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Interview: Sienna Miller says 'there’s still no equality in Hollywood whatsover'

The actress talks about keeping her "American Sniper" wife feisty and juggling her many new movies with motherhood.

When she was younger Sienna Miller was a paparazzi magnet. They chased the English actress down streets, obsessed over her relationships and dwelled on her beauty, not her acting. She seems to have taken drastic steps to shed that. In 2012 she gave birth to her daughter, Marlowe, with her now-fiance Tom Sturridge, and regularly describes their life as “boring.” But she’s also back in high profile movies, after years in smaller fare. She played Nancy Schultz, wife of doomed Mark Ruffalo, in “Foxcatcher,” and now plays Taya Kyle, wife of late Army sharpshooter Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.” And there’s plenty more where that came from.

In real life Taya is very animated. She's definitely not just The Wife.

She’s a real firecracker. She’s definitely not just a military wife. Clint, I think, is so respectful of woman and historically has made movies with great roles for women in them. He’d never have let her be one-dimensional. But it’s not her story; it’s Chris’ story. I’d love to do a movie about Taya. She deserves it. You try to pack a lot into these small, infrequent moments that served the story. I do think her sense of humor, her feistiness shines through.

Taya was very involved with the making of this film and has done press. Was she there as you were filming?

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She wasn’t on set at all. She’d talk through all the takes. [Laughs] I say this because I love her. She’s such an oracle for everyone leading up to it, then was happy to just let us make the film. On “Foxcatcher” Nancy Schultz was on-set. That was intimidating, because you feel very self-conscious having the person you’re playing watching what you’re doing.

How lightly do you tred when talking to someone who suffered this kind of tragedy?

You want to explore every aspect of their relationship while trying to be sensitive of the fact that they’re still mourning. With Nancy it happened a long time ago. She’s sort of made peace with it, as awful as it was. Taya is still raw. The man who shot Chris is going on trial in February. She’s been in this relentless cycle that’s punishing and unforgiving.

It’s common for people to describe Clint Eastwood’s films as “old-fashioned.” Does it feel that way on-set?

I think he is very old-fashioned. His approach is very intuitive. He reads a script and knows what he wants to do instantly. He’ll pretty much have cut the film in his head. The whole idea of only doing two takes, it can sound like it’s a complacent approach. It’s easier, the days are shorter, and they are less angst-ridden than other environments I’ve been in. But he’s not dictatorial. You’ll suggest something and he’ll say, “OK.” But then you realize he was right.

You have a ton of movies in the works: “High-Rise,” the Whitey Bulger film “Black Mass,” Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night,” another Bradley Cooper movie and James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z.”

I made a pact after I had a baby that I wanted to work with the best people. I don’t care about the size of the roles; I just want to be in great films, just to learn from these people. Ten weeks after I gave birth to my daughter I was sent “Foxcatcher.” And once that happened it opened up opportunities with other filmmakers, because they would tell other directors what I was like to work with. It was quite a good strategy, actually.

How have you juggled motherhood with so much work?

She was with me on “Foxcatcher,” which was five months on and off. Then I took a year off. For her first year I basically didn’t work. Now she comes with me. She’s here right now, sleeping in the hotel. She’s like a little nomad; we’re gypsies. She gets to be with her mom and dad and we take turns working. What a great life, to be around creative people and funny environments. I’ll settle when she starts proper school, but for now she’s portable.

She’ll really appreciate when she’s older spending her first years around movie stars.

I’ve got some seriously good photos of her being held by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo on the “Foxcatcher” set when she was a baby.

In real life you don’t look much you do in “American Sniper,” and you often look very different in each movie.

I try as much as possible to take vanity out of the equation, with any role, even if it’s a super-glamorous one. As an actress, when you’re 30, you better give up on clinging onto looking amazing in films, because there’s always going to be someone younger and more beautiful. You’re replaceable. You better start playing some serious, real characters. An actor’s job is to inhabit and disappear. That’s my goal. My dad didn’t recognize me in this for the first couple minutes [laughs], which is really worrying-slash-flattering.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the lack of female-driven movies in Hollywood. Is it at all getting better?

No. I think there’s still no equality in Hollywood whatsoever. In terms of roles and quality of roles and paychecks, that world is really imbalanced. It doesn’t make any sense. At the moment I’m fortunate enough to work with directors who love women and get to play some really interesting — even if they’re small — but really interesting, great characters.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
 
 
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