Liv Tyler has got a big head. It's 12ft high by 7ft wide. Occupying most of the bottom half of this head are Liv Tyler's Luscious Lips. You can't miss them. On the film posters that are plastered along La Croisette, the main promenade in Cannes, south of France, Liv Tyler's Luscious Lips have taken on sofa bed proportions. If they really were this big, she could have a few friends over to stay and neither of them would have to sleep on the floor.
Liv Tyler's ears are around the side of her head. They never get much of a look-in, which is a shame because they are quite lovely, dove-tailing perfectly into that gap at the top of her jaw line. I mention this because one of them, in real life, is about to be pressed up against one of mine. Up close, Liv Tyler - the non-poster, flesh and blood Liv - smells of soap, shampoo and cigarettes. She has already cadged two Marlboros off me, and I don't even smoke. Her publicist has warned me that Liv is a nicotine fiend who never seems to have any of her own. We are on the balcony of an apartment overlooking the beachfront, two flights of stairs from a bar and tobacconist - and to avoid interruptions, I have brought along a spare packet for fuel stops.
Liv sparks up, draws in deeply and settles back all loose-limbed into her chair, pushing her hair back behind her ears. Those ears. One of which, in case you'd forgotten, is just about to be rubbed up against one of mine.
"I've got the same model," she announces, spying my camera next to the fag packet. She picks it up, holds it out at arm's length, jams her lovely ear against mine and pushes the button. It doesn't get much closer than this, believe me.
Liv is in Cannes to promote Stealing Beauty, Bernardo Bertolucci's coming-of-age film about an American who goes to Italy to find her father and lose her virginity. Liv's face is plastered all over town, on billboards and in shop windows. When she and her mother landed at Nice airport yesterday, they were greeted by paparazzi in a major feeding frenzy. Liv pulled out her little Olympus and started firing back. Because of the buzz surrounding her, the film company have organised two polite bruisers as bodyguards. Liv has never had a bodyguard before and she thinks they're really cool, like everyone should get a pair. Last night on the way to a dinner at Bertolucci's villa in the hills, Liv's limo was even given a police escort. "I was laughing my ass off," she smiles. "It was like we were some sort of mafiosi."
She lolls her head to one side and locks me with an inquisitive stare. The blue-green eyes are another part of the Tyler scaffolding that get overlooked. I hold the eye contact. It's not too uncomfortable. "So," she says, sparking up a second Marlboro, "what did you think of the movie?" I tell her, without lying, that I enjoyed it. "I like to know what people think," she adds, almost relieved. But when it's her turn to be interrogated, she starts off on the defensive.
Example. You seem very confident. What are your insecurities? "None of your business. What are yours? What are you afraid of? [Laughs] Ask another question."
What do you do to cut loose? "What do you do to cut loose?"
See friends, have a few drinks, go to a club. "I hate clubs. I love to party in the company of people that I love to be with, and do anything that makes me laugh. I love to be home and cook feasts and drink wine. I love to cook."
One of Liv's closest friends is Marlon Richards, son of Rolling Stone Keith. As she loosens up, she chuckles, recalling a piece of film that Marlon's father gave him: unseen footage of Bob Dylan and John Lennon in the back of a car after a gig. "They were taking the piss out of each other, and Bob was out of it, obviously really fragile. But it gets to the point where he just turns round and pukes out the window." She stretches the word "puke" for full onomatopoeic effect.
Puke stories make Liv laugh. She swings between worldly caution and childish exuberance with almost schizophrenic ease. There's something raw and refined about her. "One minute she is like a 13-year-old, then next she's like a femme fatale of 25," observes Bertolucci, who knew she had something special 30 seconds after they met.
Liv Tyler is more than special. Liv Tyler is Turbo Totty. In Italy, where Stealing Beauty was released and enthusiastically received earlier this year, they were nicking film posters as fast as cinemas put them up. At a Cannes press conference this morning, she was snuck in through the back door while journalists outside fought for a place in the auditorium. If this behaviour worries her, she doesn't show it. When she was younger she used to hang out at New York's rougher clubs, like Octagon and Emerald City, where stabbings, shootings and punch-ups were all part of the evening's entertainment.
Did you ever have a curfew? "Curfew? Schmurfew!!"
You never had one? "Oh yeah, when I was younger. Not now. I am really responsible. My mom used to make me come home at 2am, and I would. But if I didn't, it wasn't because I was doing something dreadful. It was because I was out having a lovely time and I didn't want to come home yet. Or I was at friend's house, sitting around doing nothing, and my mom would be calling all of New York City looking for me. I'm kinda glad she did."
Part of Liv's worldliness comes from her mother Bebe, who appears to have dated most of the rock'n'roll hall of fame. So Liv grew up in a music-business environment, with all its quirks and excesses and with people like Michael Stipe, Elvis Costello and the Rolling Stones stopping by the house for the odd barbecue. It also helps your sense of what the world is all about if you have, as Liv has, three fathers: one Real Dad (Aerosmith's Steve Tyler), one Surrogate Dad (Todd Rundgren, who looked after Liv, as Steve was in no fit state for fatherhood) and one Stepdad (singer Coyote Shivers, who married Liv's mother four years ago). She keeps Rundgren as her middle name, lives next door to Coyote and Bebe, and shares beauty tips and girl talk with her biological father, who's become something of a best friend since she found out about him when she was 11.
"We're so open," confesses Steve Tyler, "that at times I get embarrassed by the things we talk about." He is, of course, referring to sex.
When did you first learn about sex? "I was born knowing everything about sex."
That's a first... "I don't remember the birds and bees stuff - but it was always talked about and seen. It wasn't something hidden from me. Sex in movies wasn't hidden from me. I saw what it looked like and knew that's what people got up to."
How would you describe your attitude towards sex? "I'm not at all prudish..."
What about love? "That's private."
Is it true that you were offered a part in Showgirls? "So my mum and my agent say. It never got as far as me."
The Showgirls call-up arose from her pole-dancing routine in the video for Aerosmith's Crazy. The script called for Liv and co-star Alicia Silverstone to kiss each other. With tongues. It was cut at the insistence of Liv's mum, who didn't want Liv to go the sleazy route. At 14, Liv modelled for Vogue and Versace, but it didn't sit well with her. She wanted to hang out with friends and eat french fries, not worry about how she looked. While shooting a jeans advert in Venezuela, she made a conscious decision to explore acting. She made it her goal to have done at least one film by the age of 18. Her ambition nearly ground to a halt when she refused to sign an emancipation contract for her first film, Silent Fall, because it meant dropping out of school. Liv re-negotiated the contract. She has made Empire Records (as a virgin who hangs around a record store), Heavy (as a girl with musician boyfriends) and a cameo appearance in Woody Allen's latest film (which didn't make the final cut). And she has just finished a role in Tom Hanks' directorial debut, That Thing You Do (as a girl whose boyfriend has a hit record). "She is," says Hanks, "an extremely well-grounded girl." He reckons Liv has made some astute career choices. "At her stage in the business, it's hard to say no to things because of the money, attention and glamour. She says no to all the right things."
Liv graduated from school two days before she started filming Stealing Beauty. And she celebrated her 18th birthday on set in Italy.
Were you worried that the film, about a girl out to lose her virginity, would turn out a bit... "A bit cheesy? A little brie? It was never a worry. Not with Bernardo. It didn't have a cheesy feel. But I do get worried about that. I am the Queen Of Afraid Of Cheesiness."
You spent three months filming in Tuscany. How's your Italian? "Every time I try to talk in Italian, they are like, 'Whaat??' I'm picking up a European accent now. Every time I go away I start to communicate differently. It's really strange. As soon as I get back to New York, it's like: 'Hey!! Hiya!!' I get all loud and slip back into American again."
How did you get on with Italian culture? "My mother went to get tampons in the middle of nowhere in Tuscany. In this village, there's eight old men sitting outside and she goes into the pharmacy. And they all came and looked at her, and the whole town heard 'tampon.' The word was on the street. They said they didn't use them because of religion."
One of Madonna's T-shirts said: "ITALIANS DO IT BETTER." Would you agree with that? "I don't know. I haven't been to enough places to know if they do it better or not."
In the film, your character loses her innocence to an Italian, under a tree, as the sun sets over an olive grove. Does it get more romantic than that? "Yes."
Would you care to elaborate on that? "No."
Germaine Greer says Tuscan men are the best. "The best lovers?"
Yes, they have incredible stamina, apparently. "Why? Can Tuscan boys hold out longer?"
They can't use condoms, so they can go on for longer without "going off." "There's a real art to it, then. Oh, that's interesting... What do you mean, 'can't use condoms?' That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard in my life."
Catholics can't use contraceptives. "Are you serious? What idiots... [She clasps a hand to her mouth] Oh God, that's sacrilege!"
Liv Tyler doesn't carry condoms. She's not given to what she calls "spontaneous moments." Rumours linking her with Stephen Dorff, Evan Dando and Leonardo DiCaprio irritate her. She has been allegedly cruised by Jim Carrey and Nicolas Cage, but she is very wary of the male species. She looks for honesty, which she says is hard to spot in most men she meets.
The man she most admires is Bertolucci. She says that she freaked out when they first met. "Then," she adds, "he soothed me. Nothing else will be as nice as working with him."
Tonight Liv will walk up the steps of the Palais De Festival on the arm of a revered director. She will be the focus of attention for an audience of seasoned film critics at the world's most famous film festival. She is not yet 19 years old.
Isn't it all a bit scary? "I'm only scared when people ask me if I am. So, I'm getting very scared."
As she stands up to take a breather, people on the grass below shout up at her. She waves. "You guys are killing me!" she laughs. And you can't help but hope that all this attention isn't going to spoil her because those huge French film hoardings out there on the Croisette are only the beginning. Make no mistake. Liv Tyler is going to be big. Very big.