Sienna Miller says her twisty, time-warp drama Wander Darkly was the ‘hardest thing I’ve done’
Plus, EW exclusively reveals a scene from the upcoming film, which also stars Diego Luna.
Watching Wander Darkly is nothing short of a trip. It's at times devastating and disorienting, with a scene in the morgue among the most terrifying, before it transports viewers to an ultra-romantic scene out at sea featuring dolphins. And then the film pulls the rug from under you — and Sienna Miller's protagonist, Adrienne — all over again.
One of the film’s most mind-melting scenes, which EW can exclusively debut above, happens when Adrienne and her partner Matteo (Diego Luna) relive their past interaction with a psychic in real time while simultaneously commenting on it as their present selves.
Based on writer-director Tara Miele’s own experience going through a near-death car crash, Wander Darkly follows Adrienne as she comes out of her accident unsure if she’s even still alive or stuck in a limbo state. As Adrienne struggles to decipher what really happened and get back to her baby daughter, viewers too must grapple with what’s unfolding in front of them.
For Miller, it was a special challenge to have to quickly switch gears and timelines, sometimes in the middle of a scene.
“It was about the hardest thing I've done, because as an actor, your job is to really try to not look like you're acting. And that just requires really being in the present moment and really listening to where you are and what people are saying to you,” she told EW. “But to step out of that moment, and suddenly change gears and be talking about yourself within that moment, it doesn't happen in life. So there wasn't really a point of reference for how to do that and feel good in it.”
Having nothing to fall back on, Miller added that “it just required real faith and trust in Tara, which we had thankfully, and she would have to reassure us and just say 'It's working, I promise. I know it feels weird. It's gonna look great.’ We were like 'Baaah, I just can't do it.’”
Add to that 2:42 a.m. pickup times, filming in a real morgue (which involved Luna being shut in a drawer), half the crew getting seasick during shoots out on the water, and filming out of chronological order, making Wander Darkly was a complex 20-something day shoot.
All of it was worth it though, for Miller and Miele to tell this story about relationships and the fleeting nature of life.
“I found it so human and so touching, and the idea of being able to go back and explore the moments where you go wrong from the present, being able to step into the past,” the actress said. “I just find that messy part of life about the most interesting part. It was just dense and rich and complicated, and surreal and upsetting, and moving and life affirming. And it just had every ingredient of what I wanted to look at at that time.”
And while it’s nothing new for films to confront life-altering events or mortality, Miele felt that featuring Adrienne front and center and exploring these themes from her perspective offered something new.
“It is something that I haven't seen expressed in this way — and what is the value of a woman's life?” Miele said. “I think oftentimes, we're devaluing a woman's life, like she's often a prize, or she's a dead body in the beginning of a series that leads you off into an adventure of what man can solve the crime.”
Despite it being inspired by her life, Miele’s has accepted that Wander Darkly's main character “stopped being me a long time ago” and instead fully became Miller's. Then in January at Sundance, the director got to see just how many people saw themselves reflected in the movie. And it was pretty powerful.
“I had someone tell me that her father had died recently, and after she saw the film, she just wandered around Park City for several hours, but that ultimately made her decide to want to live,” she recounted. “I was blown away. Or like, a couple came separately to Sundance, and the woman said, ‘I think you just saved my marriage.'"
And now that much of the world is still on lockdown due to COVID, both Miele and Miller are keenly aware how much their film feels like many peoples' day-to-day lives.
“I feel like the whole world has come into Adrienne's crazy state of purgatory with her. Sorry to have manifested that everybody,” Miele said, half joking.
Society as a collective now not only feels the grief and the “surreal, sad lost confusion” that Adrienne does in the movie, but we’ve also grasped the urgent need to hold onto the things and the people in our lives before it’s too late.
“Everyone has horrible things that happen to us, we all suffer in our lives, and it's our choice whether we say, ‘Oh God, what a tragedy, why did that happen to me?’ or ‘Oh my God, I'm so grateful for what I am getting, for the time I had with that person, or for the life that I have left,’” Miele said. “Ultimately we are all going to the same place, right? So finding gratitude and finding appreciation and celebrating life, even in the face of adversity or grief or loss is really what I want this film to be about.”
Wander Darkly arrives in select theaters and on demand Friday. It also features Beth Grant, Aimee Carrero, Tory Kittles, Brett Rice, and Vanessa Bayer.
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