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Liv Tyler in Florence: 'I've really enjoyed the time I've spent here'

South Carolina Now, November 2006

FLORENCE — It’s dark and cold inside this warehouse-turned-movie set situated on the outskirts of Florence. In fact, there isn’t a warm spot to be found. Still, the show must go on, and for actress Liv Tyler, that means a good bit of time spent huddling alone in tiny spaces, looking terrified and disheveled. “Cut!” someone cries. Time to take a breather. “Hi,” said Tyler, extending a bloody hand. “Sorry — hope I didn’t get any on you.” No apology necessary. Though it looks real, the fake blood is quite dry.

Tyler has been in South Carolina since Oct. 10 filming the suspense thriller The Strangers. The storyline revolves around a couple, Kristen and James (Tyler and Scott Speedman) who become victims of a home invasion when they are targeted by a trio of mysterious, eerily masked strangers. As we sat down to discuss the film, the lithe and lovely actress lit up a cigarette and took a sip from a hot cup of coffee.
“I went to Japan and was flying home — I’d taken a year off after having (my son) Milo — and I had stacks of scripts on the plane ...” she said. “I liked the title of this one because it sounded like a comedy. After reading the first three pages, I was stuck on the script and called my agent and said ‘Please get it for me — I want to be in this movie.’”

Written and directed by first-time director, Bryan Bertino, the spellbinding script enticed Tyler to return to the working world, she said. The Strangers is her initial foray back onto the stage since giving birth in 2004 to her first child with husband, rocker Royston Langdon.
“I have been working since I was 14, nonstop,” Tyler said of her decision to take a break. “It was really a reflective period for me, and I was asking myself all the questions, ‘Should I retire and move to the country and have lots of babies?’ That year off helped me realize I love what I do.” She said she considers this film to be one of her most challenging roles to date, as she appears in every scene. Playing the terrorized victim also requires Tyler to convey an almost constant, high level of intensity. “I was really nervous about having to scream,” she said with a laugh. “... When we started filming, one of the first scenes required me to really scream when I saw this man in a mask. I’ve screamed on roller coasters before, but not like this. But, when the time came, I just opened my mouth and this huge roar came out ...”

While Tyler eased into “Strangers,” it was a bit trickier for co-star Speedman. Though famous for his role in the popular television show “Felicity,” he must audition for every role he sets his sights on, including his part in The Strangers. “It was a pretty long process,” said a reflective Speedman, sitting in his trailer palming a basketball. “I had to really fight for it, but it’s the best job I ever got off an audition.” Like Tyler, whom Speedman had never met, he also was captivated by the script, so much so that he decided to vie for the part, which was a highly-coveted prize on the Hollywood scene. But it’s a role he said he felt was worth fighting for, career-wise. “It has a horror element and a thriller element, but it also has a human element,” he said. “The script was so beautifully written, and the scenes between me and Liv have such humanness.”

The sheer terror the pair must bring to life through their roles is the hardest work of all, Speedman said. “To come in every day, and getting, right away, to that level of intensity, that level of fear and anger — it can be draining,” he said. “... But working with Liv — that’s been great ... I always liked her as an actor, and, for lack of a better word, we have a good chemistry.”

In their leisure time, Tyler, Speedman and other members of the cast and crew have been spotted around Florence enjoying simple pleasures and doing what the locals do for fun, including hanging out at a local karaoke bar. “Anytime you’re on location and can get to know a small town, that’s great,” offered Speedman. Tyler, who lives in bustling Manhattan, said she has been enjoying the slower pace and relaxed atmosphere.
“What’s really great about this place is you can smoke almost anywhere,” laughed Tyler, who admits to a cigarette habit. “And I love to go shopping at Target — they have so much stuff there, you can buy almost anything, it’s really amazing. “... Southern people are so great, too. They’ve given us space and have been very respectful ... I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent here.”