Sienna Miller tends to get an unfair rap from the tabloids because of her personal life, but she’s actually one of the better young actresses making movies, and anyone who’s interviewed her–ComingSoon.net has done so a few times now–can attest that she’s one of the easiest people to talk to, funny and outspoken and always speaking her mind, while leaving very little to read between the lines.
In her new movie Interview, Miller plays a shallow actress named Katya who isn’t being taken very seriously by the political journalist (played by the film’s director Steve Buscemi) assigned to interview her, but the two end up back at her Soho loft for a night of friendly (and less than friendly) discourse about their respective lives and careers. It’s a strong commentary on perceptions of fame in the world today, especially considering Miller’s own problems with the media in recent years.
After a well-received debut at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie will get a platform release in New York and Los Angeles and ComingSoon.net had another chance to interview Miller. It went better than the interview in the movie.
ComingSoon.net: When you first heard about this movie, what made you want to do it? Was it the script or working with Steve Buscemi or had had you heard of the original movie?
Sienna Miller: I was really uncool. I got a call from my agent saying that Steve Buscemi had got in touch with him and was doing a film where he was directing and acting and it was sort of a two-hander and would I be interested in reading the script. I said I’ll do it without reading the script, because I figured if it was good enough for Steve Buscemi, it was good enough for me. So I actually agreed to it, and they were like “Surely, you should read the script or at least talk to Steven,” and I said, “No, I’m doing it.” I talked to Steve and he was like, “Please read the script” and I said, “No, done. I’ll come and make the tea on your set, let alone come and act with you.” It was sort of a no-brainer and then I read the script and thankfully loved it, loved the character and loved the dynamic between the two people. It was a really interesting project and I really love the film as a film. It’s the first film I’ve done where I actually watch and think, “Oh, that’s actually a cool movie.” It’s very European.
CS: In seeing the movie, did you see things about yourself and your interactions with Steve that you didn’t see in the process of making it?
Miller: Yeah, I did. I wasn’t aware of what shot was what and it was all hand-held so it all yeah, I did. I think it’s really well-edited. It must have been a nightmare to edit ’cause I was doing different things all the time, but I loved the way it was shot, I love the way it was lit, and at the time, it was just all so easy that I was concerned, but they did an amazing job. It was a really tight crew.
CS: Did you make the tea?
Miller: I did actually make a few cups of tea. (laughter) I am a good tea lady on a set.
CS: Did you like the idea of playing with the concept of public persona and celebrity?
Miller: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s an interesting subject and I feel that I do get a lot of unwanted tabloid attention. I think it’s an interesting social study more than anything, the level these people go to to destroy the other one. There’s a small sort of dig at certain tabloid journalists within that, but I say that in hindsight. At the time, I didn’t really make any parallel to my own life. I thought of it as a character I wanted to create, and I’m very different to that character, thank God, but I know people who aren’t that different, so I hung out with them and watched them, took notes. My agent was like, “Why are you hanging out with these people?” and then he watched it and went, “Got it.”
CS: Did you look at it as playing an actress whose also playing a character in a film?
Miller: Yeah, and it got really confusing. It’s hard to talk about it without giving the entire thing away, but at the moment, when that decision has to be made to act, I didn’t really know how to portray that. I just thought there has to be a flicker of something and then really go for it, but it was a hard thing to get in a look. But yeah, she’s definitely playing a role. She plays several roles that night I think victim and helpless girl and evil woman and seductress.
CS: What was the rehearsal period like on this movie?
Miller: We had two weeks. Steve came to London for a week and then I came to New York for a week, and that was sort of where a lot of the directing got done. We really workshopped it, put it on its feet, so then when it came to shooting it, a lot of the directing had been done, although he was totally available there as a director on set as well. Table reading and them playing around. I tried it in an English accent and we read through the script like that just to see it didn’t work. And I love doing accents anyway, so yeah, you just play around, and he’s really up for that, because he’s an actor I think, and likes exploring.
CS: Did this movie involve a lot of improvisation where you were able to bring in your own ideas?
Miller: Yeah, and little things happened. I remember Steve for the Google page (laughs) sorry, he makes me laugh so I can’t say his name without laughing, I love him so much. The Google page where there’s photos of me which I don’t Google, so I had to approve this page and I said, “Nah, you can’t have that one. I look like a slut, it’s slutty!” and then I get the new (script) pages and there’s this line, “Don’t have that, I look like slut!” And I said, “Look here!” and suddenly, I had to be very catty about what I said to Steve. The odd little comment would go in. Then also in terms of the physical action, that was all we just sort of did whatever we wanted. We could talk over each other and we did improvise bits, but the script was pretty tight and brilliant.
CS: Did you want anything changed about your character beforehand?
Miller: No, just more, always more, take it further, the flaws.. I mean, the physicality of it is sort of that was one similarity. I run around quite a lot. I’m quite bouncy, and so throwing myself around on the floor, that came quite naturally to me. In terms of when I ran and jumped into the sofa, that’s the kind of behavior that goes on in my house. I would definitely leap onto sofas. So there were certain things I can’t remember what you asked. The physical stuff was I like to do that little walk across I do that a lot. Friends of mine saw that and laughed ’cause I do do that, and the clumsiness. I remember when I take a sip of wine and it splashes in my face that actually tends to happen quite often. Also with Steve, I get a lighter and put it by his glasses and light it, so I did that just on a whim in the middle of a take and he does this (gives a startled expression) because the flame nearly melted his glasses onto his face, which wouldn’t have been a very funny.
CS: Have you ever had an interview go as badly as the one in the movie that this reminded you of?
Miller: Yeah, I have people who deliberately don’t take me seriously in any way and believe what they read and tabloid things. I don’t read them but I can imagine it’s quite horrendous, and therefore come in and there’s no respect or dignity.
CS: Like they haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to talk about the movie?
Miller: They just want to know, “Is this true? Is this true? Where did you get that top?” Stuff that I really don’t think about. The amount of people that I’ve supposedly slept with, regardless of the fact that I’ve been in relationships since I was 19 back-to-back, is extraordinary, so people believe that, and that’s a perception that the tabloids want to create about me, which couldn’t be further away from who I am. And you sense that, it’s just an energy sense more than anything where people aren’t kind and then you realize that and “I knew you were a bastard.” (laughter)
CS: It must be annoying for people to come in with these presumptions and not give you a chance to say who you are and take you at face value.
Miller: Absolutely, and I’ll do interviews and they’re like, “Oh, you’re actually quite nice” and I’m like, “Yes! I didn’t create that.” But yeah, it’s very frustrating so now I just don’t read it. That’s my new (thing) because you can’t control it and at the end of the day, all I can do is try to do good work and do my best. I’m not late for work and I haven’t missed a day’s work, and that’s what counts for me.
CS: Have you ever had an interview that went as far as it does in this movie?
Miller: No, but I trust everyone, this is where I mess up, even journalists! (laughter) But I do, and if I’m going to be interviewed, I want to sit down and have a real conversation. Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m not going to go in and pretend. I’m a real person and they’re a real person, and I like to have a connection and therefore, hopefully, an honest answer will come out of an honest connection. So yeah, I always end up getting screwed.
CS: How often does that happen compared to the bad ones?
Miller: Most of them I end up being really funny to and then half of them screw me over. I dunno, luck of the draw, but I refuse to conform. I don’t want to go in and be the actress and do it, ’cause it’s boring for you, it’s boring for me. I am who I am and not afraid to be who I am. I work very hard and what I do is my spare time is up to me. I’m not going to change because of what I do. I’d be miserable if I wasn’t being myself.
(At this point someone at the table shows her a copy of the “Factory Girl” DVD.)
CS: Have you seen how the Weinstein Company have released this with “sexy uncut unrated” on the package?
Miller: I’m not surprised. No, no. I wouldn’t expect anything less. (laughter) And I say that with absolute love. He’s a clever marketer. That sells films. That isn’t even my body, I don’t think. (more laughter)
CS: How come you haven’t done more comedies?
Miller: I’m not funny. (she’s being faceitious) I’d love to do a comedy, I really would, but I think it’s hard to find a comedy where the girls are the funny ones. I think they tend to be a leg-up for the guys, so I want to find a comedy where I’m a really goofy, silly, klutzy girl which is sort of what I am in real life (laughs). That would be good, but just the sort of right things, and I’m kind of fussy about what I’m interested in and what I do, but I’m definitely looking to all you producers out there.
CS: What’s next for you?
Miller: I just finished a film called “The Edge of Love” which is about Dylan Thomas, which is with Keira Knightley and Cillian Murphy and Matthew Reese, which was blissful, all set in the ’40s and I had curly red hair and it was all funny, and a really great project. Sharman MacDonald, Keira’s mum, wrote the script and it’s a wonderful script. I was running around the Welsh countryside in the spring with the bluebells and the lambs. I really enjoyed being out of the city and in the country. I realized I need that balance more so that was a good thing.
CS: Did you read a lot of Dylan Thomas for the part?
Miller: I read “Under Milk Wood” and I had a book of his poetry but I read a bit more, which is always a pleasure.
Interview opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, July 13. Look for our interview with Miller’s co-star/director Steve Buscemi before then.