Over the last two decades, the actress and perpetual It girl Sienna Miller has appeared on 12 international covers of Vogue. She’s been written about in countless transatlantic gossip columns. She became tabloid fodder when she began dating Jude Law, whom she met in 2003 on the set of Alfie, which featured her in her first major role. And while they split just a couple of years later, the guy might have gone, but Miller’s spotlight never dimmed.
The point is: Miller knows a thing or two about making news.
“I mean, who doesn’t like a scandal?” she asks.
Ain’t that the truth?
Today, Miller is actually talking about Anatomy of a Scandal, the new six-part series on Netflix that debuted this spring. Based on the 2018 novel by Sarah Vaughan, Miller stars as Sophie Whitehouse, a mother of two and doting, unflinchingly loyal wife whose husband (Rupert Friend), a government minister, is suddenly accused of sexual assault. A trial ensues—Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) is the tough-as-nails prosecuting attorney—and Miller’s character gets way more than she bargained for.
“Scandals,” says Miller. “They’re just compelling and propulsive.”
Especially when they’re adapted for the screen by David E. Kelley. “I loved Big Little Lies; I loved The Undoing,” says Miller of two of Kelley’s recent blockbuster event series, both of which appeared on HBO. “I binged them, and I don’t watch an awful lot of television. So that was a huge pull.”
Born in New York but raised in the U.K., Miller, now 40, returned to London to shoot this particular Scandal in late 2020, at the height of the pandemic. It was a particularly isolating time for everyone, Miller explains, “and it felt like a really nice opportunity to move back to England for a year and be near family. To sort of reset. It was really a no-brainer on all sorts of levels.”
“It was pretty dark stuff we were dealing with,” says S.J. Clarkson, who directed all six episodes. “What I love about Sienna is her sharp wit. She’s fucking funny. We share the same sense of humor, which allowed us to lean into the darker and less comfortable places without going down a rabbit hole.”
Adds her co-star Friend, “Time after time, take after take, through exhaustion and God knows what level of personal strife she may have been going through, she consistently gave of herself, not only to me, but to the entire cast and crew. She is a true leading lady in every sense.”
It also happens that Miller saw a bit of herself in the Oxford-educated Sophie. The character lives a somewhat charmed if isolated life in a gorgeous Mayfair townhouse, with what seems to be the perfect husband and two young children attending private school.
“I related to this idea of privilege,” Miller says of the milieu in which Anatomy of a Scandal takes place. “Probably because I had a kind of privileged upbringing.” It all made her wonder, “What is that leg up in life and how does that lead you to the places you go?”
Miller and her older sister, Savannah, now a successful fashion designer, attended the posh girls’ boarding school Heathfield in Ascot, Berkshire, an hour away from their mother’s home in the tony Parsons Green neighborhood of London. Miller’s mother, Josephine, was a South African model. Her father, Edwin, is an American banker-turned-Chinese art dealer. They divorced when both girls were young.
“I’ve been engaged a few times, but I’ve never been married. It’s better than three divorces, I think.” -Sienna Miller
After high school, Miller modeled and then studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City. Dating and nearly marrying Jude Law in the early aughts, during and after Alfie, catapulted her to stratospheric levels of attention.
“I obviously have a lot of experience of kind of becoming well-known at a time when the tabloids really had all the power and the individual had very little. Anybody could really write anything,” Miller explains of her early and continuous attendance in the public eye. She was just 21. “It was a real frenzy,” she says. “A fever pitch of craziness.”
Since then, Miller adds, “I’ve dealt with very public heartbreak.”
Years after breaking it off with Law, she was engaged to actor Tom Sturridge, with whom she has 10-year-old daughter Marlowe. More recently, she almost said “I do” to art world scion Lucas Zwirner.
“I was never somebody who dreamt of getting married. I’ve been engaged a few times, but I’ve never been married,” she says of those three serious relationships. “It’s better than three divorces, I think.”
Like Zwirner, her new beau, 25-year-old English model and actor Oli Green, comes from art world stock. They recently walked the red carpet together at an Academy Awards party.
“I’m not a dater,” Miller attests. “I’ve never been one. Once I’m in, I’m in. And I’m also quite shy. My life has sort of unfolded in a different way and I’m fine with it. My life was never going to be orthodox.”
Besides those very public relationships, much of the media attention on Miller has centered around her personal style, an effortless bohemian chic. Her early days as a kind of updated Carnaby Girl likely ushered in an age of street-style influencers. Of course, celebrities are now much more in control of their image thanks to Instagram and TikTok, but Miller stays away from that.
“I feel like it would give me anxiety to really be active on social media,” she says. “I don’t even have the social media apps on my phone. I think in order to be really successful, you have to be very open about your life and your home and what you’re doing. And that doesn’t sit well with me. I need to separate my work and my home persona.”
Miller describes Sturridge as a “great father” and her “best friend.” Six years ago, when Sturridge was working on Broadway, Miller decided to put down roots in New York City so they could co-parent Marlowe.
“I always dreamt about having a place in New York,” she explains. “In London, I felt like everyone had seen my dirty laundry. I love how anonymous New York is. It’s the most exciting city on earth. I love going to SNL on a Saturday. I find it galvanizing as an energy.”
“I’ve dealt with very public heartbreak.” -Sienna Miller
Over the past decade, New York has also accepted her as an actress on Broadway in After Miss Julie and Cabaret, and has kept her in a circle of prestige cable roles (for instance, as Elizabeth Ailes in Showtime’s The Loudest Voice) and front and center with A-list directors like Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), James Gray (The Lost City of Z) and Clint Eastwood (American Sniper).
“I love that I’ve had the opportunity to carve out a proper story with a trajectory and a character that was fully formed,” Miller says of her varied projects, especially the meatier ones that have come up more recently. “So, yeah—more of those always, but I’ll also make the tea on a Clint Eastwood set just to be there.”
In the early years of Miller’s career, “I didn’t strategize in a way that I could have done,” she says. “It was hard for people to see me as other than someone fashionable or somebody’s girlfriend or somebody slightly chaotic. I wish I’d had a movie out before I became famous.”
Though she’s piqued by looking back at her so-called past lives, she’s very happy she’s had several opportunities to reinvent herself. “It was a blessing post-motherhood to have that resurgence of a career that had slightly gone awry,” Miller explains. “I’m playing a long game and just trying to be good in things. I want to be doing this when I’m 80. Hopefully, when I’m an old lady and I look back at the choices I made, they’ll make sense. It’ll be a good meaty body of work.”
Figuring out that life is more of a “long game” gives her some helpful perspective on where she is now. “I just don’t really care anymore, which is so relieving,” Miller says with a laugh and a sigh. “A, I’m still alive. B, I’m still working and C, I’m incredibly happy in my personal life. So, yeah, things are pretty great, honestly.”
On The Cover:
Dress, $2,690, boots, $1,240, ALEXANDRE VAUTHIER, alexandrevauthier.com. Necklace, $1,290, SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO, ysl.com. Earrings, $525, VERSACE, versace.com. Ring in 18k rose gold with lacquered ceramic and diamonds, $11,400, DAVIDOR, davidor.com
Hair: Earl Simms at The Club New York
Makeup: James Kaliardos at The Wall Group
Producer: Mariana Suplicy
Models: Jean Chang @ Public Image, Zach and Darius at Fenton
Models’ Groomer: Marvin Alexander at Art Department
Shot at Cucina 8½ in New York City