Most celebrity children can't stay out of rehab (or jail). But for Liv Tyler, being the good girl is the only way to rebel.
When Liv Tyler was pregnant with her son, Milo, she and her musician husband, Royston Langdon, like many new parents-to-be, disagreed in their approach to naming their unborn child. "I really wanted to talk about the name all the time, and he just felt like he couldn't name a person he hadn't met yet," Tyler explains one rainy lunchtime at August, a restaurant in Greenwich Village, to which she shows up wearing a short sack dress, an enormous fake-fur hat, and green Wellington boots. In spite of Langdon's objections, Tyler made a list of names for boys and for girls, since the couple had decided not to learn the gender of their child in advance. "But when our son was born he didn't look like any of the boys' names that we'd picked," she says. "They were all a bit butch for him. He was very much a boy, but he was like this little angel, with big lips and blue eyes and blonde hair. We just thought of it."
The importance of a name is something that Liv Tyler has been aware of since her earliest consciousness. "I was embarrassed that my name was Liv," she said. "It wasn't like Jessica or something. All the pretty girls were named Jessica." Tyler may have been named for Liv Ullmann, the brilliant Norwegian actress and muse to Ingmar Bergman - a choice that seems auspicious, given Tyler's career. Yet her naming was more serendipitious than calculated - her mother, Bebe Buell, a model, party girl, and musician who was 23 when Liv was born, reportedly picked it because she happened to see Ullmann on the cover of a recent issue of TV Guide. (Had she come a few weeks earlier, Liv Tyler might have ended up Farrah Tyler.)
Tyler started out life as Liv Rundgren, named for the rock star Todd Rundgren, with whom Buell had a five-year relationship. Rundgren and Buell split up soon after Liv's birth, but the guitarist put his name on her birth certificate. Liv did not learn the truth of her parentage until she was 11, when she saw Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith, next to his daughter Mia (a year Liv's junior), and quizzed her mother about the striking family resemblance between herself and the Tylers. Liv first met Steven Tyler when she was nine: "It was at one of Todd's concerts," she says, still uncomfortable recounting the story 20 years and thousands of retellings later.
If Bebe Buell's early adventures in motherhood were chaotic, for Tyler, who was 27 when Milo was born, the birth of a child has provided an opportunity - an excuse, even - to take a break from an acting career that took off when Bernardo Bertolucci cast her in Stealing Beauty in 1996, while she was still in high school, and that reached its celebrity apex when she appeared in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy. "At the time I got pregnant, I wasn't 100 percent sure that acting was what I wanted to do," she said. "I wasn't sure that it made me happy or fulfilled me. The on-set, acting, working part was beautiful, but there are all the other parts that are hard for actors, like press junkets and endless traveling around and talking about yourself. All those things started to outweigh the pleasure for me. Milo came at the most perfect time for me, in that I just really needed to figure all that stuff out."
Not, she is quick to point out, that she stopped working altogether after her son was born. "I'm not a trust-fund kid," she says. "I mean, I have a cosmetics contract [with Givenchy], and I make a lot of money doing that, and I have to travel all over the world being like the Avon lady. I was reading a lot of scripts and going to a lot of meetings. And I was trying to get back in shape, so I went to the gym every day, sometimes twice a day." Tyler always knew she'd be a working mother. "I have to make a living," she says bluntly. "I guess I could sell my house and go live a really simple life in a trailer somewhere."
This spring, Tyler returned to movie screens in Reign Over Me, in which she costarred with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle; this summer she will appear in The Strangers, a thriller in which she and Scott Speedman play a married couple who are terrorized in their own home by a gang of intruders. "I was crying and screaming and hyperventilating morning, noon, and night while we were making it," she says. The movie was shot in a small town in South Carolina, where Tyler found it a relief to be beyond the surveillance of New York City paparazzi. "The director found this amazing bar called Therapy Now," she says. "On Friday nights after work, there was a woman who did karaoke there. There was a horrible PA system, and we all sounded terrible, but we had so much fun. Having been pregnant, it was over two years since I'd had that many drinks or sung or danced or gotten wild at all."
In spite of her parents' rock-and-roll lifestyle, or because of it, Tyler's own youth was relatively tame, her transgressions limited to skipping subway turnstiles and going to clubs before she was old enough. "I never had that much to rebel against because my parents were always so kind of cool," she says. "I mean, what could I do? Run away and smoke a joint and go to rock concerts for the weekend? I mean, that's all they ever did." Her rebellion has been to take the opposite tack. "I've always been super-responsible and hardworking and kind of a worrier," she says.
She's been married for four years and bought her own home when she was just 23, a run-down townhouse in the Village that she and Langdon spent three years restoring. Her only run-ins with the law have been collecting garbage-violations tickets from the sanitation department - tickets that are undeserved, she is quick to point out. "Other people come and put their garbage in front of my house," she complains. "I keep getting these fines, and it's not my trash, and there's nothing you can do. Can you imagine what would happen if I went down to the court to fight $100?"
These days, Tyler is a member of the exclusive club of "children of": Her close friends include Stella McCartney; Sean Lennon; and Kate Hudson, whom she met years ago in Los Angeles and with whom she now has playdates, Hudson's son Ryder being 11 months older than Milo. She and Hudson have worked together: They were lovers in Dr. T and the women, which was directed by Robert Altman. "She plays a woman who is about to get married, and she's completely in love with me," Tyler says. "We were always so shy about the kissing, but in retrospect we were like, 'We so should have just totally made out and tongued each other.' But we never did; we were so scared."
Unlike many other children of celebrities, Tyler's upbringing was a relatively modest one, even if she was going to rock concerts at the age of eight. She spent most of her early childhood in Portland, Maine, being raised alternately by her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother, depending on who was available. For much of her childhood, Tyler says, her mother's unconventional ways were mortifying to her. (Buell was famous for relationships with rock stars: among them were David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, and Elvis Costello.) "My mom would drive me to school in a little blue Volkswagen Bug in the morning in her nightgown, with these big, gorgeous sunglasses and her blonde hair, and some leopard coat," Tyler recalls. "I'd get out and be so embarrassed, and she'd honk at me and go, 'Bye, honey!' and I'd want to kill her."
Having followed her mother into modeling at the tender age of 14, Tyler has developed the professional beauty's dedication to looking good: "I'm kind of like a chemist," she says of her fondness for trying out beauty products. For the Allure shoot, she acquired a tan - her first ever, from a bottle - which, she says, she loved, though she is careful to protect her pale skin from the sun's rays. And on the subject of plastic surgery she says, "I'm definitely going to have some, I'm sure. Especially when you see what happens to your body after you have a baby."
As a child, Tyler says, she longed for a more conventional family, particularly during the years in Maine, where all her friends had two parents and lived in a house, while she and her mom lived alone in an apartment. "I haven't seen either of my fathers very much, because I never lived with them," she says, with a hint wistfulness.
She speaks of her parents with a fondness and a note of indulgence that is more commonly found when the older generation speaks of the younger. "I think there's a childlike quality to my mom and my dad," she says, "I don't know if I have it, but I see it in them so much." Tyler does not use words like forgiveness when she talks about her parents and the way in which their own youthful pursuits got in the way of being good parents, but her own maturity seems born of the experience. "I spent so much time trying to understand why things happened the way they did, or trying to understand what happened, that I created a vision in my mind of what my own life should be like," she says. "And I sort of woke up one day recently and realized that you can't control everything. You have to see where life takes you."
She has even discovered an appreciation for one of her mother's more public wild moments: posing for Playboy in 1974. "Recently, I asked my mom for an original copy of her Playboy pictures," she says. "When she did it she really ostracized herself from the modeling world. But it's so tasteful - you see a little bush, but not much. It was really beautiful. I couldn't believe her body, because our bodies look quite similar. I can see a lot of her in the shape of my face." A Playboy portfolio is an unusual legacy, perhaps, but for Liv Tyler, the unusual is only to be expected.
Who? Liv Tyler.
What? The July cover of Allure, shot by Michael Thompson.
When? April 18.
Where? At Lux Studio in New York City, not far from Tyler's town house.
Why? This month, Tyler costars with Scott Speedman in The Strangers, a thriller about a young couple terrorized by masked intruders.
Punching the Clock: Tyler amazed even herself by arriving a few minutes before the 10 a.m. call time. "I'm always 40 minutes late," she confessed. "I'll be all set to leave and something will happen with the baby. I'm never early."The actress wore a cable-knit Juicy Couture sweater over a Calypso tank, 7 For All Mankind jeans, and gold Lanvin flats.
Sleight of Hand: As she sat in hair and makeup, Tyler quietly clicked away on her Treo, but when makeup artist Stephane Marais applied a head-to-toe fake tan - a combination of suntan powder and moisturizer - she was quite alert. "I've never had my butt cheeks or breasts massaged by a makeup artist," Tyler said with a laugh. "I don't know how my husband would feel about that!"
Family Portrait: While Tyler was being photographed, Royston Langdon, her husband, strolled into the studio with their two-and-a-half-year-old son, Milo. After rolling around a basketball and climbing the stairs several times, Milo informed everyone, "I'm going to go see Mommy!" and marched on to the set. Tyler gave her visitor a kiss on the nose and tied his shoe, then included him in a few pictures before breaking for lunch. After the meal, Milo and Langdon left for Milo's afternoon nap.
Frameworthy: When the shoot wrapped, Tyler hopped in a car to get back to the family (she had an early flight to Los Angeles the next morning). A few minutes later, she was back in the studio. "I forgot the pictures," she said of the day's test shots. "I have an office, and I never put pictures of myself up, but for these, I would make an exception. It's inspiration to keep the body."