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Back to reality

by Martyn Palmer, Total Film, July 2004

After years of speaking Elvish for Peter Jackson in Middle-earth, Liv Tyler's been dragged back to normality by Kevin Smith for his latest, Jersey Girl. But she's having some trouble getting her head around it all...

On her first day at work on Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, Liv Tyler flipped out. The problem was that, after three years of bluescreen work, wearing pointy ears and acting opposite dwarves, wizards and orcs, it felt pretty weird to be playing, well, someone normal. "I was sitting there having a panic attack, going, 'Oh my God I've got five pages of dialogue!'" squeals the Lord Of The Rings star. "And there's no bluescreen, nobody's going to airbrush me... What am I going to do?' "But I was there dressed in normal clothes, playing an ordinary young woman. I was just this girl and I actually felt kind of naked. So it was hard for me at first because I'd relied on all those things to be [Lord Of The Rings' elf princess] Arwen, and I'd played her for so many years."

But the Rings saga is over. And Liv does want to move on - although certainly not forget her old mates. When we meet up in a New York hotel, their Oscar triumph is still fresh in her mind:
"It was so exciting. But it was so surreal, in a way. I mean, the Oscars are such a big spectacle anyway, you know? The whole 'What are you going to wear?' thing... So it's kind of scary. It was incredible for us all to be together, but it almost felt like it wasn't happening. Every time they called our name, it was like, 'Oh my God! We have to stand up again!' It was amazing." Tinged with a touch of sadness, too, you imagine - a final, final chapter ending a once-in-a-lifetime cinematic adventure. "I think we've gone through so many of those sad moments. I mean, we ended principal photography and we all wept and cried and then they brought us back every summer for pick-ups and we would weep and cry and then we would go to London and do all the voice work and then we would get together for all the premieres, so we've had quite a few goodbyes..." Point taken. Tyler certainly stands her ground in an interview - but at least she has a sense of humour about it. Ask her to dig the dirt on the Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez media circus, for example (both are her Jersey Girl co-stars) and she warns, "Don't go there..." But she does it with a smile. See, Affleck is an old friend - they made Armageddon together - and she's very protective. "You know, of all the actors I've worked with, and I've had some great leading men, I definitely feel like I've got a connection with Ben. I think we have really good chemistry together. I don't know why or what that means or what makes good chemistry, but we have it. It feels very natural for me to act with him." On the other hand, ask about J-Lo and you get: "I think she was making a record at the same time, so she was a busy girl, back and forth. She seemed nice but I didn't get to hang out with her."

In all fairness, La Lopez is only in the film for 15-odd minutes. It's Affleck and Tyler who take centre stage - he plays a high-flying music PR struggling to look after his seven-year-old daughter, while she takes the role of the woman who offers him some respite from his troubled existence. Doesn't sound like your typical Kevin Smith caper, does it? Well, it's not. Something that snagged Tyler's interest from the start:
"I'd seen a couple of Kevin's films and I was intrigued to know more about him," she explains. "I read this script and I found it to be very moving. Initially, all I could think of was, 'Wow, this is a great part for Ben...' I liked my character but it wasn't until I started shooting and being her every day that I saw how much she had to offer, how colourful she was."

Colourful. Now that's an apt word to describe Tyler herself, even if she is, at present, clad entirely in black, making it almost impossible to see where her raven hair ends and her top begins. After all, she has hardcore pop heritage as the daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, and since breaking through in Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty eight years ago, the 26-year-old actress has kept her movie choices defiantly unpredictable. And that doesn't look like changing. After our chat, she's heading straight off to shoot low-budget indie Lonesome Jim with Steve Buscemi.
"I can't believe all the opportunities I've had," she beams about her latest collaboration. "I'm so grateful."

What, so even the odd panic attack can't dent her enthusiasm?
"Oh, I love this job," she insists. "Even when I'm scared..."

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