Her face is unmistakable. That leggy Brit with the golden locks and the breathtaking smile. She was a prominent love interest approximately ten years ago in films like Layer Cake and Alfie. She was often a bit player, but those striking features and cool demeanor are cinematic gold. Of course I’m talking about the stunner Sienna Miller. Although it’s been a while since she’s stolen scenes with her smoldering looks, Sienna made a grand return this awards season and I’m convinced it’s just the beginning.
If, like me, the name “Sienna Miller” conjures a certain scene from Alfie (Hint: It involves a meat cleaver), then you’ve missed this charming actress from across the pond as much as I have. But, as often happens, real life got in the way. Miller became embroiled in gossip and controversy (often involving her then-boyfriend Jude Law) that ultimately made her a risky choice for studios and directors to take on. And this is the U.K. tabloid game, which is made up of a gruesome bunch who do not pull their punches. Long story short, her star waned.
True, she rarely starred in the films in which she was cast, but she always brought a coy intelligence and disarming honesty to every portrayal. Her classic Hollywood features and uncanny sensuality belong among the likes of Bridgette Bardot and Faye Dunaway. Then Miller was in her 20s and although she was often treated as a set-piece, she was clearly testing the dramatic waters as often as possible. In films like Factory Girl, Miller embraced the persona of a damaged and bohemian spirit from Warhol’s creations. One had to ask, is she capable of more? The brilliant dance between roles and actors is a nerve-racking and often devastating thing to witness. Who will land the exciting role? Who will have to keep waiting? But sometimes timing is just right.
These past few months, two films have premiered featuring Miller as a dutiful wife. In both roles she shares her husband with an involved and trying profession, and in both cases the union ends in tragedy. In Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller’s film about the sudden murder of an Olympic wrestler and coach, Sienna portrayed David Schultz’s (played by Mark Ruffalo) wife. Although her appearances are rare, she beautifully captures a wife who has taken a backseat to her husband’s career. The film is filled with understated and intense performances, and Sienna is no exception.
Similarly, in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, Sienna took on the role of Chris Kyle’s wife, Taya. Sienna had to convey the anguish of watching her husband leave for four tours in Iraq, as well as the toll PTSD took on her husband and her family. Her performance is urgent and enthralling. She effortlessly depicts the isolation and sadness military spouses must endure. Although Sienna isn’t a name synonymous with these two acclaimed films, she is an integral part of their success.
Sienna is slated to appear in six films set to be released this year, a tremendous achievement for any actor. Among them are roles in the gangland drama Black Mass and the big screen adaptation of The Lost City of Z, about the explorer Percy Fawcett. Sienna isn’t an awards-season darling, but she has the look, versatility and humility to one day light up marquees. Ten years ago she was eye candy, today she is well on her way to something far sweeter.