Critics can say what they like about Sienna Miller’s new TV series Anatomy Of A Scandal – a six-episode, part-psychological thriller, part-courtroom drama about sexual consent – but I still think you’d really like it.
Based on the political page-turner of the same name by British writer and journalist Sarah Vaughan, Miller plays Sophie Whitehouse, the well-dressed wife to politician James (Homeland’s Rupert Friend). Her life falls to pieces when her husband is accused of raping his parliamentary assistant Olivia (Charlie’s Angels’ Naomi Scott) whom he’d indulged in a five-month affair with.
“Is it over?” a forlorn-looking Sophie asks James as he stands in the doorway of the couple’s palatial bedroom mere hours before news of the affair is set to break in the press. “At the party conference. Where else?”
“At work mostly,” James meekly replies. “Usually late at night.”
“What, on desks? In the broom cupboard? On the right honourable leather sofa?” Sophie asks. “Did people at work know?”
“We were careful,” James responds.
While Miller is brilliant – gosh, how I’ve missed her, Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl stands rent-free in my mind – Sophie’s initial dealings with the news (read: calm and supportive) are the opposite of how any one of us might think we’d react should we discover our partner cheating.
I remember trying to describe the heartbreak I experienced when I was cheated on by a boyfriend some years back. He “smoked my heart like one of his cigarettes” was the way I spelt out the pit of pain; an aching, gaping hole – a mark of the heart – permanently singed at its edges.
I wasn’t calm at all when that blow came, and it sounds as though Miller wasn’t either when her fiancé and Alfie co-star Jude Law was caught cheating with his children’s nanny Daisy Wright in 2005. (To add salt to the wound, the latter sold her story to the Sunday Mirror where she recounted the “mind-blowing” sex she had with Law.) According to friends, Miller was reportedly “incandescent with rage”. She was just 23 at the time.
In a recent interview, Miller talked about how she drew on this past experience and how it helped inform the character of Sophie in Anatomy Of A Scandal.
“It was familiar terrain, because I’ve experienced some of the things that she experienced. And the feelings were familiar,” Miller told ELLE UK. “[Sophie’s] way of dealing with what’s thrown at her is the absolute antithesis of what my way is. And so, in a kind of twisted, tourism sense, I just wanted to see how it would feel to react differently.”
In this same interview, Miller also spoke about how playing Sophie helped her yield power over the traumatic memory.
“I know that sounds weird, because you’d think it would be deeply unpleasant to sit in that space,” Miller says. “There is something cathartic, I suppose, about spending time in an ugly space that’s familiar. And maybe reclaiming it? I don’t know what the psychology of it is. But there is something where maybe you can substitute a memory with something else.”
Some months after my breakup, our writer Isabelle Truman was experiencing her own relationship breakdown and looked to a 2020 interview with Miller as comfort and “proof that no matter how all-consuming it feels at the time, a broken heart does heal.”
“There’s a whole six weeks of that experience that I don’t remember,” Miller told the Daily Beast. “I have no recollection of it,” she said. “People who came to see me said we had dinner, and I don’t remember. I was in so much shock over it all. And I’d really just begun. I was only 23. But if you get through that, you feel like you can get through anything.”
Law and Miller did try dating again in 2009 but it ended, for good this time. The actress now has a nine-year-old daughter named Marlowe whom she welcomed into the world in 2012 with now ex-boyfriend Tom Sturridge.
Today, she looks back on her relationship with Law with fondness.
“I was just catapulted into a totally parallel universe while being in love [with Jude],” Miller told ELLE UK, of the paparazzi attention that ensued when she and Law hooked up. “There was a lot of magic at that time. At first, it was kind of comical, but very quickly it became insidious and, yeah, scary.”
For anybody reading this story who is going through this unique sort of hell, know this: Heartbreak doesn’t discriminate, even if you’re Sienna Miller. And like her, and Isabelle and I, piece by piece, you will put yourself back together and you’ll be a stronger, wiser and happier woman because of it. When a life seems be falling apart, it’s usually falling together.
Anatomy Of A Scandal Is streaming now on Netflix.