by Dimitri Ehrlich. Australian Cosmopolitan, 1995. Photo by Victoria Luggo.
Hollywood's hottest newcomer, Liv Tyler, used to be known as Steven Tyler's daughter. Soon, he'll be known as Liv Tyler's dad.
"I basically did eleventh grade in a few months last summer so I'd be able to graduate in June," says 17-year-old Liv Tyler, between thoughtful pauses and puffs on a cigarette. Last year, Tyler, who shares the full-lipped features of her rock star father, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, shifted a high-profile modelling career into an equally impressive start in the movies. Naturally, she missed out on her schoolwork.
Her first film, Silent Fall, described by Tyler as an "unbelievably sad murder-mystery drama", is soon to be released here. Although the movie was a commercial disappointment in the US, it earned her critical praise, with reviewers describing Tyler as one of the film's highlights. Co-starring Richard Dreyfuss and directed by Driving Miss Daisy's Bruce Beresford, Silent Fall was no small debut. How did a virtually unknown actor - pedigree genes aside - land a role of this magnitude with no professional acting experience to her credit?
"It was really funny," recalls Tyler of the moment when she heard the news. "I was in Venezuela filming some Bongo jeans commercials. Before I'd left, I had read for the part in Silent Fall. It was my fourth reading, but I decided that I was seriously going to pursue acting when I came home. I knew that I really wanted to become an actor. The day I got back from my trip, I went all the way to Baltimore and did a screen test. And then it happened. Bruce told me I had the role. Honestly, I didn't even think about the possibility until that moment. Bruce really believed in me and wanted me, but the studio people had never heard of me. It was really amazing the way he fought for me."
Tyler has already completed her second film, Heavy, which featured at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January and co-stars Shelly Winters, Pruitt Taylor, Deborah Harry and Evan Dando (he plays her boyfriend). And she's just begun work on a third feature, Empire, directed by Alan Moyle (Pump Up The Volume). It's the story of a day in the life of a group of teens working in an independent record store in small-town California.
Tyler is eager to put modelling behind her now, downplaying that phase of her career. "I haven't modelled in almost a year. To me, modelling was just an after-school job. I enjoyed it, but I was 14 and 15. I wanted to hang out with my friends and do other things besides work. Modelling is about how you look on the outside, regardless of how you are on the inside. And you have to have 'it', whatever the fuck 'it' is."
Whether "it" is something you get from genes or upbringing, Tyler had a good dose of talent in both. Her mother, former model Bebe Buell, separated from Steven Tyler while pregnant with Liv, and then began a long relationship with brilliant weirdo rocker Todd Rundgren, who posed as Liv's father for the first 10 years of her life.
"My mother and Todd dated for many years and I was raised as his child," Tyler says matter-of-factly. "So I grew up as Liv Rundgren for the first half of my life. I actually met Steven at one of Todd's shows when I was nine, and I kind of gradually figured it out myself. It was kind of obvious, because we looked so much alike. And it was just something that I felt. One day, I asked them. I just sat there on my mother's leopard-skin lounge chair in front of the TV, paralysed for the day. And then we just decided to get on with our lives. They were just trying to protect me. My father wasn't really capable of taking care of me - he could barely take care of himself at the time."
Buell, who manages Tyler's career, moved Liv to rural Maine "to get away from the craziness" and raised her there before returning to Manhattan where they now live together. "We had a great time," says Tyler. "Sometimes I was her mother, sometimes she was mine. We had this great equal relationship, and we learned a lot from each other."
As she wraps up her final year of high school, between the film shoots, the photo shoots and the rounds of interviews, Tyler is bound to miss a few more classes. But her mum's not worried: Liv's a fast learner, and a good teacher, too.