There’s something very exotic about the dancing that Sienna Miller does in her new film, Just Like A Woman, but the 31-year-old actress insists it’s not exotic dancing. “Belly dancing is certainly not viewed in England as exotic in that way,” she says, laughing. “I mean, it’s exotic but not in that way that means stripping!”
Just Like A Woman, directed by Rachid Bouchared, follows Miller’s Marilyn, a down-on-her-luck Chicago woman with a no-good husband, as she follows her dream to become a professional belly dancer. Teaming up with a woman whom she barely knows—Golshifteh Farahani’s Mona, on the run from her own problems—Marilyn embarks on a life-altering journey looking for a job and finds a new life in the process.
DuJour caught up with Miller to talk about the film, her growing family and the surprising stranger whom she’d want to accompany on a road trip.
First things first: Did you know how to belly dance before you took this role, or did you have to learn how to do it?
It was a long and arduous process. I was in a play in London, so I was doing eight shows a week. On the days when I didn’t have matinees, the director’s wife, who is a professional belly dancer, would come to London from Paris and give me four-hour lessons. It’s about discovering a kind of core strength, finding muscles that you never knew existed in your stomach and harnessing them.
Have you kept up with it?
I haven’t, because I got pregnant and grew a belly instead.
Your character in this movie has the farfetched dream of becoming a professional belly dancer. As someone who managed the equally long-shot task of becoming a successful actor, did you relate?
I think we’ve all had trials and tribulations and [as an actor] you just have to access that part of yourself. I like to think it’s a human condition where we’ve all felt desperate. She has one of the worst days you could possibly have, and I tend to find the more empathy I feel for the character I’m playing, the easier it is to access the emotions.
Along their way, Marilyn and Mona dance in bars to make extra money. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
I wrapped boxes. I wrapped thousands and thousands of boxes for a jewelry company. That was pretty mundane. I was also a waitress which was fine. I started young and I got a break really early, so I was pretty lucky, I have to say.
Marilyn has a terrible husband and an awful job, and dance is her way of escaping her reality. What do you do to do escape?
I love cooking—I find it incredibly therapeutic. If I’m feeling really low, I tend to reach for the wooden spoon.
What’s your signature dish?
Oh, roasts. I love roasts, chicken and lamb and also all kinds of Tuscan farmhouse food like bolognese [sauce].
For all the bad things that happen along the way in this film, it’s sort of a buddy picture and the road trip is central to what goes on.
Did you ever see that David Lynch movie, The Straight Story, about the guy who drives his lawnmower across America? I think Rachid wants to explore the idea of making a simple but moving journey film. I think he’s achieved that.
Are you a road-trip taker?
We obviously went on a road trip for this. We drove from Chicago to Santa Fe. I feel like road trips only make sense in America. It’s such an American thing. I really love the idea of being on the road and the freedom of not knowing where you’re going to end up.
Who’s your dream road trip companion?
Kristen Wiig. I think any girl in the world would like to go on a road trip with her.
Something that bonds the two characters in the film is their desire to have children. Now that your daughter, Marlowe, is almost one, how has motherhood affected you?
It’s definitely more overwhelming than you can ever imagine. It’s completely life-changing in the most wonderful way. It reshapes your heart and you can’t really describe it or prepare for it, but it’s magical. It’s sort of the reason to live, I think.
Do you want more children?
I want an army, yeah. I want a full army. It’s insurance for when I get older. I’ve got to have one whom I don’t irritate too much that will just take care of me. I love a big heaving, bursting Christmas table. I want that table full.