Sienna Miller talks exclusively to ELLE
Beautiful, successful, loved-up and with an incredible wardrobe – by rights, we should loathe Sienna Miller, 26, but, finds Louise Gannon, she’s really rather lovely.
Sienna Miller is looking way too perfect. The blonde hair is tousled, the eye make-up is decadently smudged, the face is delicately gorgeous and the body is Modigliani thin in drainpipes, vest and grey silk shawl. Smoking a Marlboro Light and drinking bottled beer, the whole vibe is very Marianne Faithfull circa 1966 (‘Oh, God, I love her!’) – minus a young Mick Jagger. Instead, waiting patiently, is a loved-up Rhys Ifans, who has spent four hours mooching about at the ELLE shoot just to catch the odd moment with his girl (although being greeted by a delighted Sienna wearing a pair of briefs and a man’s leather jacket seemed to make his day).
Sienna leans back on the sofa and bursts out laughing. The laugh is pure jolly hockey sticks, Famous Five. Instantly the too-cool-for-school image evaporates into super-friendly girl next door. ‘Oh, God, people always get the wrong impression of me,’ she coos. ‘I’m so not perfect. My top half is looking pretty good at the moment because, for the first time in my life, I’m exercising [more of this later], but you should see my bum. It wobbles when I walk. Seriously. I have a lardy arse. I have days when I wake up, look in the mirror and go “yuk”. And I totally have bad hair days – why do you think I own so many hats?’
‘The big, big thing I’ve discovered, the big secret, is that it’s all about how happy you are. It’s the ultimate thing. People forget your flaws and imperfections if they see you’re happy. And I’m incredibly happy right now. Probably happier than I’ve ever been. It’s happiness that makes you glow,’ she laughs. ‘Oh, and maybe just a little touch of fake tan!’
Surely all this happiness and glowiness has less to do with fake tan and more to do with a certain tall, tousled-blond actor – the very same Mr Ifans waiting downstairs. Sienna beams, then covers her face with her hands. ‘When his name is mentioned, it makes me smile like a fool because I instantly think of him and it makes me happy. He does just make me happy.’
There is a pause and you can see her inwardly checking herself. Sienna 2008 is a very different creature from the wannabe actress who gate-crashed her way into the celebrity scene five years ago in an explosion of boho scarves, floaty skirts, Ugg boots and headlines about her relationship with the newly divorced (from Sadie Frost) Jude Law. Back then, Sienna was completely defined by the relationship she was in, and there was a naivety to her that was only enhanced by the complications of her liaison with Jude. Then, after a very public engagement, it transpired that he was having an affair with his children’s nanny behind her back. The relationship seesawed for another year until they finally split in 2006. The problem for Sienna was that nothing she did on-screen came close to the drama within her own personal life. On top of that, the Hippie It Girl was such a fashion hit, people were confused as to whether she was a model or an actress.
‘That is totally true,’ she nods. ‘I did everything back to front. I wasn’t seen as an actress when I was with Jude because I didn’t have any films out. People just knew me as his girlfriend. I was very young, madly in love and didn’t really think about it, but it did become incredibly frustrating. I don’t dwell on it, but I don’t regret it. I still get on with Jude, still get on with Sadie. I learnt a lot from the relationship, but now I don’t feel defined by my personal life. I’ve done a lot of films I’m proud of. I’ve grown up. I hope people understand me a bit better now.
‘I hated that whole “boho” tag. I was known either for being Jude’s girlfriend or wearing my mum’s old skirts. I rebelled by cutting off my hair and wearing freaky clothes for a while. I think people see me much more for myself now. I like to think that people see me as an actress.’ Perhaps the ultimate rebellion against ‘old Sienna’ was her decision to date Ifans. On paper, the beautiful, privileged, boarding-school girl and the scruffy, hard-drinking ‘factory-floor actor’ (Ifans’ own assessment) 13 years her senior (she is 26, he is 39) is completely unbelievable. So much so that when they started hanging out together, the tabloid press ignored the relationship as ‘just friends’. It took five months – and a lot of public smooching – before reporters realised they were, in fact, lovers. ‘I don’t know why people find it so unlikely,’ she says. ‘We started out as friends and then it just slowly, slowly developed. I don’t think either of us was expecting it, but it truly has been the most wonderful thing. I totally love Rhys but most of all, he’s my best friend. He’s my greatest friend.’
They are not, as rumour has it, engaged. She flashes a ring-less finger. ‘See. No ring. It’s so embarrassing when these stories come out and that your relationship has been somehow fast-forwarded. We both had our mums on the phone. It’s just awkward. But I’m so happy with our relationship as it is. It has always been incredibly easy and uncomplicated and those stories make for complications that just don’t exist.’
There is, Sienna admits, a bit of a Welsh theme going on. ‘I must have a thing for Welshmen. My first serious boyfriend was from Llandudno. Jude is half-Welsh and then Rhys is the full item. Weird or what?’
In terms of her image, being with Ifans has been a genius move. Somehow it has made her more approachable, more real. When she was with Law, they were an unreachable beautiful couple. Ifans has given her a new earthiness. With Law she was the starry-eyed, slightly unsure ingénue. Watching her with the adoring Ifans, she has clearly blossomed in confidence.
‘Rhys is incredibly romantic. Way more than I am – and I am pretty romantic. Rhys just takes everything to the next level and does so many unexpected things. He bought me a broomstick as a present because he thinks I’m a white witch, but probably more because it was Halloween. It’s typical Rhys. His greatest quality is that he makes me laugh. Not just a little laugh – he can completely floor me laughing. And he’s the best cook ever. His cooking completely reflects his personality; he does these mad, quirky dishes that taste completely wonderful, like carrots poached in mandarin juice. Our lives revolve around food.’
Looking at her slinky thighs, this is fairly hard to believe. She widens her eyes. ‘It’s true. We are both totally obsessed. My perfect day starts with bacon cooked in maple syrup and a cup of tea. Most times I’m so busy I actually feel guilty about having free time. Rhys and I and a couple of other friends have this thing about “bunking off” and taking time out. There’s a system,’ she laughs. ‘A couple of hours off is called Games. The whole afternoon is Double Games and the full 24 hours is Sports Day.'
On any of those days, food is involved big time. Lunch at The Wolseley in London is a favourite. Also, I have a producer friend, Bradley Adams (a founder-member of the Natural Nylon team), whose sister is the stage manager of a ballet company. We go and watch them from the wings, which is the most magical thing in the world. Then I like to go home and cook. Rhys and I have this horrible addiction to caviar, which sounds ridiculous but it’s true. We’re junkies. I was given some seven months ago and now we’ve got this full-on caviar habit. We do the whole works: blinis, chopped eggs, chopped red onion, sour cream… It’s total bliss.’ She pauses and then says, ‘Oh my God, that makes me sound so spoilt, doesn’t it?
‘I have loads of other food fetishes. Pickled Onion Monster Munch, WH Smith Chicken & Stuffing sandwiches, milk chocolate with salt-and-vinegar crisps, in the mouth at the same time – you just have to try it – and French fries dipped in chocolate milkshake.’
Might these fetishes be pregnancy cravings? She shakes her head. ‘I was incredibly broody a while ago, but it just passed. My sister, Savannah, is pregnant again and I’m incredibly excited about that, but I’m 26. I don’t want a baby just yet. Definitely some time in the future, but not right now.’
At the moment, Sienna is focused on films. Her latest movie, The Edge of Love, is a stunning film about the twisted relationship between Dylan Thomas, his wife Caitlin (Sienna) and her best friend and his lover, Vera, played by Keira Knightley. Her performance as the dark, sex-obsessed, hard-drinking depressive Caitlin is remarkable, particularly bearing in mind she was drafted in two weeks before filming started, when Lindsay Lohan dropped out.
‘I freaked out,’ she says. ‘I had absolutely no time to do all the research I wanted, so a lot of the acting was instinctive. I loved the idea of Caitlin and I loved the idea of working with Keira. I was actually pretty nervous about acting alongside her because my part required me to put on weight. I just stuffed my face for the months that we were in production. It wasn’t hard for me. We were staying in this incredibly eccentric Welsh manor house. I had huge fry-up breakfasts, pasties for lunch and lots of toasties.
‘Then I had to face seeing myself alongside Keira, who is the most beautiful woman in the world. Luckily she is also one of the nicest. We totally bonded on the movie and it was so amazing to find a girl friend in this business. We are actually quite similar.
‘She has said I’m the confident one because at parties she’s very shy and I’m loud. But we just have different ways of dealing with nerves. She goes quiet and I go all effervescent.’ She shakes her head. ‘In Hollywood they don’t know what to make of us because we both drink and smoke and eat. Keira completely shares my obsession with food and cooking. We’re actually on for a cook-off at some point. The competition is pretty tough.'
‘The best thing about the movie was getting to know Keira. We were out in Wales, hanging out in our pyjamas all the time and doing illegal things like sneaking off for secret horse rides and quad-bike rides, which is completely against the insurance policies. We’d spend the night together talking non-stop. I have lots of girl friends from school I’m close to, but Keira is in a very similar position to me. From the outside it seems like we have great lives, but there are pressures, like lack of time, being chased by the paparazzi and being criticised all the time. We’d sit there and moan to each other and then, after a few hours, I’d burst out laughing because ultimately we both love our jobs and are incredibly privileged to have these lives. But it’s such a relief to have a big moan every now and then. We were like two old fishwives.’
Since the movie finished (and the videos Keira and Sienna shot of their ‘illegal’ rides were shown at the wrap party), Sienna has been round to Keira’s for ‘one of her infamous Sunday lunch parties’. ‘Keira has this amazing wooden table that everyone just carves anything they like into, from their names to pictures,’ she says. ‘It’s totally vandalised and completely amazing. She’s also a great cook. I did annoy her last time, though, by going home fairly early. Out came all the guitars and I stood up to leave. She was like, “But Sienna, you’re the party girl. You can’t leave.” It’s true. I’m usually the one forcing everyone else to stay up and do mad things like run naked on the beach or wait for the sun to rise, but I also need sleep. When I’m working, I turn into OhmyGodIhavetogotobed woman.’
As usual, Sienna was ‘alleged’ to be romantically involved with both co-stars, Matthew Rhys (a former flame) and Cillian Murphy, during the filming of Edge of Reason. ‘I’d been there two days when there were reports about me and Cillian. I’d barely spoken to him at that point, his wife was pregnant and I was just mortified. But then I’m always having these so-called affairs. There have been times I’ve had affairs with guys I’ve never met.’ Orlando Bloom, Leonardo DiCaprio and P. Diddy to name check a few. She grins. ‘Actually, everyone missed the big love story, as I was sleeping with Keira during filming. They all missed that.’
There is little angst from Sienna. Friends describe her as ‘permanently sunny’, and it’s a fair description. When she was six, her parents split (her mother, Jo, was David Bowie’s secretary and ran the Lee Strasberg acting school in London; her father, Ed, a banker-turned-art dealer, later married and divorced interior-design guru Kelly Hoppen) and she was sent to boarding school with her elder sister, Savannah. Far from being traumatised, she describes her childhood as ‘wonderful’. Her ‘best friends in the world (bar Rhys)’ include her mother, her sister (who is partner in her fashion line Twenty8Twelve) and her best friend from school and PR, Tori Cook.
Right now, Sienna is in training for an action movie, GI Joe. ‘I can honestly say I’ve never exercised in my life. I joined a gym once, but only made it to the sauna. For this movie, I was told I had to work out. I have fight scenes, so I’ve been doing an hour a day with chains, knives, guns. I’ve definitely toned up.’
She says the past year has changed her. ‘I just want to be confident in what I do and enjoy my life.’
She mentions her friend and Casanova co-star, Heath Ledger, who died earlier this year. ‘It hit me badly,’ she says. ‘I was so shocked. He was an amazing guy. I went to his funeral and just felt how terrible it was that his life turned out that way. It made me aware of how wonderful life is and how lucky I am. I’m not high-maintenance. I have a bit of a shoe fetish and I like the odd facial, but lying in a bath with candles, lavender oil and a fag just about does it for me in terms of the happiness factor.’
And, of course, the love of a good man. Sienna leaps up. She’s flying to LA tomorrow and there are only a few hours left to spend with Rhys. ‘You don’t mind, do you?’ she says as she disappears. As if… "