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Is this just a kiss off?

Sienna Miller doesn't want to talk about gossip, gifts or brouhahas. Just work, please.

January 26, 2007|Robin Abcarian | Times Staff Writer

Park City, Utah — IT'S hard to tell whether Sienna Miller is on the level.

The lithe and lovely blue-eyed actress is known for being unprogrammed in interviews (occasionally to her lasting regret), and you thought you were tossing a pretty soft question: Did she see any of herself in the role she plays in Steve Buscemi's new film, "Interview," an intellectual boxing match between a frustrated war reporter who resents his fluffy assignment and the starlet he is sent to profile? In the film's opening, the disgusted reporter muses to his brother that he is about to interview an actress who is most famous for her changing breast size and bed mates.

"I am really not that character," said a rather indignant Miller, a complete unknown who became a tabloid staple after falling into a doomed love affair with her "Alfie" costar Jude Law in 2004. "And you are not going to get me to say I am."

OK, then, changing subjects, how about the famous Sundance swag-athon? Had a chance to indulge yet?

"It's a little overwhelming," she said, sitting in a cafe on Main Street that's been turned into a makeshift interview space. "And it makes you feel guilty. I did get given some stuff that I didn't ask for necessarily ... then I found out that you can actually give it to this company that auctions it on EBay and gives the money for charity."

So here, according to staffers at the various swag suites, are the things that may be popping up on the online auction site, courtesy of Ms. Miller: From the Fred Segal boutique, $300 in Le Mystere Lingerie panties, which they said Miller took after telling them she'd forgotten to pack her "knickers"; $200 boots by Earth shoes; a $400 Portolano brown cashmere shawl; and a $450 Linea Pelle handbag. From the Kari Feinstein Style Lounge, a $1,200 Melrose Mac laptop, which staffers said Miller was "very excited" to take. From the Jessica Meisels Marquee Lounge, $8,000 of Lia Sophia jewelry, an $800 Botkier bag and $900 in Dermalogica skin care products, which she was delighted to receive, according to those present, because she's been traveling for a month and has run out of "everything."

But you know what? This year's Sundance theme is "Focus on Film" -- you see people sporting little buttons with that slogan all over town -- and though she could be distracted by all the freebies being hurled at her (and her publicist insists they were hurled), Miller, who turned 25 in December, is quite serious about her work.

She slipped easily into a conversation about "Interview," a remake of Dutch director Theo van Gogh's 2003 film by the same name. (The 47-year-old Van Gogh, who was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004, had intended to remake the film with American actors, said Buscemi, who both directs and costars in "Interview.")

Creative decisions

The film, which premiered here last week, is an intense exploration of the bizarre relationship between a loser-ish journalist and his famous, beautiful subject that buds, blossoms and dies in the course of an evening. They are by turns self-revealing and sadistic -- each trying to get the upper hand in a power struggle that only one will win. "The basic premise," said Buscemi, "is these are two people who are more alike than not, but really butt heads. Something is keeping him there, and something about her enjoys that aspect -- the cat playing with the mouse."

Van Gogh and screenwriter Theodor Holman created the movie for a real-life Dutch soap opera star, Katja Schuurman, who has a bit part in this version. Holman and Schuurman, along with many of the Dutch crew who also worked on the American film, were here for the premiere.

For Miller, the process of shooting 30 pages of script over nine nights in takes that lasted as long as 10 minutes was a dream. Three hand-held cameras gave the actors freedom to roam and not worry about hitting marks, Buscemi said. Plus, said Miller, "we shot it in sequence, which for an actress is a rare thing, and great."

Also, she said, "there wasn't a studio breathing down our neck, saying, 'I don't like her hair, don't like the way she looks.' We got to make our own creative decisions."

Buscemi drew chuckles at the film's Sundance premiere when he said that he didn't really know who Miller was before someone recommended her for the part. His lack of familiarity with her work, said Miller, did not surprise her. "I had only done three films" -- "Layer Cake," "Casanova" and "Alfie" -- "and they weren't commercially successful."

And you know what? She doesn't care.

"It's not my money," she said. Then paused. Then backtracked. "That was a terrible thing to say. Of course I care, and it would be lovely to be in a film that people responded to and made a lot of money. Completely shooting myself in the foot. Again. But at the end of the day for me, it's about the creative experience, and I had a good time making those films."

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