A couple years back, Sienna Miller was on location in Pittsburgh shooting an under-the-radar indie called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, based on Michael Chabon’s debut novel. The production gained notoriety when the outspoken British starlet told Rolling Stone that it was more like “Shitsburgh.” Some backlash ensued (the local paper retaliated with the cheap-shot headline, “Semi-famous actress dumps on the ‘Burgh”), Miller completed work on the film and left Pittsburgh to go shit talk elsewhere. The movie has since gathered dust on the shelf (crap Sundance reviews have that effect on a movie), so it felt strange asking her about controversy three years after the fact.
“I come from a rhyming slang family. I made a joke and as tends to happen with me, it did not translate at all to print,” explained a very radiant Miller when it was brought up (much to her publicist’s dismay) at the recent press day for Pittsburgh. “I think seven Amish people got shot dead that day, and I was on the front page and not that, so there’s a point where it’s like — I would not never deliberately hurt anyone, I’m not that person. It was an absolute storm, but at the end of the day I was sorry, I apologized. I was shocked at the reaction. I actually love Pittsburgh, my father is from Pittsburgh … he laughed.”
Peter Sarsgaard, who also stars in the film and was seated beside her, defended his costar. “Have you ever taped yourself while sitting around with a group of friends and then gone back to listen to it? It’s never fun. If I had said it, people would have laughed. I’m from St. Louis, and I’ve said all sorts of things about St. Louis. It’s also because she’s British and she’s a pretty girl, and the combination is deadly.”
Most Hollywood actresses wouldn’t dare crack derogatory jokes at the expense of an American city, let alone one that was generously hosting them during a film shoot. But Miller is known for her indiscretions, both in the press — she once told a reporter drugs were “fuckloads of fun” — and in her personal life, most recently suing two publications after being photographed topless with a married Balthazar Getty. ““I find it very difficult to be anything but myself in interviews. Sometimes that works to my advantage, and other times it really doesn’t. I’m not good at playing games. I’m not going to go in there and pretend to be someone I’m not. Like it or leave it. I think I’d be much more unhappy if I was putting on a persona,” she says.
Sarsgaard, who for his part hasn’t “enjoyed” even a fragment of the media scrutiny leveled at Miller, believes that an actor can weather media squalls with self-discipline. “Media attention has never hurt an actor as long as the actor stays focused on their work,” he said. Surprising, considering Miller — known for her party-girl lifestyle — was right next to him.
“I think it can have a negative effect. I would love to not have that level of attention in my life,” she said, mentioning that there were 40 photographers waiting for her at the airport last night. “It’s pretty full-on.”
Sarsgaard noted that most of the attention he gets from paparazzi is fallout from his marriage to Maggie Gyllenhaal. “I’m in the tabloids frequently because I’m standing next to my wife, because they go after the women because I guess the women read the magazines. But it’s never hurt any of our careers. I felt it when my daughter was born. When Maggie and I went down the stairs to go to the hospital, in transition, I open the door to the street, and there are 20 photographers there and people with video cameras.”