, taking her media stalkers to court – and winning. She then conquered Hollywood the hard way by exposing herself to gruelling auditions, which led to prestigious parts on stage and screen, such as her role in 2014’s Foxcatcher. These days, she ascribes her newfound balance to the fact that she’s the mother of a four-year-old.
But her astounding trajectory can be explained otherwise: Miller has no qualms about enjoying life, but has always kept her eye fixed on the bigger picture…
THE RED BULLETIN: You’ve worked with some great filmmakers. What qualities did you find in Ben Affleck?
SIENNA MILLER: Ben makes movies that are entertaining but also have soul, and as a director he made me feel he believed in me. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a happier set [than Live By Night]. I also respect him hugely as an actor. He has incredible charisma, and he can bring subtlety and nuance to any role.
The sets are wonderfully authentic-looking. How much did they aid your performance?
You totally suspend your disbelief, because [production designer] Jess Gonchor leaves no stone unturned. In the scene at the beginning where Joe and his crew rob the poker game, I was standing by this desk and as I opened some drawers I saw old pens and cards and original matches from the 1920s! I’ve never felt so immersed in a world so subtly built.
How was it working with set designer Jacqueline West?
She’s a true artist. When I went to my first fitting, she showed me about 50 different photographs of inspiration for [my character] Emma’s wardrobe. She builds a wardrobe all the way up from the underwear, because she knows costume informs the character. For instance, my shoes were too small, but they were original – I became attached to them.
How did the spirit of the 1920s inspire you?
It was an era in which everything changed. Everyone had seen death and destruction and lost somebody [in WWI], so they were living in the moment. I love the decadence, the architecture, the music and the chaos of the Jazz Age. There was a sense of survival that empowered the youth; what that galvanises in culture is something that resonated for me.