Liv and Let Live
You.co.uk, April 7th 2007
The first thing you notice about Liv Tyler isn't her beauty (she is, after all, the stunning face of Givenchy Cosmetics) or her stature (she's well over six feet in her heels) but her perfect, perfect manners.
Indeed there is something unexpectedly formal - and not a little old fashioned - about the way the 29-year-old actress shakes your hand, inquires after your health and proceeds to worry about whether you would like tea, coffee or iced water.
Everything about her - from the way she walks (as if she had spent years with books on her head) to the way she talks (the closest she gets to an expletive is the occasional outburst of ‘oh gosh!’) - is exactly what you would not expect from a girl whose heritage is pure rock and roll (father is Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and mother is rock muse and Playboy’s Miss November 1974 Bebe Buell).
But then, as she points out with a ravishing smile, she is also the granddaughter of Dorothea Johnson, author of The Little Book of Etiquette and founder of The Protocol School of Washington.
"My grandmother raised me to have good manners and it's something I find really attractive in people.
It's so rare and so nice when people do just follow the basic rules of etiquette, however clichéd, like acknowledging someone you meet for the first time, asking them how they are - it makes life so much easier," she says as she sits down to talk about the launch of the new couture range of Givenchy Rouge Interdit lipsticks.
Indeed Liv is so terribly polite that even though she is keen to talk about cosmetics (she is passionate about make-up and adores her role with Givenchy) she dutifully answers questions on a number of other topics most of which seem to lead back to Milo William Langdon her, two and a half year old son by her British musician husband Royston Langdon (formerly with Spacehog and now fronting, with his brother, a new band called Arkid).
Milo's arrival was a welcome interruption to a working life that had started when she became a model at fourteen and had progressed through to an illustrious acting career that has involved major roles in a trench of films including Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty and, most famously, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Liv played Arwen Undomiel).
Her decision to take time out to be with her son was, she says with a heartfelt smile, the best thing she has done and her return to work - next month sees the release of her first post-Milo film Reign Over Me (in which she stars with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle) has been like a 'rebirth'.
"I love being a mum, it's really absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to me. I think I had a lot of worries and anxieties about what it would be like to be the child of someone like me.
I didn't grow up with nannies - I grew up with my mom and my aunt and my grandmother and I was a little suspicious about what it would be like to get back to work and have a nanny and I was thinking 'oh gosh he is going to miss me so much' but he is fine.
I get a bit jealous sometimes because I think 'why don't you need me more?' but I guess taking all that time with him has made him feel safe and secure," she says. The only negative thing that Liv can think of in connection with her son is the weight she put on in the period in which she 'hibernated' with him for the first eight months of his life.
"I was not one of those women who just dropped pounds instantly when I was breastfeeding.
Actually I got so homely when I was breast-feeding, I was ravenous for horrible things like doughnuts and cakes.
And I can remember walking down the street one day - I was going to the nail salon - and Milo was probably 6 or 8 months old and a photographer took my picture.
I was wearing a very unflattering shirt that I had worn when I was pregnant and a pair of sweats and when the picture appeared in a magazine they ran a caption asking if I was pregnant again.
And when I saw it I was like 'Oh gosh I think the vacation is over'.
I had been working since I was 14 and I had never taken a break and when I had my son I really hibernated. I literally stayed in all winter with my son."
The paparazzi wake up call, she says with a rueful smile, really focused her mind on what needed to be done.
It was - contrary to the way other celebrities sometimes portray it - something of a battle to get rid of her extra baby-weight.
"I did a million different things. I would be on a strict protein diet and then a raw diet and then I would do colonics and fasting.
And I did Pilates and yoga and working out with my trainer. I rode my bike, I ran - I tried everything under the sun.
I have lost a good 10 pounds of pure fat and I feel great now. But even now that I am a size 6 (UK10) my back and shoulders are still broad so there is absolutely no way I will ever be a size 0.
I am really quite sensible about all that," she says with a little laugh (her conversation is punctuated by her low octave laugh).
The fact that Liv is so sensible can probably also be linked back to her grandmother who was, in a confused childhood scenario, the rock in her early life.
Until she was 8 Liv believed that her father was musician Todd Lundgren with whom her mother lived when she was born.
But it eventually emerged that Tyler was really her father. "I can absolutely remember when I met him when I was eight and I thought 'wow his hands look like my hands and we pick our cuticle in the same way and we walk the same way," she says.
As a child growing up in conservative Maine she felt like the odd one out long before she encountered her real father.
Although she adored her glamorous and witty mother Bebe Buell she longed for a 'mom' that would fit more easily into the conventional neighbourhood in which she lived.
Bebe, a successful model and rock 'muse' (over the years she was involved with, among many others, Rod Stewart, Elvis Costello and David Bowie) went on to marry twice (she is currently married to musician Jim Wallerstein). "It was difficult growing up in Maine. I mean my name was Liv and all I ever wanted was to be called 'Jessica' and my Mom would drive me to school in this old blue car wearing her nightie, her coat and these big, gorgeous glamorous sunglasses.
And if I was being a brat she would wait for me to walk half-way up the drive to school and she would hoot the horn and shout 'Bye honey!' and I just wanted to die.
Now I feel proud of those things and I adore those parts of her but I think all children have a desire to be normal."
Creating her own family life - Liv and Roy have a house in New York although she is currently based in LA where we meet - has, to some extent, given her the normality she craved as a child.
It has also, she says, given her a new perspective on her own parents.
"I have definitely made a lot of judgements throughout my life towards my parents and how they did things and why and now that I am an adult and a parent I understand a little bit more.
I know that we all make strange decisions at times in our lives and do things that people don't understand.
But if they are true for you that's OK and really I don't want to be a judgemental person," she says in a way that suggests that she was more resentful of her parents behaviour (her mother claimed that she put Rundgren's name on her daughter's birth certificate because Tyler was taking too many drugs and would have been an unsuitable father) than she has ever previously let on.
Liv remains close to both her fathers but admits that nowadays she puts her own family first.
Indeed recently she seems to have spent more time with Roy's parents - Cynthia and Chester Langdon - in their home in Headingley near Leeds than with her own rather scattered family.
"I adore them. It's so nice for me to stay with them because they are more of a normal family. I love Roy's mother - she is so beautiful and so elegant and an amazing cook - she has been teaching me to cook.
We do simple things like go for long walks and got to the pub and we eat and laugh and just relax.
And Milo absolutely loves them," she says. Milo's arrival marks a real life change in Liv's life both privately and professionally.
She is relishing being back at work (she recently completed two more films Smother and The Strangers which are due for release in the autumn) and is enormously proud of her involvement in Reign Over Me.
Liv plays a psychiatrist who treats Adam Sandler for post-traumatic stress disorder after his wife and children are killed in one of the planes involved in the 9/11 tragedy and although it is not a huge part it was very significant for the actress.
"I think people tend to see me as younger than I am and it was really nice for me - in a silly way - to think 'Wow I am finally playing a grown-up, a doctor.
I am not the ingénue, I am not the girlfriend, I am not dating any of these characters I am just a doctor and that made me really happy."
Liv also enjoys her other on-going starring role as the face of Givenchy Cosmetics in the advertisements for the company's make-up, skin-care and perfumes.
Although she was glad when she moved from modelling to acting she relishes taking part in the photo shoots for products such as the new couture Rouge Interdit range of lipsticks.
"I absolutely love make-up. I am a little old fashioned in that way, my grandmother and my mother taught me that you should always try to make the best of yourself," she says although today - apart from her favourite Givenchy Rouge Interdit and a dash of mascara - she is radiantly fresh-faced.
In the next few years Liv would like to expand her acting repertoire to take in more 'grown-up' parts and, hopefully, to one day have a role in a musical (she auditioned, she reveals, for Baz Luhrmann when he was casting Moulin Rouge 'I sat on a piano and sang Hey Big Spender but I didn't get the role').
She also harbours a desire to go back to school (she had mild 'ADHD' and dyslexia as a child and would love to learn more about history, art and literature) and, ultimately, she would like more children.
"But for the first time in my whole life I have no plans. I always had plans when I was a child - I suppose it was something I did to comfort myself in some way - and for the first time I am really happy about not having a plan.
Not knowing where I am going to live or what I am going to do and just enjoying the love and the security that I have ..." she says pausing for a moment as we part to shake my hand again and to inquire, in her kind, gentle voice whether or not I have an umbrella (its unusually wet weather for Los Angeles). Grandmother Johnson would be very, very proud.
Do you wear make-up every day?
Yes I never leave home without a little bit of blusher - I use Prism Again Visage in Elegant beige by Givenchy. It covers blemishes but its very light and translucent.
What is your favourite beauty treatment?
I love facials in fact if I ever gave up acting I would quite like to be a facialist.
What is your favourite beauty product?
When I'm really tired I slather Skin Drink Gel and Skin Drink Eye all over my face and just let it soak into my skin in a hot bath. It works miracles.
What is your best beauty habit?
Moisturise. When I was a little girl my mother would lather my whole body in thick cream after a bath and she would draw a duck or a little animal in the cream on my tummy. I always, always moisturise
What is your worst beauty habit?
I am afraid I smoke sometimes. I did give up for a long time when I had Milo but on my last film my character smoked and that was bad for me. I don't like it but I secretly love it. I know it's terrible.
Who has given you the most consistent beauty advice?
My dad Steven Tyler and I always talk creams but for sure the best advice has come from my grandmother via my mother down to me.
Who is the most beautiful woman you have ever met?
Oh Gosh I have met so many. My mother and my mother-in-law Cynthia are both beautiful women.
Which is your favourites shade of Givenchy Rouge Interdit?
I adore No 17 Rouge Cancan – a true French red. It's a beautiful beribboned object in my make-up bag.