The case marked a watershed moment for celebrity relationships with the media.
In the early noughties, Sienna Miller was a tabloid fixture. Attention though, was not on her acting, despite a steady stream of high profile roles, such as Andy Warhol’s muse, Edie Sedgwick, in 2006’s Factory Girl.
Instead, the press was obsessed with Miller’s love life: who was currently sharing her bed and who’d previously been rumoured to be in it. So hungry were the media for the intimate details of Miller’s existence that she became a victim of the phone hacking scandal that eventually saw the shuttering of tabloid paper The News of the World, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
In 2011, Miller became the first celebrity to settle her claim against News Group Newspapers, receiving £100,000 after her phone was tapped and private details regarding her relationship with then-fiancé Jude Law. And while Miller could have easily kept proceedings private, she chose to bring the case publicly – for a compelling reason.
“I was living in a place and a time when the paparazzi were very toxic,” said Miller of her decision, in a new interview with Vulture, ahead her upcoming role as Beth Ailes, wife of disgraced Fox News journalist, Roger Ailes.
“I couldn’t function in that world. It was impossible to live a life and tolerate that,” she continued.
“So I sued them and got this law changed, a harassment law against paparazzi.
If I’m in London, where I’m going tonight, I can expect privacy. Rupert Murdoch hacked my phone, and I could have settled out of court and made that private, but I didn’t, because it was wrong. When pushed, I will fight back.”
Miller’s action was part of a moment that saw a huge shift in power dynamics between celebrities, the papers that wrote about them, and who controlled the narratives that the public received. Now stars primarily use social media to debunk false reports about them and communicate directly with their audiences – and as a result, the power traditional newspapers and magazines wield over a celebrity’s public image has drastically reduced. It’s not difficult to see how the legacy Miller’s legal action left runs through movements like Time’s Up and #MeToo.
But prior to that, the reality was very different. Miller recalls the pain caused by the conjecture surrounding her love life and the bewilderment she felt as she compared the coverage she received, to that focusing on her male partners. And one incident sums up the double standards she experienced particularly well.
“The worst was [an interview with] the New York Times,” says Miller.
“I was doing my Broadway debut, and they did a profile on me and referred to my ex-fiancé [Jude Law] as a “fling.” A week later [the Times] did a profile on Jude, who also had a play on Broadway, and said he “had a three-year relationship and engagement with the actress Sienna Miller.”
“The latent sexism … the message is so clear. What they’re trying to say is that this person is frivolous and a slut, and this person I’d been engaged to and had an intense relationship with [isn’t]. It’s just disgusting. It made me angry.
I got an apology that was a centimeter long. In a publication I value as one of the most noble in the world, it was so hurtful and crushing. It’s out there; no apology will take it away. And it listed people I’d never slept with in the opening. It makes you go totally weak. It takes any power you have.”
Thankfully, she now thinks the culture has completely changed.
“Whatever this moment is, it’s significant for sure,” Miller remarks.
“I do feel like there’s been an army of women in my industry, and the Time’s Up movement has been huge for a lot of women. I got paid for the first time to act, which was a great feeling.”
A small win, but one to celebrate nonetheless.