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December 2005
Casanova: An Interview with Sienna Miller

Casanova: An Interview with Sienna Miller

By Wilson Morales

Outside of her off-screen relationship with actor Jude Law, Sienna Miller is quietly building a solid resume with some impressive roles as of late. After being seen last year as the love interest of Law in the remake of "Alfie", Miller then followed it up with a film playing opposite the newest James Bond, Daniel Craig, in Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake. In her latest film, Miller is playing Francesca Bruni, the love interest to Heath Ledger in Lasse Hallstrom's Casanova. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Miller talked about getting the role and her desire to become an actress.

Can you talk about how this came about for you and why you are particularly doing this?

Sienna: It came about just as a result of an audition process. I read the script, was very, very keen on it, was looking for something that was a period piece at the time, and then I just realized, you know, as a young actress there are very few parts out there that actually you can get your teeth into - you're either the girl or the love interest or there to serve some romantic purpose in a male dominated piece, and here was this heroine who was a sword fighting, swashbuckling, cross-dressing intellect, feminist, you know - just a fantastic role so, you know, I...

I bet you could identify with her then...

Sienna: I might. I aspire to be more like her. I can identify with the stubbornness I think, but I did a lot of begging and got the part.

What was it about a period piece that you really wanted to do at that point?

Sienna: I think I was... I was getting into a little bit of a niche where I was perceived as very modern - because I am quite modern I think - and I just wanted to be able to show that I could do something different where I wasn't blonde and I... you know, and I kept my clothes on.

But when Casanova comes along they say... you could look at this and think, oh, maybe they'll want me to take my clothes off.

Sienna: Until I read the script when I realized that they didn't, and actually it was a really strong female role - you know, it's a pretty fantastic role.

Is it hard to be the serious person in a semi-farce?

Sienna: That's a really good question. It's really hard - and actually watching it is hard because amidst all this comedy Lasse was very good at reminding me that she is actually very depressed, she's feeling incredibly repressed by the society that she's in and, um... and is really battling against it. So I was desperate at times to do a wink and a nudge and a little pout or a flick of the fan and I had to stay on this rather miserable journey, and it was tough. It was probably the biggest challenge, along with the corset.

It's a romantic comedy and she's kind of, you know, very unwilling to find love I guess, this character. Are you a romantic yourself, I mean is that an aspect of her that you can identify with or...

Sienna: I think she's keen to find love but just not the type of love that's on offer to her at the moment. I think she... she is a romantic. She says at one point give me a man who's man enough to give himself just to the woman who is with him'. So this is obviously on her mind, you know, love and romance, it's just that she doesn't think that she will find it within the society that she's in - and therefore, when Casanova sacrifices himself for her, that's why she falls for him. I am hopelessly romantic as a person - but I'm a girl, I think.

Hopeless or hopeful - and...

Sienna: Hopelessly and hopefully romantic.

I got the impression she's very intelligent. She wants somebody who is her intellectual match at least. A friend of mine who saw it with me thought that you would be a terrific Portia.

Sienna: Oh, thank you. I would love to play Portia - maybe I'll do that next year in London on stage. That would be fun. That would be fun. I've had my dose of Shakespeare for the year - I just did five months of As You Like It in the West End so...

It was very successful, wasn't it?

Sienna: It was, yeah. We did really well, and it was a tricky year for theatre in England. It was one of the slowest years ever I think, but we managed to extend. I was Celia. My stage debut, I'm not stupid enough to play the longest role in Shakespeare's history, although I had to stand in for her one night, Rosalind got sick. I wasn't her understudy but I stood in, which was the most terrifying moment of my entire life.

What are your thoughts on the role as a role model to teens who watch the movie, especially girls?

Sienna: I think for young women it's a really - it's a really good role to kind of look to because, as I said earlier, there are very few female roles out there for young actresses where you get to be independent, strong... you know, she very much sticks to her morals. She believes what she believes in. She's intelligent. She's not afraid to be different. And I think it's very hard in the society we live in for young girls not to conform, especially when there's generic comedies out there where girls are just flicking their hair and are blonde in tank tops and - you know, and here's this rather intelligent, debating woman. I think she's a good role model. For me as well, you know.

Where did the accent come from?

Sienna: I lived here (in New York) for the first eight months of my life and then I lived in London so... it'd be quite weird if I kept the accent. Were you always interested in being an actress? What brought you to the Strasberg?

Sienna: My father's American from Pennsylvania. My mother's South African/English. So we moved with dad for work when I was eight months old. And mum, I think when I was about six came to Strasberg just out of curiosity. She teaches yoga and the Alexander Technique and was teaching a lot of actors who wanted to understand acting. And so set up the Lee Strasberg school in London. But it was kind of independent of that that I chose that school because I'd studied Brecht and Craig and Stanislavski at school and was very drawn to Stanislavski of the three, and plus I was 18 and wanted a good excuse for moving to New York and...

So where did that desire to be an actor come from?

Sienna: I don't remember. I just remember not really having a choice; that it was always what I wanted or was going to do. I never allowed myself to really think about anything else. I think I was brought up in a very creative environment. My mother went into labour during the ballet - and I was taken to the theatre and the ballet and the opera all the time so I was constantly surrounded by creative kind of influences and I went to the theatre and used to see these people dressing up and playing for a living and thought that looks like a pretty good job.

Sienna, you're young and you're doing what you, you know, as you just said what you've always aspired, but there are a lot of outside forces that could be somewhat negative in your life. At this point is everything... are you happy with the occupation that you've chosen at this point, you know, with...

Sienna: Yeah. I love my job. I'm passionate about what I do and I love every aspect of it and I'm totally enthusiastic and excited about working with other people and learning and growing as an actress, but the exterior stuff that goes with it... um, I don't think anyone could have predicted for themselves, or could predict for themselves or... you know, you imagine that it might happen but not to the degree. I've had a pretty rough year with press intrusion, especially in London it's pretty difficult to cope with - the paparazzi. Um, and there have been times this year when I've said was it worth it, but actually things seem to be dying down, which is really positive, and I'm so relieved to be able to come and talk about a film I'm proud of and not everything else. So... you know...

What can you do actively to make sure that the professional is not eclipsed by the personal?

Sienna: I've tried everything and there doesn't seem to be an awful... I wish there was a formula or a structure. I mean moving out of London has crossed my mind. Um, but it's not like I court this. I don't go to the opening of an envelope. I don't go to every celebrity party. I don't do that. I very, very much lead a normal life. I mean... and I walk my dogs. But for some reason if I walk my dogs then that's in magazines. I don't court that attention it's just...

But when you have a personal life I guess, and when that personal life is under the microscope, do you feel that it's just not worth having that degree of celebrity and rather than...

Sienna: I never did this to be a celebrity or to be famous. I really... and that may sound like something you'd have to say, but I genuinely mean it, which is why I did a play for five months. If I wanted to be some huge famous person I could go and do something else.

After that press intrusion did things change or did that perception change once you went onstage and said I am actress I'm not a celebrity.

Sienna: It was during all of that and, yes, it did. I think people actually stood back and said, you know, she's serious about what she's doing, which is what I set out to do.

People like Emma Thompson and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who have gone through these things earlier, I mean they both say that the British tabloid press is far more vicious than the American...

Sienna: I think certain British tabloids have been very supportive. That's not to say that they don't write something pretty much everyday but can be very supportive and others, yeah, can be extremely slanderous. It's more the paparazzi that fuel stuff. And I think, you know... it's the way that they go about it. I appreciate that to a certain degree if you're in a high-profile relationship or you are an actress you can't complain about it too much, and I don't want to sound like I'm whinging because I have to accept this with grace and dignity as much as I can - but, they will provoke you or say things to try and upset you to try and get a photo of you crying, and it's... I've found myself in situations where I'm running down the street at midnight on my own with ten full-grown men chasing me in the dark. And if you take away the cameras what have you got? I'm a 23-year-old girl being chased by ten full-grown men, and that should not be allowed. I feel very threatened by that.

How does Heath rate as a leading man?

Sienna: He's a fantastic leading man. He's just a great guy, Heath, you know. I think a lot of actors would have walked in playing the greatest lover of all time and puff their chests out and pout and felt very self important. And Heath being the way that he is, and the actor that he is, sat back and allowed it very much to be an ensemble piece. He didn't over-pose or over-pout. He did it as a real character. He's just generous. He's kind of like my big brother. You know, he's like... he's incredibly supportive. I was nervous. It was my first big role and he was kind of fantastic to me.

Are there any embarrassing moments on the set between you guys?

Sienna: Probably loads. We were just quite naughty on set. After the food fights we used to - well, I used to stick 8 1 D2... see how many grapes I could get into my mouth to make people laugh. I just turned into a child when I was on set.

Do you have a dream role - a particular role - like a Shakespearean part, or a kind of role that you'd like to play?

Sienna: One day I'd like to play Medea when I'm a bit more tortured - it's heavy but as an actress it's pretty fantastic. I've always liked to play Anne Boleyn, for some reason I always loved her. I think it's more of a case that I know what I don't want to do. I kind of want to do everything apart from being just the girl' or the love interest' or the, you know... just meaty, intelligent or strong or illuminated women.

Can you talk about Edie Sedgwick a little bit? Is the film going to cover her whole life or is it like a specific factory period or...

Sienna: It's kind of a factory period with flashbacks of... it's very difficult, um, to do her whole life. It's - it's a fascinating story. But this piece is focusing more on the kind of 65/'66 Warhol years and the effect that that had, because that was very pivotal to her life, and with background so that you kind of know where she's coming from. And Guy Pearce is playing Andy Warhol. He's morphing into at the moment. He's fantastic. He's lost weight. He's playing with the phones and he goes, "Hi, it's Andy". It's really exciting. Hayden Christensen is in it.

Are you shooting it here?

Sienna: We're shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana and here.

What sort of accent are you going to do - do you have?

Sienna: I'm doing Edie's accent. She was basically... well, her parents are from Boston. She's kind of Boston blueblood and lived in California. She has a very deep voice so I've been doing lots of shouting - my voice is a bit deeper than it normally is at the moment. Um, yeah, Edie's accent - I've been watching Ciao! Manhattan and Beauty #2, some of Warhol's films, and talking to all the ex-factory pats who are still alive - Brigid Berlin and all those people.

Do you usually do a lot of research - like for Casanova did you go back and look at the period of the time?

Sienna: It depends, you know. For certain things I tend to be quite spontaneous, and I'm a crammer. I just don't work well as somebody who sits there doing work for months and months because I have quite a short attention span. But I did for Casanova - yeah, I read a lot about the suffragettes and Emme Pankhurst. And there's a book called Venetian Love Story - and I had Casanova's memoirs. So I kind of dabbled in fantasy and just thought about women feeling repressed more than anything, because I think that was her biggest struggle, that she was about to be bartered off in this marriage and... you know, she just was a very forward-thinking woman. For Edie obviously I can't be lazy because she... she lived. So there's tons and tons of research that I have and can be doing.

What's the schedule beyond the Warhol picture - anything going on?

Sienna: There's a couple of things that... I'm deciding what to do. I keep reading these really fantastic independent films, much to the gall of my agent, but I should... Edie is an independent film - Factory Girl it's called - and there's this other thing that I love called Camille, which is also independent, but I might have to do something else.

Sienna, if you could take us in to one of those meetings with your agents and your people and you bring them this Indie film - what do they say to you?

Sienna: Well, they read the script and passed it to me and said this is fantastic and she's this girl called Camille and she's from Kentucky.

Thank you, Sienna.

Sienna: Thank you. Take care.

CASANOVA opens on December 23rd, 2005


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