Photography Tom Munro
Styled by Cathy Kasterine
A year into our second lives as indoor cats, Sienna Miller is wearing Uggs. To be clear, the American-born, British-raised actress has always been a champion of the contentious, shearling-lined shoe, but now that a new era of the Frankensteinian boot-slipper has been ushered in, her choice seems especially poignant. Like all of us, Miller has had to adjust her rhythm to an unfamiliar tune, becoming an at-home tutor to her daughter, Marlowe, while still trying to make movies in the middle of a pandemic. And her latest, Wander Darkly, which is available on streaming services now, might be her most powerful appearance in recent memory. Directed by Tara Miele, the emotional film analyzes trauma through the deconstruction of a relationship. “It was extremely intense but almost cathartic,” explains Miller, who stars alongside Diego Luna. Bleeding time and space together, the film is an honest portrayal of our distorted memories.
Across town, not so far away, Dame Lesley Lawson—known more famously by the nickname that changed the look of fashion, Twiggy—is in slippers, too. Although the ’60s supermodel’s aren’t name-brand, the two women share in the delight of coincidence. There is something to be said for two longtime friends—whose lives often run on parallel tracks in more ways than one—to reconvene online over video chat. But in a time of adjustments and precaution, there is comfort in knowing that a physical reunion will come all too soon. Probably just in different shoes.
JOSHUA GLASS: The two of you have been close for a while now. Do you remember the first time you met?
SIENNA MILLER: I was filming Casanova in Venice with Leigh [Lawson], Twiggy’s husband, in 2002 or 2003. We all really just fell in love quite quickly, didn’t we? Wandering around the city together, cooking roasts for late Sunday lunches. We had a real gang.
TWIGGY: You were very sweet to let me in.
SM: We were desperate for you!
T: I remember meeting you, Sienna, this gorgeous girl who would ultimately become our surrogate daughter. Of course, you already have a lovely mum, who I adore, and dad, but we’re your surrogate parents when they can’t be there. Up until this virus took hold of us, life was busy and sometimes we weren’t able to see each other for a year or two. What’s nice about making real friends is that you just pick right back up where you left off, don’t you?
JG: Sienna, as an aspiring young model in London at the start of your career, how were you influenced by Twiggy’s incredible legacy?
SM: Surely every English girl or woman has been influenced by Twiggy. She represented what was happening in London in that era, which was the most exciting time to be alive. You can track a lot of today’s fashion trends back to those iconic images of Twiggs, so I’d never even dare to imagine being that level of a model. I really started it as a gateway into acting; that’s always what I’ve wanted to do. But obviously, yes, I’ve done the Twiggy haircut, the makeup. I haven’t raided the wardrobe, which is mad, actually, and something I need to get into, Twiggs. She’s gone on to become this sublime actress, and the best mum, the best granny—
T: —oh you’re very sweet! You haven’t done too badly yourself, huh? Looking back, it was an amazing time to be a young person. England’s class system was really changing, and suddenly it became very—let’s say fashionable—to be working class, in film, in fashion, and in music. I think you know who The Beatles were?
SM: There were five of them right? The Fab Five! [Laughs.]
T: I was 16 when everything happened to me; a funny looking little school girl with skinny legs. I was a Mod with long hair parted in the middle wearing grey pleated skirts below our knees and brown lace-up hush-puppy shoes. With my legs I must’ve looked like Olive Oyl! I used to paint my eyes based on a ragdoll’s spiky lashes. One day a friend asked me to do beauty shots for a magazine she was working at—she said I was way too short to model but that I had an “interesting” face—so she sent me to Leonard’s, a very posh salon in Mayfair. I remember sitting in the chair close to tears because I didn’t want to cut my hair. When Leonard [Lewis] came in, I was too frightened to say anything. Afterwards, the photographer Barry Lategan took my headshots, which turned out to be very beautiful. Leonard put the black-and- white images up in his salon, and eventually a journalist saw them. Two weeks later my dad opened up the newspaper to a whole center-page-spread that read: “Twiggy: The Face of ’66.” That changed everything.
JG: Sienna, have you had any transformations similar to Twiggy’s moment at Leonard ’s that affected you in unexpected but profound ways?
SM: I don’t know if there was anything as definitive as that, but for my second film, Alfie, I had a haircut of my own. They cut my hair into a very ‘70s kind of fringe. It was a very bohemian style that went with the very bohemian clothes that I loved to wear at the time. I suppose that became my “look” for quite some time.
T: That was definitely the beginning of people following you through your personal style. It was actually very similar to me in the ’60s: everyone wanted to know what you were wearing—who you were wearing—to copy your look. And really, you wear clothes beautifully. The thing is, I didn’t plan it, and neither did you. I don’t think you can plan things like what happened to us.
SM: No, you can’t. It has to fit into the zeitgeist at the right moment.
JG: You both successfully transitioned from fashion into film, and have had unforgettable roles throughout the years. After playing so many different types of women, have any roles stayed with you more than others?
T: Well, Sienna’s done so much more than I have, and she’s a bloody good actress. Sometimes—I think especially in the UK—it’s very hard to be accepted as talented if you’re beautiful like Sienna is, don’t you agree?
SM: The idea that you can’t possibly be good at more than one thing.
T: Yes. Personally, Ken Russell changed my life. He was the hottest director in England when he cast me in The Boy Friend. Without him I would have never tried anything other than modeling. If you have that person that really believes in you, it really does work. But what stayed with me more than any other project was the Broadway show My One and Only, because it was like nothing else I’d ever done before. Filming was scary, but in a way it was also just an extension of modeling. You know one of my favorites that you did, Sienna, was Edie Sedgwick [in Factory Girl]?
SM: That role definitely stayed with me. The really flawed people always do because they are more rounded. With Edie, it was easy to understand psychologically why she was the way she was, but it was so fun to play her because she was so magnetic and lived in such an interesting world. Meeting people like Brigid Berlin, who had been at The Factory, and hearing all those stories was something I could do for hours. I didn’t take off the tights or the leotard for a good three months after we finished filming. I didn’t want to shake that feeling.
T: I was taken to meet Andy Warhol when I first went to New York in 1967, and he frightened me so much. I was so straight and so square. I mean, I smoked cigarettes, but that was the only kind of “bad” thing that I did. There were boys everywhere, and it was very dimly lit with lots of music. Then this man who had this white face and grey hair, who looked like a walking cadaver, came up to me. I remember almost saying to him, “I don’t like it here, I want to leave!” That was my one and only trip to The Factory, but I did meet Edie Sedgwick!
SM: You know what they would say if you got sucked into it: “You can stay but you can never leave.” It was a performance artist space, but [Warhol] designed the environment so that he could watch people just implode and destroy themselves, which is riveting if you’re sadistic.
JG: Speaking of flawed characters, Sienna, your new film, Wander Darkly, is very much about self-doubt; not being able to trust your memories or your own emotions. How has fear or apprehension affected you off-camera?
SM: I have that little voice in my ear every time I’m really challenged creatively that tries to talk me down, tries to talk me out of it. It’s that demon that you have to fight. Any time I’ve done a play, I’m always a wreck the night before the first preview. I think that somehow overcoming that...I don’t know. I would hate to have to jump out of a plane, but that feeling of having done it, and arriving back to earth, would be one of accomplishment. I sort of compare that to going on stage or doing a lead role on a film because it feels indelible. I get really excited by the things that absolutely petrify me, but it’s definitely still a struggle. What about you, Twiggs?
T: It’s going forward from the fear and self-doubt that results in a better performance. You occasionally meet people who say, “Oh, I never get nervous,” but they’re usually not very good.
SM: The nucleus of all my creativity is that—the feeling of self-doubt. And the fact is, I do get drawn to the darkness, with subject matter, too. It’s strange because I feel like I’m a really light person, but my work isn’t that way.
T: It’s nice to be able to explore both sides; I’ve never really had the chance to do darker things but I quite like it.
SM: Oh, I’m gonna direct something really dark and cast you.
T: I’d love to! You know, now that I’m an old woman, I’d love to do something where I’m not made up, and with a funny old grey wig on. We could play mother and daughter, actually.
JG: The last year has been unlike any other time in history. One unforeseen consequence of the pandemic has been an overall fascination with the past: creatives are revisiting their prior works, designers are returning to classic designs. What do you make of this cultural reintroduction?
T: I still get fan mail, and a lot of it is from teenage girls, usually between the ages of 16 and 24, who are obsessed with the ’60s and the fashion, the clothes, the music, and the art. I don’t know why the past resonates so much with young people right now.
SM: The ’60s in particular was such an amazing moment culturally; a rebirth that I don’t think can ever be replicated. But as a whole, I think modern culture has been so saturated with information. One of the best parts about this pandemic is that we’ve been forced to slow down, and take stock of how much we are consuming. Designers and fashion houses like Gucci, who I work with a lot, are stripping back their volume of production. People are metaphorically and literally going back into their cupboards to find things to wear again.
T: One wonders if there is a higher being that we don’t know about that organized this to say, “Hold on folks, slow down.”
JG: In this spirit of returning to days gone by, is there anything from your own pasts that you’d like to reconsider?
SM: Meditating is something that I find hard to do these days, but is something I’d like to bring back. Fashion-wise, because everybody used to pay so close attention to what I was wearing, I’ve become quite self-conscious. Now, I literally wear a jumper and jeans every day, and have all these unworn things. Once this is over I’m going to need to get the sparkle out.
T: I don’t even wear jeans! I’ve spent the past year in tracksuits. I would love to go back to dressing up.
SM: A lot of people Zoom without any pants on, so at least we have that. I do wonder if the end of our pandemic will be like the ’20s; their pandemic ended and suddenly their hair was lopped off and their skirts were around their asses.
T: I’d love to just dip into the Roaring ’20s. They all traveled quite a bit, but they did so on ships. And they got dressed up for dinner; it was always black-tie.
SM: We should bring that back. Once lockdown is over, I’m coming over. We’re gonna dress up for dinner.
T: Oh that’s lovely, we’ll have a black-tie dinner.
SM: Or a ’20s dinner at mine and then a black-tie at yours?
T: Ok, lovely. You’ve got yourself a deal.
MAKEUP Wendy Rowe Caren
HAIR Earl Simms Caren
MANICURIST Jenni Draper Premier
VIDEO DIRECTOR Ivan Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Sarah Thompson
TALENT Lauren Tabach-Bank
DIGITAL OPERATOR Bruno Conrad
PHOTO ASSISTANTS Tom Hill, Russel Higton, and Shane Ryan
STYLIST ASSISTANT Benjamin Canares