Entertainment

Sienna Miller finds muse in explorer Percy Fawcett's wife

Nina Paterson Fawcett was an early-century spouse who wasn’t “just a wife” but a character rich with her own progressive ideas.

Sienna plays adventurer Percy Fawcett’s wife  Nina Paterson Fawcett in The Lost City of Z.

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Sienna plays adventurer Percy Fawcett’s wife Nina Paterson Fawcett in The Lost City of Z.

In 1925, an uncompromising explorer named Percy Fawcett was so focused on finding a lost civilization in the Amazon that he disappeared in what seemed a doomed quest — even if Sienna Miller doesn’t quite see it that way.

“I’ve always been drawn to (the idea of) the journey as the destination,” said Miller recently of the tragic tale behind The Lost City of Z.

“And I think the bravery that he stayed in this and the courage and resilience of the quest — I find there’s something romantic about that for me.”

And what a quest it was. On a mission to map Bolivia at the turn-of-the-century, Fawcett uncovered cryptic clues about an undiscovered city built by “savages” and set out on the ill-fated crusade that roused ridicule from a haughty English establishment.

However, Miller not only found inspiration in Fawcett’s determined drama; she was also equally intrigued to play Fawcett’s wife Nina — an early-century spouse who wasn’t  “just a wife” but a character rich with her own progressive ideas.

“With all these tidbits of information I pieced her together but she did feel incredibly contemporary,” insisted Miller of the little-known self-sacrificing suffragette.

“I like the idea of a real life (and) I find the research part of it really fulfilling. I also feel a responsibility that comes with playing a real person; it can be galvanizing in some way – you feel a sense of duty.”

Indeed, the role itself came at a good time for the actress. Although filmmaker James Gray approached her 7 years ago, Miller’s then “chaotic” private life was fodder for the British tabloids even as she suffered a misstep with GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra — a role she conceded “compromised my values.”

The offer would mark an important shift in career redesign; one that now sees the 35-year-old boasting the best roles of her life.

“I was really confused by the tabloids and it made it difficult to do the work that I wanted because people had a very strong perception of who I was,” admitted Miller, now uncompromising in her own right and happily preparing to premiere Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on London’s West End in July.

“It’s getting better (and Hollywood is) much more focused on giving women good parts in films and I think that’s fantastic.”

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