Sienna Miller isn’t the first model to turn to acting, nor the first to win accolades. Though her personal life, particularly her on-again-off-again relationship with Jude Law, has sometimes eclipsed her performances, she’s delivered strong work in “Layer Cake” and “Interview” and earned a Golden Globe nomination for playing Tippi Hedren in “The Girl,” which accused Alfred Hitchcock of obsessively destroying her career. Miller can be seen in “Just Like a Woman,” a “Thelma and Louise”-style road trip directed by French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb (“Days of Glory,” “Outside the Law”).
The film features your character taking up belly dancing. Did you have a history with that?
No, no. I’m completely uncoordinated. It was a real struggle. The film is very well shot, because there were moments that weren’t particularly well executed on my part. I just tried to distract them with the immensely enormous push-up bra. That was my mission.
Did you get better?
Yeah, I worked very hard. I trained for 10 weeks. I was doing a play in London at the time. When I wasn’t doing matinees, I was belly dancing. And I loved it. The great thing about being an actress is you get to do these crash courses in strange kind of skills. I can add belly dancing to my resume.
Were you drawn to the project because it has strong female characters?
I think the real draw was Rachid [Bouchareb]. I agreed to it before I’d read the script.
Was it difficult working with someone from another culture, who spoke another language?
The way the French make films is very different. That was a hard thing to get around. When they say “C’est pas mal,” that translates into “Not bad.” But to them that actually means it’s extraordinary and you’ve done an amazing job. It took me a few weeks of feeling chronically insecure and feeling like I was making the biggest mistake of my career before realizing they were happy with me. They’re so uneffusive — it was hard to get my head around that. But when you get a compliment it’s authentic.
What are the difficulties of playing someone who is an original creation versus a real person?
I love playing real people. You get to become a historian. I love that aspect of investigating someone and meeting people who knew them and discovering secrets. I played Edie Sedgwick [in "Factory Girl"] and Tippi Hedren. With a new character you have freer rein and that can be exciting. And you can kind of be more lazy, which is a great thing for me. You have to do someone justice if they’re a real person.
What kind of reaction did you get from Hitchcock fans for the accusations made in “The Girl?”
People had really strong opinions about it. Ultimately that’s not my territory. I’m playing a woman who’s alive and has told us her version of the story. I don’t think it’s any surprise that Hitchcock acted that way. You watch his films, and he’s a blatant misogynist. In “Marnie,” she gets saved by her rapist and she goes off with him, and you’re supposed to feel happy and relieved for her. There’s something going on there. But [Hedren] was very quick to say what an amazing filmmaker he was, and the two were very close. But the fact is he kept her on a contract for seven years, she got offered roles in Godard, Truffaut films, and he wouldn’t release her. He watched her sit till she had no career. That’s a provable fact.