PUBLIC VS PRIVATE
It wouldn’t be unfair of me to agree that Sienna isn’t loved by absolutely everybody. This is a fact I haven’t failed to notice when doing preliminary research for this interview. Everything from her condemnation of Pittsburgh (after referring to the American city as ‘Shittsburgh’ in 2006, Sienna was forced to make a public apology), to her fling with American actor and married father-of-four Balthazar Getty, this is a woman not without her critics, some of whom can be rather nasty as I discovered when reading blogs and online forums during research for our interview.
How does she respond to the haters? “I just don’t read things,” she says simply. “In our family we have a ‘no Google’ policy. In fact, I rarely use the internet, I don’t even do social networking.”
I tell her that one of the things I like most about her – that I’ve realised after reading past interviews – is that she always says what she really thinks. And let’s not underestimate how rare this is in a world where celebrities regularly censor their true feelings. “I’m a big gob,” she says, cringing. “And I’m terrible at interviews because I’m very honest. But I think it’s difficult being a woman… Men get away with far more in interviews; they can be open and less judged. I suppose I just refuse to conform on that level.”
Does she ever feel like being a little more reticent with her thoughts on things? “Not really. I mean, I think I’ve become more aware of the consequences of saying what I think but I still have no reason to pretend to be anything else other than me. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I’ve read things and gone, ‘I’ve just shot myself in the foot by being that open.’ Things get manipulated by journalists. But you know, ultimately, I’ve said it.”
What about the current round of interviews she’s doing for Flare Path: is she nervous about speaking to journalists like me, who are going to ask her about things that are going on in her private life at the moment? “It doesn’t make me nervous, no, because actually everything is quite harmonious in that area of my life,” she says, referring to the split. “We both confirmed that it was mutual and amicable and we remain great friends. That’s what’s frustrating I suppose, that there’s still this speculation about why and whether it’s me or him [who instigated the split]. It’s nobody’s business.”
Then why bother confirming it? “We both just thought it was time to do that. It happened months ago, long before we released it. There’s just no need [for the press] to go, ‘Oh, they must be lying about why they’ve done it.’ Believe me, if there was animosity between us, we wouldn’t lie. It’s just very sad and private.”
“I’ve only been engaged once by the way. The £130,000 ring? Absolutely didn’t exist”
So does she still feel sad about it? “I don’t really want to talk about that. I think splitting up with anybody isn’t the most pleasurable experience in life but when it’s the right thing, it’s the right thing. I’m not going to dwell on it.” But people will continue to ask you about it, I say. “Yes, and I bet if they were doing an interview with [Jude] they wouldn’t. That’s what I get frustrated about. With him, people won’t ask.” I have to admit I agree with her. “Yes,” she grins, “so make a stand about it. Don’t ask me.” We both laugh. “Now, do you want some chips?”
French fries in hand, we move on to the safer territory of acting. Since her role in 2009’s comic book blockbuster GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, we’ve not seen much of Sienna on the big screen. She reveals this has been an intentional move, having made a decision last year that she wanted to work less and see more of her family. Not only that, but she wasn’t bowled over by any scripts she’d been given to read. Not even the sequel to GI Joe that’s currently in the offing?
“No,” she says sheepishly, while confirming that although her co-star Channing Tatum will be returning for the second instalment, she’s ducked out of it. “I think I compromised myself with that movie,” she says carefully. “It wasn’t the kind of film I would like to see and it sort of made me evaluate why I’m doing this. I realised that unless it was a film I really loved, I didn’t want to be away working. Because I’m getting to the stage where I want to work to live, not live to work, if you see what I mean. I don’t want to do a film that I wouldn’t even go to see.”
Instead, she plans to focus on smaller, independent films. “I want to learn more and become cleverer, and work with great directors.” And do another play? “I’ll do another one in London in the fall, I think. The fall!” she jokes in a flawless American accent. “Get me!”
Confessing to being “bitten” by the London bug again, when she’s not rehearsing or seeing friends in the city (her close pal Keira Knightley is also currently in the West End, “literally around the corner from the theatre where I’m performing, so we’ll do lunch between shows”), she’ll be refurbishing her house in north London or staying at her cottage in the Gloucestershire countryside.
And there are also meetings for Twenty8Twelve, the fashion label she runs with her elder sister Savannah, to factor in. I comment that she kept a rather low profile at the recent London Fashion Week. “We did a presentation, which was great, but I didn’t go to any shows. It’s just a big press thing, which I don’t really like. Contrary to public belief…”
JUST A NORMAL GIRL
Having won a major court case against the British paparazzi in 2008, it’s true that Sienna does anything but seek this kind of attention. “It’s been life-changing in the most fantastic way,” she says of winning the landmark case, which saw her sue for invasion of privacy using the 1997 Harassment Act.
At its height, she reveals the attention almost sent her crazy. “I’d have 10 photographers outside my house and chasing me in cars every day,” she says. When did she decide enough was enough? “I think it got to the stage where it was either [taking the paparazzi to court] or quitting.” The industry? “Yes. I mean, it wasn’t worth it, the way my life had become. There was no life. And I understand how irritating that must sound, to say I just couldn’t cope, but I don’t want to adapt to having a driver. I don’t want to be protective of myself to a degree where it’s not normal. Because I am quite a normal person, really.”
I tell her that she’s been papped recently with her co-star in Flare Path, Joe Armstrong (in case she hadn’t heard). She nods, “Oh, the entire company has got this whole joke going. I mean, the amount of people I’m linked with romantically that I’ve never even met is ridiculous.”
ON THE RECORD
We somehow end up discussing my other half, a Welshman who I tell her is called Rhys (it’s true – the fact Sienna’s ex Rhys Ifans shares the same name is merely coincidence. But it’s one that gets us a laughing). “A lot of them are, to be honest,” she says, laughing, and I remember she has also been (incorrectly) linked to her The
Edge Of Love co-star Matthew Rhys, who remains happily married.
Sienna asks me how long I’ve been with Rhys and I tell her it’s been six years. “That’s a long time,” she says. I joke that we’d probably be engaged and married with babies by now if we were celebrities, because everything moves so fast for them. “Oh, I think it just appears that way. I mean, I got engaged…” She pauses. “I’ve only been engaged once by the way.” Really? What happened with Jude? “A second time? No. No, absolutely not true. I’ve been engaged once [to him] and not engaged to anybody else since. The £130,000 ring? Absolutely didn’t exist.”
Well that clears that up then. “Exactly.” We allow a Pinter-esque pause. “Do you like my stony silence?” teases Sienna. “It’s not all that stony really”, I reply, and we both laugh.
And that’s it, my time is up. Sienna has to get back to rehearsals to run through the whole of act one any minute. Kissing me on both cheeks, she says sorry that she couldn’t answer everything and jokes that she’s glad I’m not seeing the play before I publish our interview, because the last thing she needs is another critic. And then I watch her run down the road like the live wire that she is, cape blowing in the wind.
Sienna is starring in Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 4 June 2011. Tickets are available at trh.co.uk