HBO Films

The Girl

Interview with Sienna Miller

HBO

When they’re in a biopic, many actors debate whether or not to meet the person they are playing. But you met with Tippi Hedren before filming.

Sienna Miller

For me, just to have the opportunity to meet the person you were going to play was completely invaluable, purely from the point of view of the respect owed to her: I wanted to get her right. And I wanted to make sure if there was something specific she wanted me to inject into the performance, or if there was something that she didn’t want to be in the film that I could support her in that. It’s her story and her life and she’s an incredible woman. If someone was not supportive of you doing a film about them you wouldn’t want to spend much time around them, but with Tippi it was the other way around and I’m really glad I did.

HBO

Was there something specific she imparted to you that influenced your performance?

Sienna Miller

She did. She talked about the moral code that she had been raised with and that she never wavered from that core, and that, really, the root of her personality was this morality that caused her to behave the way she did. And it was not reacting to Hitchcock that made her more of an obsession, if that makes sense. And my whole performance kind of came from that one statement.

HBO

Did you know much about this story before?

Sienna Miller

I knew nothing about it. I’d seen ‘The Birds’ and ‘Marnie’ and I know from watching his films that there was an element of misogyny so I imagined there was definitely a dark side. But I had no idea about this story.

HBO

Have you ever experienced a similar actor-director relationship?

Sienna Miller

It can be a really intense relationship. Some actors kind of fight the director. For me, I feel like I am very much a kind of a vessel: It’s their ship and you are the crew. You have to trust and respect and do whatever you can for the director. And as a result it’s an intense dynamic because your job is to create what’s in their mind. But I’ve never been bullied in this way or preyed upon sexually. I’ve been fortunate, and I think the world has changed. In the ‘60s you needed the support of men to have a career and nowadays it’s not the same world.

HBO

There’s a great line in the film where you say “You took a living breathing woman and you turned her into a statue.”

Sienna Miller

That was a fun one to say. It was one of those perfect lines. It’s her moment to reclaim her strength.

"Tippi wouldn’t waver or give in. Therefore she became more fascinating to him. And as his creation, he wanted to possess her."
HBO

What was it about Tippi that so obsessed him, more so that his other “Girls”?

Sienna Miller

I think because he plucked her from relative obscurity and taught her how to act and dress, he felt a certain degree of ownership over her; she was his creation. But also because of her morality, any attempt to shake her -- which he famously did with a lot of actresses, who maybe would have brushed it aside or laughed it off -- Tippi wouldn’t waver or give in. Therefore she became more fascinating to him. And as his creation, he wanted to possess her.

HBO

Toby Jones [who plays Hitchcock] has spoken about how obsessive Hitchcock was in controlling his films. Creativity is something you associate with spontaneity, but his was all about methodical control.

Sienna Miller

Anything to get the picture right. But underneath he was really acting out his own fantasies of failure. You only have to watch ‘Marnie’... obviously there were some issues at play! You’re brought into that as an audience member, you’re almost complicit. That’s why his films leave you with a sense of unease. In ‘The Birds,’ it’s all her fault. She’s this flirtatious woman and she’s wreaked havoc because of it.

HBO

What was it like, shooting scenes like those in ‘The Birds’?

Sienna Miller

That was amazing. They’d recreated the set and lighting almost identically and I was in the same wardrobe. So to be able to re-enact this iconic film was completely exciting - and nerve-wracking. We did it the same way: There were men with leather gauntlets throwing live birds at me. Which isn’t pleasant! I’m not particularly phobic of birds, but the flapping and the noise that goes with them is not particularly enjoyable. But it was so dramatic and exciting and such an intense atmosphere on set. I didn’t know how long Julian would keep rolling. And we started the scene and it kind of went on, and on. It was pretty intense. But it was also exhilarating. I felt enormous empathy for Tippi because I endured it for about an hour and she had five days of this and no support when it was over, whereas I got a big hug.

HBO

Julian made it sound like it was more than an hour.

Sienna Miller

Maybe I’m being kind. But it was not five days!