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Liv It Up

by Antony Teofilo, Movie Poop Shoot, March 2004

Every big star in Jersey Girl's ensemble is in attendance today at Paulsboro High School. The roll call consists of some very popular kids. Between class periods, sly students pop their heads in the doorway of the balcony overlooking the auditorium where shooting is taking place, hoping to catch a glimpse of George Carlin, Ben Affleck, or Kevin Smith. Earlier in the day, a few lucky souls in gym clothes caught a glimpse of Affleck as they ran laps around the building, and the student body is all a-twitter. Several enterprising souls are nabbed trying to sneak or charm their way past security personnel with hopes of autographs. A few even carry disposable cameras for that once in a lifetime photo op, but all are politely turned away. One imagines it must be a bit difficult to attend algebra classes with the knowledge that some of the cinemas brightest stars are walking the halls of your otherwise banal educational institution.

A musical sequence that serves as a sort of finale in Jersey Girl's third act is being filmed on the school's modest stage. In character, the actors play at being the kind of people that wouldnít normally appear in a school play. Between takes, though, these seasoned pros are obviously very much at home in front of the three hundred strong horde of extras that has packed every seat in the house.

One principle member of the cast needs a little help getting in the groove, though. For the first few takes, Liv Tyler is obviously not as at home in front of a live crowd as her compatriots. She fiddles with the toy drum prop that her character is holding in the scene. Eventually she decides, to director Kevin Smith's chagrin, that she will not use it because it's too constricting to her movements. It's strange seeing someone who's such a public figure squirm as she performs, a feeling fed, perhaps, by the knowledge that both Liv's birth father (Steven Tyler) and her adoptive dad (Todd Rundgren) are used to rocking out in front of stadium size crowds. After Ms. Tyler loses the drum, she finds her rhythm. But that was earlier today.

For now, the auditorium is nearly empty. The extras have been herded off to large white tents behind the school for lunch call, and the principle actors are safe in their trailersÖall of them save one.

Liv Tyler is sitting next to me in one of the theater's spongy seats as a few grips and techs adjust the lights and take focus measurements for the afternoon's camera setups. Even in the boyish wig and work clothes that make up her costume for the day, there's no denying the elegance, both of gesture and cheekbone, that made Liv Tyler, the Queen Of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Even so, there's no air of the diva as we talk. Tyler is frank and enthusiastic about working in a Kevin Smith film as a lowly video clerk (Maya). After working on the intense and exhausting LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, she wants to relax, enjoy her work, and

Antony Teofilo: This is your first foray into a ViewAskew film. How do you feel about working with Kevin Smith?
Liv Tyler: Itís been so much fun, particularly for me, because all Iíve really worked on for the last three years was THE LORD OF THE RINGS. This is the first thing Iíve done post [LOtr], and JERSEY GIRL is such a different experience for me. When I was making [LOtr], I used to joke around because everything is so heavy, and the language is so intense, Iíd always say, ĎI just want to be in a diner!í On my first day of JERSEY GIRL, I did a scene in a diner. That was my wish, and it came true! [Laughs]

AT: How do you feel about JERSEY GIRL as a project thus far?
LT: Iím very excited, and was very flattered that Kevin wanted me to be a part of it. Iíve been enjoying working with Kevin, particularly because heís such a great writer. You keep discovering things, and it continues to be fresh and interesting as you perform. Heís very natural, and he writes things in a way people actually speak, so itís great to be able to speak those words.

AT: Can you tell me a little bit about the rehearsal process? Iíve heard Kevinís a stickler when it comes to rehearsal...
LT: [Smiles] I had to skip out of the rehearsal process. I was in London doing post-production work on LOtr. I just had to come and work right away on my first day.

AT: Youíre crossing from THE LORD OF THE RINGS, which has a huge fan base that borders sometimes on near-religious fanaticism...
LT: Not unlike Kevinís worldÖ[Laughs]

AT: Thatís sort of what I was getting at. Whatís it like to be at the center of that kind of a loyal, or some would say rabid, community of fans? Is it intimidating? Do you ever regret being part of something thatís such a juggernaut, like LOtr?
LT: There was lots of weird stuff on the internet before the movie came out. I went and looked at one of the websites, and I was so bummed out because they were saying things that were really mean about me.

AT: Like what?
LT: Well, they werenít anything to do with the movie, they were like personal attacks, like I was the spoiled daughter of a rock star, that I was too Hollywood to play Arwen. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that Iím far from a spoiled daughter of a rock starÖI didnít actually know who my dad was until I was an older kid. I didnít have a very easy upbringingÖbut then when the movie came out the criticism sort of died down. Then I realized that the fans are quite picky about everythingÖthere wasnít really a time where they picked on me any more than anyone else.

AT: How did you get past dealing with that sort of intense critical appraisal of your performances?
LT: I just stopped looking, really. I [realized] that I donít care about those opinions as much as the opinions that come from my friends and my family. Those opinions means something to me. On the other hand, itís also been really exciting that so many people are interested in it and want to see it, thatís for sure.

AT: Getting back the present, the character you play in JERSEY GIRL has some pretty intense emotional scenes...
LT: Itís actually a really simple little scene where Mayaís very sad and frustrated because sheís tried to lie herself through a situation, and itís pretty heartbreaking.

AT: Many performers have spoken about the challenge of crying on cameraÖwhere do you go internally when youíve got to do something like that?
LT: Um, I donít really like talking about acting.

AT: Why?
LT: Itís so personal. And I personally just hate reading about someone who goes on and on about, ĎWell, my process is this and thatÖí I just want to say ĎShut up you pretentious jerk!í [Laughs]

AT: Well, we wonít think youíre pretentious if you want to share.
LT: For me, I just put myself into the mind of the person Iím portraying. If itís really well-written, and youíre speaking the words, [the script] should move you to that place anyway. If youíre really in the moment it can happen naturally. The moments that are more difficult are the ones where thereís no dialogue and youíve got to get yourself into that place. Or, just use a tear stick. [Laughs]

AT: Whatís a tear stick?
LT: Itís basically menthol that you can jab in your eye or blow in your eye. Whatís good about it is that for those moments where you donít want to beat yourself up, it just kind of makes your eyes water a little. It starts the feeling, but you have to make it happen, too.

AT: I heard you mention the other day that you like performing on camera, but you donít like being in front of a live audience.
LT: I have terrible stage fright.

AT: Really? What happens when you get stage fright?
LT: If I do an awards show, I have to take a beta-blocker. My heart pounds so fast and then I start to breathe weird and then I canít speak, and I start to pass out. I once almost passed out at a press conference in Cannes with Ben and Bruce Willis and everybody for ARMAGEDDON. Itís weird because Iím not a shy person, but as soon as I get in front of big groups of people I get really panickedÖI think people just expect that youíre comfortable everything, but just because youíre famous doesnít mean that things arenít scary.

AT: Do you think the public has a lot of misperceptions about celebrities personal lives?
LT: Yes. Thatís sort of due to the tabloids and how intrusive they are. It can get downright scary. It think my driver sort of likes it when tabloid photographers chase us, because he gets to do all these stunt driving tricks, and drive the wrong way down sixth avenue. [Laughs].

AT: Youíve mentioned media scrutiny, mean spirited fans and stage fright as some of the downsides to what you do. What do you like about your profession?
LT: My favorite part is the terror, particularly on my first day [on set], just that feeling of not knowing whatís going to happen. You can come very prepared, but when you get there, you donít know what the director really has in mind. You feel like youíre going to let everyone down, and then somehow you manage to pull through and actually function. To me, thatís always a really rewarding feeling. And having moments with actors is really good. I really like working with Ben [Affleck] a lot. I really enjoyed working with him in ARMAGEDDON. He really listens, and you can really get lost in the scene with him. A lot of actors donít listen. Theyíre just thinking about what theyíre going to say next. The greatest part about this job to me is just forgetting where you are and getting lost in the moment.