She was the noughties It Girl who found herself at the centre of the world’s attention, but when the tabloids’ focus on her style and her love life began to overshadow her career, Sienna Miller took time to regroup, give birth, and reemerge as 2015’s It Woman.
When Vanity Fair declared that its February cover star, Rosamund Pike, had gone “From Bond Girl to Gone Girl to 2015’s It Girl”, it seemed like something of a backward progression. The Oscar nominated actress had beaten off stiff competition to win the coveted lead in Gone Girl, and she appears more self-assured, composed and intelligent than anything the flighty notion of an “It Girl” might imply.
If you want to know how vacuous a title “It Girl” is, look no further than Sienna Miller, who for a time in the mid-noughties, reigned supreme in that particular arena of hot-young-things. Thrust into the spotlight by her 2004 engagement to Jude Law, like every good It Girl, she put in her time on the party circuit. While she should have been establishing herself as an actress, she was instead gaining a reputation as a stylish good time girl, and when people spoke of her as a “drama queen”, they weren’t implying that she was the next Judi Dench.
What were we thinking? In hindsight, “boho chic” doesn’t look so chic.
Becoming a paparazzi target at the tender age of 22 would be a shock to anyone’s system, and as Miller explains it: “One day I was anonymous, the next day people were outside my flat!” Her initial brush with fame found her carefree and in love, showcasing her effortless “boho chic” style and kick-starting the most regrettable fashion trend of that decade. She relished the spotlight then, but the darker side of the media’s attention was just around the corner.
In the summer of 2005, Jude Law admitted to an affair with his children’s nanny, and Miller became the paparazzi’s number one target. As she would later testify to the Leveson Inquiry into the News of the World’s phone hacking scandal “I would find myself, at 21, running down a dark street on my own with 10 big men chasing me. If you take away the cameras, you’ve got a pack of men chasing a woman, and obviously that’s a very intimidating situation to be in.”
She describes that time as “a place of chaos”, and the Inquiry also revealed she had retaliated against Law by having an affair with their mutual friend, Daniel Craig. That would be the first in a number of high profile, ill-advised trysts – Anyone for P Diddy? Didn’t think so — that would keep her in the tabloids for years to come, despite a career that seemed to be losing momentum. She was propelled to international notoriety when she embarked on an affair with the married actor (and father of four) Balthazar Getty, and thanks to the disapproving glare of the media, they would both pay a heavy price for their indiscretions.
Getty’s wife was extremely well connected in Hollywood. When the affair made headlines for the second time in 2009, Miller was about to begin a press tour for her first big budget movie, G.I. Joe, and the studio heads were not impressed. “People don’t want to see films with people they disapprove of in them,” she would later explain to Esquire magazine. Getty was fired from his TV show, Brothers and Sisters, and Miller would not find herself in front of a movie camera again until 2012.
Having rekindled her romance with Jude Law in 2009, they split for good two years later, and with no work on the horizon, Miller realised it was time to reassess both her life and her career. While she paints it as a conscious choice, saying “I felt like I had no control over any aspect of my life, professionally or personally. So I deliberately disappeared”, she nonetheless accepts that, because of her party girl reputation, “it had become difficult for me to get the work I wanted. I sabotaged things. I burnt a lot of bridges”.
Say cheese – with baby Marlowe as the paparazzi keep their distance.
Cut to 2015, where Miller was a presenter at last month’s Oscars. With no sign of her trademark boho style, she appeared grown-up and pulled-together in a refined and elegant Oscar de la Renta gown, and the invitation to Hollywood’s biggest night proved that she has more than succeeded in rebuilding those bridges. While she attended the Oscars on the arm of Jude Law over ten years ago, this time she was there on her own merit. And with her supporting roles in two nominated movies — Foxcatcher, and the box office smash American Sniper — having surprised both critics and her peers alike, it was clear the Academy saw her as more than just a ratings-grabbing It Girl.
The chance to prove herself without the distracting glare of the media spotlight has been hard won for Sienna. She fought back against the press and sued the News of the World for hacking into her phone and leaving her so paranoid that she accused her mother of tipping off the press as to her whereabouts. She also secured an injunction against the paparazzi, giving her space to live a life that was a little more normal.
And normal is what she enjoys these days, because the biggest change in Miller’s life has been the birth of her daughter, Marlowe. “I was overwhelmed by how normal it felt,” she said of motherhood earlier this year, describing it to Vogue as “grounding in a way you can’t describe”. And that’s a word she also uses to describe her fiancé, and Marlowe’s father, Tom Sturridge. He’s “amazing to be around”, she has said. “There’s no drama.”
Ironically, it was in a HBO movie called The Girl that she made her tentative move towards a comeback in, and it earned her not just BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, but the chance to be seen by directors who would previously have dismissed her as Lohan-esque tabloid fodder. As Foxcatcher director Bennet Miller put it, he had misgivings, but when he saw her audition tape “She really opened my eyes to the fact that she’s a very solid and serious actress.” In Hollywood, when one door opens, more will follow, and Sienna credits Bennet Miller with “opening the door to a world of filmmakers I didn’t have access to before”.
Now that she’s in a better place, personally, to capitalise on these opportunities second time round, there’s been no more self-sabotaging from Sienna. We’ll see her in four major releases in 2015, including Black Mass with Johnny Depp and Live by Night with Ben Affleck. It seems the It Girl Keira Knightley described as “the most colourful butterfly in any room she’s in” hasn’t so much had her wings clipped as grown into an It Woman, who realises she doesn’t have to be constantly in flight.
This feature first appeared in Like magazine, March 2015.