Sienna Miller; Vogue Jan 06
1. THE TEA PALACE, LONDON W11.
It's late September 2005, and it's Miller time, only I'm drinking sencha and waiting for Sienna. Around me are tranquil, hip, and very bourgeois tea connoisseurs, a strangely decadent spectacle that makes me think I am witnessing the final, filigreed twist in the rise and fall of Notting Hill. Kate Moss, the physical incarnation of the neighborhood's glamour and dark side, is in exile after the cocaine-snorting fiasco, which itself followed the swinging allegations/revelations of Pearl Lowe, a musician and lace-curtain-maker (her handiwork is de rigueur in any self-respecting rock chick's window), involving Lowe's boyfriend (Supergrass's Danny Coffey) and Jude Law and the latter's then-wife, Sadie Frost. It's a tarnished, telling time, I'm thinking; and then Sienna enters and announces, from across the room, "Just got to go for a wee!," and I'm immediately struck by her freshness and confidence, even though she herself is a recent veteran of tabloid scrutiny. Let's say it now and be done with it: There was the engagement, there was the nanny, and there was the aftermath. Sienna, who's 23, says, "We're not the first couple to deal with infidelity in a relationship. Lots of couples go through it. He's my best friend. I'm his best friend. I, personally, can't cut someone out of my life, even if he's hurt me. It's a process."
She's drinking a "detoxifying" brew recommended by the tea sommelier (she's come from a heavy weekend at her sister's wedding), and she's wearing black skinny Superfine jeans, a white tank, an oatmeal embroidered pashmina, a tiny black jacket, various cords and charms and slender hippie-ish medallions, and black squashed ballet flats. She carries a black snake Luella bag containing a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (and, I later discover, a passport snap of Mr. Law in her wallet). It looks effortless, hip, and quirky. The pashmina—so out it's in—is a particularly brilliant rethink.
We talk about various things. Sienna is excited about prepping for her role as Edie Sedgwick in George Hickenlooper's Factory Girl. She's been reading the books and watching the films, and she can't wait to meet the actual survivors of the Warhol gang in New York. She's also going to chop off her hair; she hasn't had a short do since she was fourteen and inspired by Winona Ryder. "I looked like a small boy." (She wore a wig for Casanova and doesn't want to do that again.)
We also talk about where to shop in London. She says Matches ("The last thing I bought there was Marc Jacobs boots"), Browns ("They have really good buyers"), and Euforia, where she likes the "quite Hoxton, Japanese-y style clothes" and has picked up ankle boots by Annette Oliviera.
We drink up and jump into the black car waiting outside. There is another car waiting, but it contains paparazzi, and we don't jump into that one.
2. PORTOBELLO ROAD, W10.
We scurry from the car into Duro Olowu's tiny shop, OG2. Sienna has never been here before, and immediately zeroes in on the most extraordinary items in the store: a vintage rubber coat by Cristobal Balenciaga, a Cardin-feeling black topper piped in colorful silk by Olowu. Sienna looks great in it, but she chooses to buy a Versace-esque vintage red belt with lots of gold, which counterintuitively she tightens not around her waist but under her breasts—just as when she tries on bangles, they are pushed up to her biceps, and when she tries on a long African necklace she slings it over a shoulder like a gun belt.
This, famously, is her modus operandi. As her sister, Savannah Miller, recalls, "There was a Cartier polo match in England, and it was the first time she had been out since the whole Jude episode. She was staying in the country and had no clothes of her own. She borrowed from her friend's closet a black skirt and wore it around her boobs with a cardigan from the dressing-up box and some size 8 shoes with her mom's gold jewelry. And every newspaper in the country was asking how she does it." Every newspaper in the UK and increasingly in the States follows Sienna's every outfit. "I've thought about wearing really disgusting clothes," she says, laughing, "but that would be a story in itself."
Sienna dashes out of OG2 and into the black car—she seems to have shaken off the tail—and drives away to look at rental apartments. Jude's Maida Vale pad is no longer quite the ticket.
3. MONTAGE SEQUENCE: NEW YORK, LONDON, MOROCCO, PARIS, DEVON, ET AL.
I don't see Sienna for a month, but I see a lot of her nevertheless. There's the picture of her at 26-year-old Savannah's Devon wedding in a Burberry floral dress and a vintage vest, her long hair twisted back like something out of Thomas Hardy. Then there's a Vogue shoot at which, I receive word, she chops her own hair and directs Vogue's hair wizard, Christiaan, as to the remainder: She's on her way to Edie. When I'm in L.A., I overhear another hairdresser saying, "Sienna Miller's cut her hair. I wonder if all the girls are going to go short now?"; by "the girls" he means young, impressionable A-list stars like Lindsay Lohan who watch Sienna's every move. Then, on a different note, I read in the tabloids about a night on the town (London) with Daniel Craig, and another night on the town (Paris) involving Salma Hayek, Sean Penn, Jude, and the elevator at the Hôstes. Oh, and I hear that she went to Morocco with a friend for a break.
4. JIN SOON NAIL SPA, EAST VILLAGE.
Sienna Miller is standing on East Fourth Street, having a morning cigarette. Her hair is short, superblonde, and she wears skintight rocker jeans by Siereks (Polish friends of hers from London), a white tank, an ecru tee (a new buy from Barneys Co-Op), a teeny-tiny leopard knit shrug (also Co-Op), a heavy gold-link chain ("probably cost $1"), and her signature Burberry navy wool fisherman's cap. She wearily makes a statement about the Paris brouhaha. "We met to talk about things in some place that was neutral and not crawling with paparazzi," she says. "I'd been in Morocco; he'd been in Spain. We had a really nice dinner. After dinner we went to Man Ray—Sean Penn is our friend, and he owns it. Salma Hayek is a friend of his, so she came. I spoke to her all night; Jude barely said a word. And the next day we had lunch. There was no scene, no crying at tables, no nothing. I was there for the whole thing. It's like, it's extraordinary. At the end of the day it's laughable, because I would never, even if I wanted to, go into a public place and start screaming and sobbing. And then he apparently dragged me into an elevator! I would tell you right now, I would laugh at myself if I had." As for the Daniel Craig gossip: "We did a film together three years ago and have been great friends ever since—and apparently you're not allowed to have male friends." She stamps out her cigarette with her Marc Jacobs flats. "Tough break, Sal; gotta be thick-skinned." She heads back into the salon to pick a color. Shell-pink.
Before the thick skin on Sienna's soles can be removed, the actress has to skip out of her Siereks denims because they're so drainpiped they can't be pushed up. No problem: She slips off her jeans, revealing Agent Provocateur undies with long black satin ribbons at the hips, and settles down in a towel for her milk-and-honey foot treatment. It's a real treat since, as befits an English rose, hers is a very low-maintenance beauty.
We talk fashion and films. As to fashion, Sienna's look is undergoing revisions. There's the matter of the new hair, which "makes you feel a bit hard-core, which is nice. No more boho chic! Those two words make me sick now. I feel less hippie. I just don't want to wear anything floaty or coin-belty ever again. No more gilets"—she means vests—"or cowboy boots!" Part of this stems from her immersion in all things Edie, but another large part is a reaction to the mass imitation of her look in chain stores everywhere. "I have all this beautiful stuff from the sixties and seventies that I collected and love—and now someone can get it for like £10 in River Island"—a British high-street store—"and there are twelve-year-olds wearing exact perfect replicas of my mother's Moroccan belt. It's bizarre."
So what, I ask, is she adding to the wardrobe? From Barneys, flapperish satin hairbands, and from Colette ("the best shop") "fantastic Lanvin red velvet Minnie Mouse shoes, and Terry de Havilland wedgies. I normally don't like wedges, but they're really snaky, really rock-'n'-roll." She's also picked up a man's striped oxford by Thom Browne/Libertine, a denim tailcoat from Superfine, and blue ankle boots from Marc Jacobs on Net-a-Porter.com. The engagement ring is gone. The cocktail ring she's wearing is a beautiful diamanté-encrusted blue stone she got "in some old antique sale. It's a good one, though, a proper knuckle-duster. You could do some damage punching someone with that if I were screaming in a restaurant in Paris."
We return to the real drama. Casanova was fun and "very different. Nothing to do with being sexy. Nothing to hide behind. I'm looking forward to being seen as something other than a young naked wannabe actor." Which is not, actually, how she is viewed by the men she has worked with. Lasse Hallström, Casanova's director, is impressed: "It's rare to encounter such confidence in a young actor." Her costar Oliver Platt says, "I'm very excited for her because when people see the movie, it will take the focus off her off-screen activities. It was incredible how still and mature her performance was. She has the innate knowledge of letting the camera come to her." She's also a lot of fun on set—"a dice-playing, joke-telling vixen," in Platt's words.
The thing about Sienna, as I'm discovering, is that she's a very game, very upbeat, very companionable sort. She's also very smart, very clued-in—she can talk at length about contemporary fiction, Blairism (Tony, not Linda), and her desire to work with the likes of Alfonso Cuarón and Walter Salles—as well as amazingly levelheaded about the phenomenon that has been constructed around her. "There's just a huge market for celebrity, and I fell in love with someone who happened to be a famous actor but happened to be a million other things to me."
5. ESITH & DAHA, LOWER EAST SIDE. LUNCHTIME.
We arrive at the extremely unpretentious vintage store just as the co-owner Edith is unlocking the store. She looks at us as if she's just been mugged. "Can I have a few minutes?" she stammers. "I'm sorry, but this morning.…" Of course, we say worriedly. Sienna asks, "Are you OK?" The girl looks more stricken than ever. "I'm just so honored to have you here," she quavers to Sienna.
Sienna and I nip into Economy Candy to give the poor thing ten minutes to adjust. Then we head back to the store. She buys: two belts, the first another tacky knockoff Versace ("gotta be done"), the second a straw-and-leopard-print number ("more eighties than me; I think it will be fun"), a slinky black jersey halter evening dress, a beaded black fifties V-neck shell, and a pair of thigh-high, zip-crossed suede boots with sections of fuchsia, yellow, orange, and red. Sienna walks out of the store in the boots, and into…
6. PROENZA SCHOULER'S CHINATOWN LOFT. MID-AFTERNOON.
Sienna has never met Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, but they quickly bond over dogs (she has two mutts; they have a Newfoundland and a miniature something), over star tattoos (she has one on her lower belly; they each have one behind an ear), and over Edie Sedgwick (their fall 2005 collection was all about that bad, bad Chelsea girl). The three play dress-up, Sienna displaying her ex-model's lack of inhibition about getting undressed. They discover a shared sense of proportions; Sienna loves the mid-calf lengths the guys have done for spring, as well as the smocky top, which she wears with her Agent Provocateur. "I'm sorry I'm flashing my stretch-marked ass," she says with brazen charm. I remember something Roland Mouret said about the actress, whom he dressed for the Venice Film Festival: "Sienna is what happens every decade in London; this real new person that represents a generation. She has all the ingredients of what a British girl is about in the twenty-first century: She's from a nice family but down-to-earth, is incredibly charismatic but doesn't believe it, and has this idea of quality but is down-to-earth. She's not playing the game. She's just being herself."
7. THE CHELSEA HOTEL. LATER THAT DAY.
Sienna wants to hear Edie's voice and has been told that the brilliant artist René Ricard might have rare film footage he shot back in the day. Sienna is familiar with the hotel: Her father's guru still has a practice on the seventh floor.
I take Sienna behind the front desk and introduce her to the legendary proprietor, Stanley Bard. "You look like Edie," Bard says delightedly. "What was she like?" she asks. Bard shrugs. "When she wasn't using, she was fine. But she was a drug addict. I remember Nico, I remember Ultra Violet.… It was like a cult." He directs us to Edie's old place on the first floor. "It probably hasn't changed since she left," he says, and he may well be right. Sienna, squinting as she surveys the room, says, "This is where she had the fire. This is where she crawled on her hands and knees." Back at the front desk, she asks Bard what caused the fire. "Candles and cigarettes," he says with the stoicism of one who has endured more than a few youthquakers in his time. "The usual."
René Ricard, meanwhile, is not answering his phone. Nevertheless, the consensus is that he's: a) upstairs and b) too volatile to be approached directly by Sienna. "You can't go up there," Bard says. "He's paranoid." He turns to a passing hotel resident. "This is the girl who's going to play Edie," he says. "Can you take her up to see René?" The tenant edges toward the elevator. "No, man, I just got back from Europe today. I can't. He's crazy." I ask another. "Don't ruin my day," he replies. "He's crazy." Finally, another painter—a young Texan in a cowboy hat who sits all night in the lobby working on a picture of the lobby—strides over and says to Sienna, "I'll take you up, ma'am. I can do this."
We go up to Ricard's floor. "Stay here," the cowboy says. We sit on a bench near the elevator and watch him disappear behind a corner in the hallway. We hear hammering on a door. Then we hear kicking of cowboy boot against door. Then we hear hammering, kicking, and yelling all at the same time: "Reneee!" The cowboy returns. "He's not in. Or he's not answering."
"I love this place," Sienna says. "I want to stay here."
8. THE APARTMENT OF BRIGID BERLIN. TWENTY-SIXTH STREET. LATER STILL THAT DAY.
Brigid and Sienna have been collaborating to ensure that Edie, an icon of unknowability as much as anything, has some psychological substance as a screen character. Berlin, Sedgwick's friend, says, "Sienna's very brave to take this on"—not least, in Berlin's view, because capturing Edie essentially involves capturing a very fleeting moment in time. When Sienna frets about getting Sedgwick's elusive voice right, Berlin reassures her. "You're just dealing with somebody who didn't have a long life. It's the press. They make it out now—it's 2005—like she was this great superstar. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have much to work with." Berlin doesn't think Miller need lose a pound to play the sylph, although the actress has told me privately that she will: "If you are going to do that character, you have to go there. And she was skinnier than me. She was scary-kinny." Berlin passes on one vital tip: "Edie didn't take off her false eyelashes. She just put more on."
9. 60 THOMPSON. SOHO. THAT NIGHT.
When Sienna and I alight from her car, she is attacked by a swarm of paparazzi the likes of which I have only seen once before (with David Beckham and family). It's horrifying and relentless. It fills you with a kind of awe for Sienna Miller's resilience. "She's doing the best that she can," says her friend the designer Matthew Williamson, "and holding her head high. She's a smart girl, and she's going to be fine."
10. EPILOGUE. NOVEMBER 2005.
I call Sienna, who's in London, to check in. First of all, the hair? "I've cut off more of the wee bits at the side, and it's got a bit of a fringe." The wardrobe? She's wearing the Lanvin shoes all the time, notably to a Tuesday-night club night at the Café Royale. The black shell has made an appearance with black leggings and one of the flapper hairbands. And, you know, him? "Jude and I will always be the best of friends. We're still incredibly close. We're trying to work our stuff out. It's the same as it's been for the past few months, and we're sort of together at the moment. I don't know where we'll be at in three months. We have stuff we need to talk about." Privately, that is.