From West Hollywood to West Yorkshire, stardom to motherhood, combining immense talent with self-doubt, Liv Tyler inhabits two separate worlds. Harvey Marcus catches up with the wife of an old friend from Leeds.
Not long after we sit down for the interview, Liv Tyler stubs out her cigarette, breaks off the conversation, apologises, then makes the bedtime call to her two-year-old son, Milo. 'Have a good night.' Her voice sings, in that Manhattan fairytale whisper so familiar on screen. 'I'll see you in the morning when you wake up. Bye-bye.' She then tells me her husband, Royston, is 'a beautiful dad' and how, when Milo was first born, Roy had 'an amazing talent for getting burps out'.
This whole scenario feels quite strange. I used to know Roy Langdon and his older brother, Antony. We're all from Leeds, growing up in Headingley, and the last time we really spoke was a long, long time ago now. Roy, not much over 18 or 19 then, was a young, talented musician, running errands for the company his dad worked for, and I was hitchhiking down to London to become a journalist. Roy picked me up at the start of the M1 and dropped me off nine miles later at Woodhall services, just outside Wakefield.
Roy and Antony moved to New York, formed a band called Spacehog, had a big billboard chart hit called In The Meantime, supported the Red Hot Chili Peppers on tour, became very much a part of the New York cool kid scene and mixed with the likes of Sean Lennon and REM's Michael Stipe. The papers said Antony was going to marry Kate Moss; Roy married in the Caribbean in 2003.
I eventually made it to London that day, started writing for magazines and would often hear, second hand, through friends, newspapers and gossip columns about their new lives. It's strange to think that here I am now, sat in a photographic studio in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, interviewing Roy's wife, the movie star, Liv Tyler, about their marriage, celebrity friends, Betty's Tea Rooms in Harrogate and Ilkley, West Yorkshire, and Roy's parenting and burping skills.
Liv receives a text message. Roy is on his way, she tells me. We talk about Leeds and the differences between her upbringing and her husband's. Liv Tyler comes from pure rock 'n' roll stock. Her mother is the former model, singer and Seventies super-groupie Bebe Buell, and up until the age of 11 Liv thought Buell's partner, rocker Todd Rundgren, was her father. That was until she met legendary Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler at a Rundgren concert and, well, given their striking likeness, it didn't need a blood test to determine that Buell's former lover was in fact Liv's real biological father. Contrast that to Roy's solid, northern roots and no wonder the pairing intrigues outsiders. But what do they know.
Although the rumour about them setting up home on the moors of Ilkley has 'never been true' - they're quite happy in New York - Liv loves her husband's home city. 'Everybody's so sweet and polite over there,' she says. 'I put Milo in a pushchair and walk down to the shops in Headingley and go to the grocery store and to the park and go for jogs with my iPod on and I do crazy exercises at the playground that I make up on my own. It's really great to see where Roy's from and be with his parents.'
Does she ever visit the famous Betty's Tea Rooms in nearby Ilkley? 'Oh, all the time!' Ask her nicely and she'll even give a faultless impersonation of a Yorkshire lass. 'Yur what? Eh!' she screeches, and you could be waiting in line at Bryan's fish 'n' chip shop just off the Otley Road.
Not surprisingly, given her background - although she was raised in Portland, Maine, she grew up travelling cross-country, living with different relatives - you're left in no doubt that Liv Tyler, while comfortable with her star status, cherishes the stability her relationship brings and enjoys the contradictions of blending life in New York with regular visits to West Yorkshire. A more unselfconscious Hollywood actress you couldn't wish to meet; whether by necessity or design, you get the feeling she's grown fond of, even nurtures, the incongruous aspects that colour her life, but which might send others diving for the therapist's couch. Like how, despite appearing in memorable films like Heavy, Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune and gracing one of the most successful blockbuster franchises in the movie history, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, she gets shy in big groups of people.
'It's funny because I don't actually like to be noticed that much,' she admits. 'I get a little uncomfortable when a lot of people are looking at me. I get major stage fright - I've almost passed out before. Once in Cannes on a press conference for Armageddon, I was sitting at this big board table with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck and journalists were asking loads of questions. I was just smiling and sitting there and all of a sudden a woman raised her hand and asked me a question. I went completely white as a sheet and literally crashed into this tunnel. I almost fainted, which I have done a few times. I think it was Ben who, later on, said, "Oh my God, I thought you were going to die!" He saw all the colour drain from me completely.'
And she finds big premieres really scary. 'You get out of the car and your knees are trembling. I always feel shaky because there's so many people looking at me and I think, "God, I'd better impress them. Just don't trip! Can you walk straight?!"'
This month sees her back on the big screen for the first time in almost two years, since the birth of Milo, in Reign Over Me, a film about a New York dentist, played by Adam Sandler, coming to terms with losing his family in the horror of 9/11. At the same time, in her capacity as the face of Givenchy, she's also promoting a new lipstick, Rouge Interdit. Ever since the days of Audrey Hepburn, Givenchy has always been associated with American film star iconography, so it's understandable the company should ask Liv Tyler, the very definition of natural Hollywood beauty, to front their campaign. There are 24 shades of the lipstick, she tells me without prompting, before opening her make-up bag to reveal a hoard of Givenchy goodies. 'I have a great supply,' she gleefully admits, 'and so do my family and friends.'
There's an ethereal quality to Liv Tyler, both on screen and off, that is as wonderful as it is hard to pin down. Maybe she feels the same way too. Having never taken an acting class in her life, there have been times during the past two years when she considered never acting again. She contantly questioned her career choices: 'Am I really good?' 'Is this really what I should be doing?' 'Then,' she says, 'when I did go back to work, I had this amazing new feeling that I've never had before. I would say I feel more excited about my love for acting than I ever have.'
Did you ever consider doing anything else? 'I do think about other things and fantasise...' About being a rock star, maybe? 'Definitely when I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a singer, but never pursued it. My mum was a singer in a band and my dad was and so was my stepdad, Todd, and I was always around that. I loved watching them perform.'
Can you sing? 'I don't know. I mean, I can sing, but I don't know how good I am.' You and Roy could be the Sonny and Cher of new millennium. Liv laughs. 'I don't think he'd want to be in a band with me. He calls me Jeanine all the time, from Spinal Tap [the overbearing Yoko Ono-style stereotypical rock star's wife]. He's like, "Alright, Jeanine!", because I come up with all these ideas and stuff.'
It says a lot about Liv Tyler that her face lights up when we discuss Roy and his musical career, as opposed to her own endeavours. 'I love watching him perform. Not in the wings, but in the audience. They always bring us to the side of the stage. I start there and then within five minutes, I'm like, "I can't do this, I have to go down the front."'
What about all those girls screaming at your husband - is that a turn-on? 'That's great, so great. I love it. I mean, yeah. Roy's such a quiet, shy, soft-spoken, sweet person and then he gets on stage and he has this amazing, huge voice. And my dad... I'm always just so blown away when I see my dad perform. There are moments when he can stop singing and holds the microphone into the audience and there's 7,000 people singing the words to his song. It's such a beautiful thing.'
In a cutting from Interview magazine several years ago, before she was married, Liv talked with her friend Drew Barrymore about carrying a camera with her everywhere she travelled, trying to capture moments of happiness in her life. What was that about, I ask. 'I used to do it a lot more,' she says, while one of the Marie Claire shoot team removes her make-up. 'I used to record all my answer machine messages and keep the ones that were really special. And I would take a lot of pictures. We have so many boxes of photographs in the attic.'
Why, though? 'I've always been kind of nostalgic. I think that when there's a really beautiful moment happening, something that makes me really happy, that idea that it's so temporary and it'll only last for a minute... I just love the way it makes me feel and I sort of want to feel like I can access it and feel connected to it forever... but I guess you can't,' she trails off. 'You only have you memory.'
I ask the big question: is the reason you've stopped collecting because you're in a more a settled place in you life? 'God!' she exhales, in a jokey fashion. 'Freud! I don't know! What do you think?'
Roy arrives. We shake hands, and then we both forget we're from Leeds and we hug. I make a loose attempt at continuing the interview with Liv and then she and I are both grateful to give up. She's suddenly turned into just a girl, three months short of 30, re-applying her make-up, endearingly embarrassed at her pimply skin, picking her nose because, 'It's running. I have to clean my schnozzer before I get a new face on.'
Me and Roy talk nostalgia, catch up on his brother Antony, mutual friends, his new band Arckid [Our kid, geddit?] and how Joaquin Phoenix is shooting their new video. Roy is self-deprecating and modest, just the way I remember. Softly spoken, his accent belongs to America now, but occasionally a Yorkshire vowel slips out. He tells me that Milo's the best thing that's ever happened to him.
We sit there while Liv shows off two black dresses the Marie Claire stylist, Lucia, has left behind for her evening out. The both of us agree on the shorter of the two. 'Wow,' says Liv to those left in the room, 'the boys like it! Decision made!'
Liv is in her high heels and now, stood together, she towers several inches above Roy's head. Roy starts to jump up and down making a joke of his height deficiency. He laughs about taking a wooden crate along for the benefit of the paparazzi. This isn't normal Hollywood behaviour and I'm relieved and glad at the same time.
They have to go to a dinner party. I was without a car and writing this now, I'm thinking it would have been nice, remembering Woodhall service station, just to round things off, had I asked Roy for a lift back to my hotel in West Hollywood. I forget. Instead, we swap phone numbers and promise to catch up some time in New York.
Liv's style file
Are you a shoes or bag girl? I've just been given bags by Alice Temperley and Prada which I love and I think I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I'm not that fussed about shoes because I just wear my Converse All Stars or Lanvin flats.
What's the most expensive item in your wardrobe? I have some diamonds, and also some really special, one-of-a-kind couture things that Alexander McQueen and Givenchy have made me.
What do you never leave home without? My cellphone, baby wipes, a pacifier and a little make-up - Givenchy powder, mascara, Rouge Interdit lipstick in True French Red. Then there's my iPod and scripts. And I'm a big lip balm fan.
Any particular brand? I have Dr Hauschka and La Mer, the world's most expensive lip balm - it costs $100. Milo loves to eat it.
Who is your fashion icon? Oh my goodness. Lots of different people... Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Marianne Faithful, my mom...
What's the best beauty tip your mother ever gave you? Moisturising, probably. My mom has some great make-up tips because she's really, really good at it. She can put the most perfect eyes on in the dark. She knows her face so well.
Top three beauty must-haves? Givenchy Prismissime face powder, Very Irresistible Givenchy perfume, and lip balm.
Who are your three favourite designers? I really like Alexander McQueen, Chloe, Stella, Lanvin, Alberta Ferretti, Dior, Marc Jacobs. And that's just for starters.
Do you ever shop on the high street? I like Anthropologie in America and TopShop - we don't have that in Manhattan. And Helena Christensen has this store in New York, Butik, that's filled with Danish stuff that I love.
Top three songs right now? Oh my God, I could never pick just three. I listen to Roy's music a lot, and at the moment I'm really obsessed with Gram Parsons and the Kings of Leon.