By Christopher Rosa. Photos: Getty Images.
Many women in Hollywood have opened up before about the challenge of being put into constraining boxes that don't reflect their talent or intellect—and Sienna Miller is the latest to speak up: When she feared the role in her new film, The Lost City of Z, came off as two-dimensional, she made sure to call attention to it. (Miller plays Nina Fawcett in the film, a suffragette who is also married to Charlie Hunnam's character.)
"I was worried she was just 'a wife' when I first read it, and James [Grey, the director] was aware of that, too," Miller told ELLE.com. "I said, 'I'm not going to do that. We really have to work and struggle and fight to give her her own story and her own voice.' He promised that he would honor that, and he did."
One of those "fights" happened during a cast read-through. "There was a scene where I was just saying stupid things and I just scribbled on his pad, 'This needs work' in massive black pen and then underlined it. [Grey] framed that. I was on it because I just didn't want to do that."
This anecdote speaks poignantly to the reductive type-casting many women still experience in Hollywood. Female characters are still being put into categories: mother, widow, "hot girl," "nerdy girl"—but these are cardboard cut-outs, not real people. Miller says things have improved as she's aged, but it's still frustrating. "I've been categorized my entire career; that's part of being a woman, in ways that men never would be," she said. "... you couldn't be a stylish young thing and have a brain. If you wear really nice clothes and you've got style and you're young and you have a famous boyfriend, you must be really thick and not talented at all."
Of course, it's totally possible for mother, wife, and "hot girl" characters to have nuance. There isn't a blueprint for what a female character has to look like in order to be complex. Screenwriters and directors just have to do the legwork and find out. (And if they don't, actresses like Sienna Miller will gladly call them out on it.)
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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