Alfie : Sienna Miller Interview

Sienna Miller is worried that we’ve all been getting to know her rather too quickly. Her flawless face has already graced the cover of numerous magazines and she is constantly tracked by intrusive paparazzi photographers.

And the 22 year old Londoner resents it. “I’ m not very happy about it to be honest,” she says. ”It makes me uncomfortable because I don’t think it’s as a result of having a film come out, I think it’s as a result of
being scrutinised because of the relationship I’m in.

“If it was because of work I think I’d feel more justified and more comfortable with it so I can’t wait for the film to come out, if it’s received well, for that reason.”

The relationship in question is her romance of a year or so with Jude Law, who happens to be the star of Alfie, the film on which they first met. Since then, Ms Miller has discovered that dating one of the most famous men on the planet brings instant media interest whether you like it or not.

But she now hopes that her work will finally catch up with that degree of exposure. And she has two films coming out which should do just the trick. In Layer Cake, she plays a seductive temptress who becomes involved with a gangster (Played by Daniel Craig) and in Alfie she plays Nikki, a wild party girl who is prone to violent mood swings. And she is quite excellent in the part. Just ask director Charles Shyer.

“When I first met her I actually through she was American, her accent was so good,” says Shyer. “And playing Nikki is a hard part, it really is. Sienna is beautiful and she can act. There are a lot of girls who we all know who are beautiful but can’t act - she can act.”

Sienna actually was born in New York - she has an English mother and an American father - but grew up in London and considers herself English. She attended Heathfield School in Berkshire by which time she already had the acting bug. After leaving she studied, briefly, at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York before launching her career, first with an off Broadway play, Independence.

Since then she’s worked on the BBC television series Bedtime, and the Paramount TV show, Keen Eddie. She’s currently filming Casanova with Heath Ledger and Jeremy Irons on location in Venice.

Q. Was Alfie your first movie?

A. Pretty much. I did a movie called Layer Cake which was just before this. I did that in June last year and Alfie in September. I got both roles at the same time but Layer Cake was only five days (laughs) it doesn’t count.

Q. Nikki is a very demanding role to state the obvious. Were you worried about the scenes when you are wearing very little?

A. Well the physical stuff I didn’t find difficult necessarily because I think it was relevant for the character. We talked about it and I had the option of not doing it if I didn’t feel comfortable with it. But I felt that in that scene that it was so desperate, it would be such a desperate thing to do for this girl who is trying anything to make him stay that it would make people uncomfortable so if I felt uncomfortable I think it was relevant for the scene. I think it works in that scene, because you are kind of like ‘oh God, don’t! Oh no...’ So I don’t necessarily find that difficult if it’s not gratuitous. I’ve made some mistakes in the past but I think that with this film it’s relevant and that’s fine.

Q. And the emotional vulnerability?

A. That’s hard. It was hard and the film was hard because the character is so complex and I wanted to do her justice and not be cliché about nuttiness. You want to keep a certain subtlety. The break up scene I think we shot a Thursday, Friday and then had Saturday and Sunday off and then again on a Monday and Tuesday so this thing dragged on and on for some reason we did a lot of coverage, we wanted to get it from a lot of angles. And I just remember feeling crap for that weekend. I mean, it penetrates, it does, you are sitting there going over and over this hideous break up with someone and yeah it definitely gets under you skin, it’s hard and it did get a bit manic. But I do think that the environment on that set was very conducive to make it as real as possible. It did affect me, it’s tough but it’s fun.

Q. Have you ever met anyone like Nikki?

A. No. Actually, maybe I have met a few people who have shown signs of it but I would normally bolt if I saw too much of Nikki in anyone.

Q. But she is obviously very seductive

A. Yeah. A lot of men have said that they have met women like her and I guess men would meet it more because women wouldn't necessarily reveal that side or have to unless they are in a relationship but I’ve seen when people get drunk and they get a bit, you know...

Q.Charles the director was saying that he actually knew someone like Nikki

A. Oh yeah, Charles has met women like that, definitely. It’s the kind of thing you can imagine that women aren’t on the receiving end of it as much as men when they are in a relationship with a woman like that. But it’s sad, too, because she is trying so hard.

Q. Have you met guys like Alfie?

A. Oh God, I’ve met them but but I have not stayed talking to them very long. I’ve got a good radar...

Q. Your fellow actresses were talking about this. The attraction to the bad boy..

A. Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen (laughs). But it’s true, I think it’s this sick thing that some women have that they are kind of drawn to men who don’t treat them very well. I think it’s something you have more when you are younger. I remember going out with some complete schmucks when I was a teenager but you kind of learn. But there is something seductive and the character, Alfie is so charming, and does make you think like you are the most important thing in the world but he’s not that nice, is he.

Q. What kind of guys are you attracted too?

A. Oh God, that’s a difficult question. I’m not particularly fussy. A nice guy that makes me laugh.

Q. Women always say that

A. It’s true though, if you can sit there and piss yourself laughing with someone I’ll tell you what it’s the best thing in the world. Get your joke books out boys...

Q. What do you think Alfie had?

A. I think for Nikki there is this guy who is very handsome and they have an instant attraction. That’s the first thing. And then there is some outrageous flirting. I just think he is her match in a male form, she doesn’t mean to fall for him like she does and reveal everything she does. But then she genuinely believes it is going to work and that she doesn’t need to take her medication because here is this guy that will save her. I just think that she believes that they are the same kind of person but then she can’t really cope with it.

Q. The director said that he wanted your character to be a kind of homage to Julie Christie in Darling, did he discuss that with you?

A. No he never really told me that (laughs) But we wanted to keep an element of the sixties with my character and the styling of it. It was a big collaboration between the make up and the wardrobe and Charles and me and we all discussed what kind of things we wanted and I kind of thought it would be great if she was this flamboyant girl. And he did mention Julie Christie and we did cut my fringe (that way) but I don’t think he wanted to scare me off or put me in a category that might limit me. He has
mentioned it since but at the time he said ‘you do what you are going to do...’

Q. Are you fashion conscious?

A I love clothes. Not particularly fashion conscious. I know what I like to wear and and I’m a girl and I enjoy shopping. But I don’t like to look too ostentatious or too glamorous, I’m a bit scruffy....

Q. There’s a lot of buzz around you right now. How do you feel when you are described as the new ‘it’ girl?

A. I’m not very happy about it to be honest. It makes me uncomfortable because I don’t think it’s as a result of having a film come out I think it’s as a result of being scrutinised because of the relationship I’m in. If it was because of work I think I’d feel more justified and more comfortable with it so I can’t wait for the film to come out, if it’s received well, for that reason.

Q. When did you first become interested in acting?

A. I know it’s a cliché, but I can’t remember honestly wanting to do anything else.

Q. What was your first taste of the stage?

A. Angel Gabriel, aged three (laughs) that’s true, in the nativity play that was my first role. I was brought up in a very creative environment. I always went to the theatre and ballet with my Mum so I knew I wanted to do something creative, my sister is a designer and we were very much drawn to artistic things and it was embraced by our parents and I think I wanted to do it because I could.

Q.When did you actually articulate that?

A. Apparently, aged 3! I did, I watched Some Like It Hot and said ‘that’s it, that’s what I want to do!’ I was quite outspoken as a child and I think I wanted to be a ballerina and everything but acting was the thing that seemed to stick.

Q. Did you go to drama school?

A. No I was far too lazy. I think at the time I was a year younger, so when I left school I was actually 17 and it’s normally 18 in England so at that time I just couldn’t commit to being in one place for three years. At that time I was so relieved to be out of school, which I loved, but you know it’s your first taste of freedom and the outside world and I didn’t want to say that I would be in London studying for three years. So I came to New York and I went to Lee Srasberg, the drama school off Union Square, for six months and then did a play off Broadway here. And that was great and I thought that because I was young enough I could do a year of having an agent and see how it went and then if I wanted to go back to drama school I always could. But I was very lucky actually and I’m quite glad, for me I think it worked that I didn’t go (to drama school). I think you are quite unconscious of any competition if you haven’t been round drama schools and all of that. It’s a great experience actually doing it..

Q. You’re father is American, do you feel quite at home here in New York?

A. Yes I do. I was born in New York actually and lived in London since I was 18 months old and then Dad lived in London until I was 15 and moved back and now lives in the Virgin Islands so he is not here anymore. But because I lived here for about a year when I was 18, yeah it does, it feels like home but it’s very similar to London. I do think most English people do feel quite at home here, Londonders particularly.

Q. What’s it been like filming in Venice for Casanova?

A. It’s wonderful. They have a Venetian set in Luxembourg so we could have easily ended up there and thank Christ we didn’t. It’s great, it’s really hard work but it’s wonderful. It’s a corset and a wig so it’s very hot and initially we were struggling with having camera equipment on boats and with no studio stuff and the light in Venice changes every day, it looks like a completely different place. But I’m thrilled we are there because I think there is an authenticity you can’t recreate and there is something about being in Venice. If ever you needed anything to help you get into character it’s being in a place like that..

Q. Is it funny going from Alfie to Casanova, you might say they are similar characters?

A. It’s great though. I suppose the similarities between those characters are there, but for my characters, they couldn’t be more different. I have a big brown curly wig and keep my corset firmly tight....(laughs)

Q. Did you watch the original movie?

A. I had seen it years before but I hadn’t really remembered it or understood it. I think I was too young. The main difference between the two films is the way that women have progressed since then, I mean there is absolutely no way that men would get away talking to women the way that Michael Caine’s character does in the original. And that’s empowering for women to see how far we’ve come. It’s an enormous leap from sixties to now. Women would just not allow men speak to them like that or treat them in this way. Which is why this one is more uncomfortable because he kind of does, but to camera, so the women don’t necessarily hear it and have an opportunity to react but the audience are being made to feel ‘oh shit...’because he is sitting there making faces and taking the piss out of these women who are actually very strong and end up a lot better as a result of leaving Alfie. I mean, Nikki is the only character who is ambiguous, you don’t really know what happens to here. They end up empowered and he is
the one who has the wake up call at the end of the film.

Q. The music by Dave Stewart and Mick Jagger is great…

A. How cool is that?

Q. Did you get to meet Mick Jagger?

A. Of course! I wouldn’t have missed them for the world. I’m a big sixties music girl. I love the Rolling Stones and I think Dave Stewart is fantastic. To suddenly find yourself in Abbey Road with a piano in the corner which was used to write Sgt Pepper and you are thinking about that and there’s Mick Jagger with a harmonica and there’s Dave Stewart with a guitar and it’s almost unbelievable. The soundtrack is fantastic and again a kind of homage to the sixties in a way and it’s so great to have Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart doing the music.

Q. Do you get star struck at all

A. Mick Jagger is not the kind of person that would allow you to be star struck, he is far too down to earth and kind of warm but yeah, I was incredibly over excited when I first met him. I was in Venice when they
recorded the video but had I been there I would definitely have tried to muscle in (laughs)

Q. Are you musical?

A. I like to think I do - singing in the shower, but I’m not brilliant. What do I like? The Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Kinks, Van Morrison, Clash. I think the White Stripes are great. I’m a rock n roll girl to be honest. I love that Loretta Lynn album, country, reggae.