Sienna Miller positions herself to be recognized for her acting work

Sienna Miller is back: "As a result of not having all those photos and not being on social media, I felt I've had the space to do my work."
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Sienna Miller is one of those actresses who seems omnipresent. You see her hobnobbing with the fashion elite or on the cover of magazines with her latest beau, but somehow you can’t quite place the last movie you saw her in.

That’s about to change in the next year. At 32, the British star yearns to finally be recognized for her acting chops, and she’s going about proving it in quite an impressive manner. First came a small turn in this fall’s wrestling drama “Foxcatcher” — a cameo she said she took simply to work with director Bennett Miller. This month, she has a meatier part in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” a role that may see her contending in the supporting actress award races. In the film, she stars opposite Bradley Cooper as the wife of a Navy SEAL who feels her husband slipping away.

She just wrapped an R-rated comedy with Vince Vaughn and is about to go shoot a James Gray movie with Benedict Cumberbatch. After that, she’ll head to Sundance in January to unveil the latest movie from the filmmakers behind “Half Nelson.” And then she’s off to work in Ben Affleck’s next directorial effort.


So, yeah, you’re going to remember her for more than her cute dress.

On set, Clint Eastwood gives actors only a take or two, right?

Yeah, he’s quick. I definitely had heard that before I started shooting, so I was, like, “I better bring it on the first take.” But if you want another one, he’ll give you another one. I understand this way of working now — there is something about the first time you say a line that can never really be repeated. Normally, I’m anxious and over-complicated and my process is quite thorough. I would keep going because I very rarely feel satisfied. But somehow with him, he’s so relaxed that you just kind of trust it.

Was it a difficult process to adjust to?

On our first day, after we’d shot an emotional scene, I went up to him, “I was just thinking, maybe —" and he was, like, “Have a great weekend.” And as he was walking away he said, “You cast the right people,” and that was the end of the day and I was, like, “Whoa.” So that was kind of a great day — liberating. But then I had a bit of a meltdown.

What happened?

It just felt weird and eggy and it wasn’t working and I got into a bit of a panic. I knew it hadn’t worked and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know my way out of it. And he came up and was, like, “You just say it,” which is the truth about acting. Of course, I was intimidated because it’s such a big deal to be in a Clint Eastwood movie and it was overwhelming.

In the next year, moviegoers are going to be seeing a lot more of you. Did you consciously decide to take on more work?

I know, it’s so exciting. I kind of slipped off the radar. But I had a daughter, and your perspectives are kind of reevaluated after you have a kid. I think I was much more conscious of the kind of work that I wanted to do and the people I wanted to work with and somehow it all aligned.

Was that the case with “Foxcatcher”?

Yes. And people knowing you’ve worked with Bennett Miller — then suddenly you’re good enough for them.

That must be sort of frustrating, though.

I think it’s narrow-minded. I struggled in Hollywood because people had really strong perceptions of who I was and it was hard to see me as anything other than this persona.

What do you think your reputation was?

I just think I was well known for the wrong things, maybe. My personal life. It got very tabloidly. My phone got hacked and I was in newspapers all the time in London, which is the most vicious city in the world for that kind of attention. Or I was known for being fashionable.

So how did you combat that perception?

I sued everyone in England, basically. [Laughs] I have an injunction against paparazzi, so that’s now illegal. I obviously went to court with News of the World and the phone hacking and all of that. I took active steps and worked very hard to have a private life, which I have now had and enjoyed for six years. ... So as a result of not having all those photos and not being on social media, I felt I’ve had the space to do my work.

No Twitter or Instagram for you?

I did have Instagram for a week, and it sort of fueled the worst part of my soul. I’d wake up every morning and have more followers and people were, like, “Welcome! We love you!” And I was like, “Hee-hee, wow! This is actually fulfilling me!” But I realized it was filling that part of you that will not ever be filled.