Sienna Miller can’t believe “High-Rise” exists either. Based on J.G. Ballard’s dystopian 1975 novel, the film concerns a tricked-out apartment complex that falls into disrepair — and its inhabitants along with it. It’s as mad and decadent as the source, and with its all-star cast engaging in wild parties and orgies and warfare and the occasional dog-eating, it seems beamed from another, less blockbuster-besotted era.
“I really didn’t think anyone made films like this anymore,” the English actress tells us. As it happens, this is exactly the type of movie the actress wants to make. Not that she’s against the superhero films that clog multiplexes.
“They’re fun and they’re entertaining, some of them. But the art is gradually being filtered out. That’s why TV is becoming more artistic,” she says. But she thinks there’s a place for art in movies like this. “They’re thought-provoking. They don’t spoonfeed the audience. They allow you to have opinions. It’s not manipulative filmmaking. It leaves you with questions. I think that’s what cinema should be.”
This is all according to plan. A few years ago, Miller, now 34, decided to reinvent herself. Gone, she hoped, would be her past as just another model-actress, as well as the tabloid-friendly on-off partner of Jude Law. Instead she’s tried to align herself with auteur directors and daring projects.
It’s worked: In addition to supporting roles in “Foxcatcher” and “Mississippi Grind” — plus James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” and Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night” en route — she scored the co-lead in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” the highest-grossing release of 2014.
Still, Miller treads lightly. Speaking about “High-Rise,” she’s loath to lump herself in with her famous co-stars, including Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss and Jeremy Irons. “I don’t really have that following,” she claims. When she speaks, softly but assuredly, you believe she means it.
“High-Rise” has famously spent decades in development hell; it was even too difficult for Nicolas Roeg (“The Man Who Fell to Earth”), who wanted to film it in the 1970s. Ballard’s classic has long been lumped in with all the other great, unfilmable novels, until director Ben Wheatley and his screenwriter/wife Amy Jump took a whack at it.