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Sienna Miller – An Actress Goes Against Domesticity

Sienna Miller in “Casanova”



by Brad Balfour

Though she’s gotten lots of public attention in past months, actress Sienna Miller has received the spotlight more for her personal hassles with fiancé Jude Law rather than for her work. With the Christmas release of director Lasse Hallstrom’s Casanova she hopes to change that focus. In this fiction film inspired by the actually historical character from the late 1700s, the charmer and lover Casanova, Miller plays Francesca Bruni – a feminist heroine born long before her time.

Did you audition for this part?

I haven’t gotten to the stage where I get huge films offering me parts quite yet. I suppose an audition process is always a little bit nerve-wracking, but Lasse’s a very easy man to be around. It worked very well and then I had a screen test.  It was just that audition process that follows a fairly standard pattern.

Lasse Hallstrom said that it was your language and the authority that got you the part.

Translation: Begging. [Laughs.] What was it about Francesca Bruni? As a young actress, you read so many scripts where you’re serving the purpose in a very male dominated cast. You’re either the love interest or the girl or just the romantic kind of aspect of the film. And here was this heroine who was intelligent, a feminist and sword fighting and cross-dressing. Just a fantastic modern character and that’s very rare for a young actress to read parts that are that meaty. I was thrilled.

Did you look forward to the sword fighting?

I was. I’m not the most coordinated person, so it took a bit of work. It was lovely learning something new.

With all of the headlines about your personal life, this year must have been tough for you, but in a way, it’s been a boost to your career.

I wouldn’t look at it like that, actually [laughs.]  I don’t think it’s been a boost to my career. There was some press that saying I had been re-offered film roles after this, which was actually untrue. That was just the media gravitating towards slander. If that raised my profile, I’d rather have a smaller profile.

Wasn’t the Edie Sedgwick movie Factory Girl dead until all this?

You can’t believe what you read. No, I was offered that role and we were going to shoot toward the beginning of the year. It’s an independent and we couldn’t predict when we’d start shooting. I waited for four months at the beginning of the year and I said, “I really have to do something else. I’m going insane.” So, I went and did a play in London. And they said if the finance comes together we’re going to have to make it, and we don’t want to make it without you. I took the risk knowing that it wouldn’t be ready…

Sienna Miller in “Casanova”

In the three months that the play would take…

Right. I knew that, but they kept saying, “We’re going to get it done, we’re going to get it done.”  When I was available again, they gave me [the role] back.

Jennifer Aniston was asked what it was like to be at the center of a media frenzy.

It’s like you can imagine, it’s really horrible. I’m a really normal girl; I don’t want bodyguards or security people. It’s such a relief to be here to talk about a film as opposed to my private life.

How did you get through the whole thing?

I was doing a fantastic Shakespeare play in the West End. I had three hours of fantastic escape every night.

Lasse said there was a lot of collaboration with the script and making of the film. As an actor were you called upon to contribute and what do you think you personally brought to it?

Stage lights [laughs.]  It’s Lasse’s way of working. We got a rewrite of the script very, very close to shooting. As a result, scenes hadn’t been read out before shooting. We did line rewriting which I helped with — such as words that didn’t feel right in your mouth. Generally, the character work was left up to us. He’s a very trusting director and I don’t trust myself as an actor yet, so it was terrifying at times, but he said, “You’re on the right path. Keep doing what you’re doing.”  We all very much relied on each other to create this sense of a really fun, vibrant time in Venice. My biggest journey was keeping depressed, I suppose, among all this comedy. That was the hardest thing for me.

Lasse said he wasn’t concerned with historical accuracy for Casanova. Did you do any kind of research in the period?

For your own sense, you have to understand the period you’re portraying. I had [Casanova’s] memoirs. So, I read bits of the Vanities. I read a book called A Venetian Love Story set around the same time. I read about the suffragettes and women feeling repressed in societies. I just tried to imagine how that would feel — the corset helped that.

Have you ever spent time around Venice before this?

No, I’ve never been there before this.

Did you get a tour around Venice?

SM: Yeah, we had been there for more than five months.  I was living in a little apartment near the fish market. I saw everything you could see. I got to know locals and had my friends in the fish and market. It was a dream to get your boat to work as opposed to your car. It was ridiculous.

Did you have a boat assigned to you?

No, not a gondola. I had my own boat. I picked up Heath on the way. Although my call time was four hours earlier since I had a wig and corset.

You got him up early?

I didn’t. Nothing got Heath out of bed before he absolutely had to.

Sienna Miller and Heath Ledger in “Casanova”

What’s your take on sexual chemistry on screen? People really feel in this movie.

I don’t think there’s any formula. You either have it with people or you don’t. With Heath and I, We’re quite similar as people, but not too serious. We’re kind of like brother and sister. So, there was a great rapport from day one. Even from that, you can get along so well with someone and have absolutely zero chemistry.

In the British crime caper flick Layer Cake, you had these combustible three or four scenes with Daniel Craig.

I worked on that five days. I guess I’ve been lucky with the people I’ve worked with, to have chemistry with them. All the people I have been casted with have been clever.

What do you think of Daniel as the new James Bond?

He’s a brilliant actor, so I think he’ll do a very good job.

Is “chemistry” about being able to laugh at each other, to take the piss out of each other, that kind of thing?

So I guess that I’ve gotten along well with the people I’ve worked with. I’m open to being friendly and keen to make it work. I think if people have an enormous ego and a small ego, it won’t really work. But if people are willing to experiment, then you know.

When you were six years old what drew you to acting in the first place?

Even earlier. I never thought about an alternative career. It’s really weird and very cliché, but it’s what I thought it’s what I’d always do. I was brought up in a very creative environment. My mum used to take us to ballet and the theatre; she went into labor with me during the “Nutcracker Suite.”

So, you were a drama queen.

I was a drama queen from the start. Also, the house was filled with these very artistic types. I used to go to theater and see these people dressing up and running around with swords and beautiful dresses. And I thought, what better job?

Were your parents actors?

No, my mother was a yoga teacher and my father was a banker.

And Sienna Miller is your real name?

Yes, my real name. Hippie Parents. My sister’s Samada.

Are there other siblings?

I’ve got two half-brothers from Dad’s last marriage – Charles and Steven.

Were you excited about the idea of doing this costume drama?

I was desperate to do something period by the time I read the script. The costume is gorgeous and gives you so much idea of the character when you put these clothes on. But the enthusiasm for the corset lasted about half an hour. It really hurts. I like to eat a lot and tried to squeeze down sandwiches which would get stuck. You can’t lie down because you’ve got a big bum, and Heath called me, “Big Bum” for one and a half months.

Sienna Miller and Heath Ledger in “Casanova”

Is there a character from history you’re keen on playing?

I always loved Anne Boleyn.

Even though she lost her head – or because she lost her head?

[Laughs] Probably a bit of both! I always loved — she’s a strong, feisty woman. I always loved; I’d like to do Medea when I’m older if I’m fortunate. I kind of know more of what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be the generic [pretty girl].

And Andy Warhol acolyte/high society burnout from the ’60s, Edie Sedgwick?

She’s fascinating. I’m fascinated with people who are that destructive. She was this vibrant, incredible woman who didn’t know how to handle her light.

Were you intrigued by the period as well?

I always love that period. It was very groundbreaking; I think everything nowadays was just trying to recreate what was going on then. You think rock and roll and girls in semi-short skirts were revolutionary, you should consider it then.

You’ve had this drama in your real life; so, you like to play dramatic characters in your work?

What kind of question is that? I’m an actress; I like people who have something going on in their head and their lives.

Some people like drama in their lives.

I’m totally not dramatic, [at least] not that kind of drama. I like playing interesting women, who have had some sort of history within themselves. But I don’t think that has to do with me personally.

Your mom is a yoga teacher. Have you studied with her and has that helped you as an actor?

Yeah, I did. I used to sit in on the classes when I was younger. She does a mixture of yoga and the Alexander technique, which is very good for actors.

And good for handling the corset.

I nearly burned my corset. I was caught trying to steal it and torch it during the middle of the night.

So what was the appeal of Casanova?

He was this lothario, the mystique behind that is what made him so fantastic. I think what people misinterpret about him is that he was a man just after conquests, that it was about numbers. That wasn’t true. He worshiped women. He made it about love; he would stay the night and love them.

Photo Credits:
#1 © 2005 Doane Gregory.  Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2005 Doane Gregory.  Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2005 Doane Gregory.  Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2005 Doane Gregory.  Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.  All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2005  All rights reserved.  Posted: December 24, 2005.

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