Until recently, it seemed Sienna Miller’s physical allure would forever serve as the backbone for her movie star career. Accordingly, she was cast in roles in such films as Alfie, Casanova, Interview, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, all of which exploited her good looks to their best advantage. But it was her off-screen life for which she was better known. The “boho-style” fashionista has had a litany of tumultuous relationships with the likes of Jude Law, Rhys Ifans and the very married Balthazar Getty, plus an alleged one with Daniel Craig, and has long caused tabloids to act like veritable moths to a flame. But much about this former party girl’s life has since changed – personally and professionally.
On a sunny wintry afternoon in Manhattan, Miller – elegantly dressed in a white Miu Miu dress and Louboutin heels – is quick to confirm her life has taken a 180-degree turn. “I’ve never been particularly good at conforming,” she says thoughtfully, glancing through the floor-to-ceiling windows of her hotel suite. “I think in my 20s I was maybe a little bit more rebellious but now I’m 32 and I have a baby, I’m too tired to even think about rebellion in any sense.” Like most mothers of a toddler, she has an air of exhaustion. “I think everyone calms down as they get a bit older.”
Now that she’s “calmed down” and is happily entrenched in a stable relationship with actor Tom Sturridge (Being Julia), she relishes one role above all others; mother to their two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Marlowe. And though she looks as glamorous as ever in person today, the two current roles which have Hollywood lining up to book her for more are somewhat different; in both Foxcatcher and American Sniper (in which she is almost unrecognisable as a brunette army wife), she is less the gorgeous It Girl, more the accomplished actor. It is as if Miller hired an image makeover consultant, though in fact she simply fell in love and became a mother. Her happiness is palpable.
“My life has completely changed and as a result I think I’ve been able to do some good work without the focus being in the wrong area so it’s been hugely beneficial to every aspect of my life.”
Taya Kyle, wife of the real-life ill-fated Texan sniper, Chris Kyle, was a role coveted by many of Miller’s American counterparts, particularly given that Kyle was Oregon-born.
“I don’t think that I should only play English parts because I’m English. I think Renee Zellweger playing Bridget Jones was amazing and she played an English person flawlessly. I think that’s what’s beautiful about acting and our job so I am just not questioning why. I’m just saying thank you very much.”
Miller thoroughly immersed herself in the role. “I spoke to Taya extensively. She’s a different woman now than the person I played in the movie because she’s been though his unspeakable tragedy but army wives live in another world. They’re incredibly resilient and incredibly patient,” she offers. “They really love their husbands although there’s a 90 percent divorce rate. It’s very hard to sustain a relationship under those circumstances.”
Miller is well versed on the subject of difficult relationships, most notably her well-documented relationship with Jude Law which began when they co-starred in Alfie. They shot the movie in 2003, he proposed to her on Christmas Day 2004 and in July 2005 he publicly apologised to her about an illicit affair with the nanny of his then-three children (from his previous marriage to Sadie Frost). They reunited the following year, separated in 2006, got back together again and finally split permanently in 2009. In the interim, she was involved with Ifans, Getty and perhaps Craig, finally settling down with Sturridge in 2011.
“I think becoming a mother reshapes your heart in every single sense and every life experience you have. It adds depth to you as a person and, certainly for me, I don’t think I [have] ever felt more grounded or complete since I had a daughter.” I approach the subject of marriage gingerly but she immediately bristles. “As far as my engagement, I have no wish to comment on that. We’re very happy raising a family, that’s all. There are no imminent wedding plans.” Miller has been burnt by the media and, unsurprisingly, she is wary of saying too much. “Tom is very open. I think communication is the most important part of a relationship. It’s a hard thing to sustain, the ability to communicate, but I do think that’s where the source for a happy relationship really lies.”
She has come into her own in every sense. “I’ve always been pretty independent. I feel capable and I think as a woman and especially as a mother I’ve found a whole new depth of strength I didn’t really know I had before. I feel like I can multi-task on a level that men can’t. I think if women ruled the world we could probably have a three-day [work] week. I mean, I see how much we can get done. There is a very feminine part of all of us and I think there is something wonderful about being nurtured and protected by your partner. That’s just an ancient man-woman thing but I do think that it can go both ways.”
Miller was born in New York City and moved to London with her family when she was not quite two years old, returning later to the city to study at the Lee Strasberg Institute. Her mother is a South African-born former model, her father an American banker and Chinese art dealer. She has a sister and two half-brothers.
“I was eight years old when I went to boarding school and looking back, that was too young. It was really hard but then it was also wonderful because you adapt. I think I definitely found a kind of resilience and a lot of strength from that. It isn’t because I have cruel parents, it was culturally what a lot of people do in England. But I want my baby with me and it’s wonderful that I’m never without her. On set, a lot of directors have families with them and there’s always a runner or a costume person that loves playing with kids. So, my daughter knows the inside of a trailer very well and I think it’s great to live in this nomadic fun existence.” She smiles. “It’s a fun life.”
American Sniper is coming to a theatre near you January 22.