Sienna Miller Talks Taking the Lead in 'American Woman'

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Sienna Miller

"I still fantasize about going and retelling the entire movie from my character's perspective," she said of years of playing wife or girlfriend roles.

Sienna Miller was honored at the Deauville Film Festival on Wednesday night, taking the festival's talent award for her role in the indie drama American Woman.

The actress said this film is already the “one she is most proud of," and that despite being a movie star for the past 15 years, American Woman feels like her first leading role. In both Foxcatcher and American Sniper, Miller played the wife of the male hero; even in the star-making Factory Girl, her Edie Sedgwick was an adjunct to Andy Warhol.

“In many cases, I still fantasize about going and retelling the entire movie from my character's perspective,” she said of her previous roles. American Woman follows a woman through several stages of her life and the tragic events that shape her.

“It's the kind of film that is being made today, I think, because of a shift in our industry to focus on telling female stories,” Miller said of opportunities of the #MeToo era. Just two years ago, the cinema climate was different. “I wonder whether people would have been interested in looking at that kind of story. [And] studios are being much more cautious in how they value women, how they treat women,"  she added.

Still, there's a gender gap with viewers, said the actress. “Men who have seen the film are really shocked by this slutty, messy woman and really loved her by the end” of the stoic single-mom story, Miller noted. “Not one of them asked where the father [of her child] is.”

It's a bias she sees in classic novels as well. Miller is currently reading Emily Wilson's translation of Homer's classic The Odyssey, which explores the epic tale from Penelope and Calypso's points of view. It's one of the several books she's immersed in, as she's looking to produce and, hopefully, direct later on. Miller's nascent behind-the-camera work is “in its very early stages,” she said, as she is scouting a variety of projects from novels to The New Yorker.

“I just have to get my shit together and start doing it. I'm trying to get my head around developing, but that means assembling a staff and infrastructure while raising a child and acting,” said Miller. She said she learned the overwhelming lesson after launching her fashion line years ago, a move she doesn't intend to repeat even as celebrity clothing lines are all the rage. “It requires so much more attention that I thought it did," explained Miller. "As this job is potentially expanding to producing and one day directing, fashion would require all of my attention.”

While it's hard to get an indie film off the ground, Miller sees a shift as TV and social media compete: “There will be some kind of rebellion to the amount of content we are bombarded with, things will simplify and level out.”

While she wouldn't rule out a superhero movie (“It's a DC, Marvel universe we are living in,” she joked), Miller finds Joaquin Phoenix's Joker, which took the top prize in Venice, hopeful for more independent films: “That kind of psychological drama on a superhero scale, if the industry heads in that direction, it's exciting.”

Next up for Miller is 21 Bridges, where she spent weeks working in the “really male world” of NYPD homicide detectives, spending time on a gun range. “The first time I had to shoot a gun, I was dreadful at it and I couldn't do it without blinking, and I got better," she said. "There's a little more grit in me.”