Since appearing as the half-elven Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Liv Tyler sightings on the big screen have been rare.
After the birth of her son, Milo, in 2004, she took time off to enjoy something she calls her "greatest ambition" - being a mom.
But now she's back with two very different films. On Friday, Tyler co-stars in the creepy thriller The Strangers. Two weeks later, she stars opposite Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk.
Taking time off isn't a rare thing in the movie business, but getting back to work with a chilling horror flick isn't the norm. For Tyler - whose separation from her husband of five years, British rocker Royston Langdon, landed her more than a few headlines that had little to do with acting - The Strangers was a chance to blow off steam. And have some fun.
"As a kid I was really into horror movies," says Tyler, 30. "They were probably my favorite thing, which is so strange. I used to watch them all the time with my mom and I just loved that feeling of being scared, not knowing what's going to happen, sitting on the edge of your seat."
Tyler picked The Strangers out of a pile of scripts when the title caught her eye. "For some reason I thought it was a romantic comedy," she says. "I have no idea why."
Instead, it was a gripping tale of two people terrorized in their remote vacation home by a trio of masked intruders.
"I started to read it and I couldn't put it down," says Tyler. "It was not only a horror movie, it was a story about this couple."
Scott Speedman, best-known for his role as heartthrob Ben Covington on TV's Felicity, plays Tyler's boyfriend in Strangers. The film opens with the couple in turmoil - she has rejected his proposal of marriage - and their emotional wounds leave them exposed to the physical ones that follow.
Though the initial setup struck Tyler as realistic, the movie's darker plot line struck almost too close to home. When she was a little girl, Tyler's stepfather, rocker Todd Rundgren, and a girlfriend were real-life victims of home intruders.
"Some people entered their house and held them at gunpoint and tied them to chairs," says Tyler. "It was very scary, and I remember always hearing about that, and how these things can happen anytime."
So while the incident with Rundgren seemingly didn't affect Tyler's affinity for scary movies, she is acutely aware of how the film plays off our most basic nightmares.
"Everybody knows that feeling of hearing a sound, even in an apartment, and you think, 'What is that?' and you often go to look," she says. "Well, what if you went to look and there really was somebody standing in the room?"
At first, the intruders in The Strangers have the decency to knock, but their eventual penetration into the couple's home has been frightening audiences even before the movie opens. A scene in the preview trailer - Tyler smokes a cigarette by the kitchen table as a man in a mask enters noiselessly from the hall - has been eliciting gasps for weeks.
"Everybody says that moment just freaks them out so much," says Tyler. "And that makes me feel great. I really like that."
After shooting scenes that included "screaming, crying, hyperventilating, running, falling, bleeding and bruising," Tyler says she looked forward to unwinding after a long week's work on the set.
"Because I've been raising Milo and been such a mom for so long, this was the first time I've even really had a drink in three years."
The actress hung out with the cast and the film's writer-director, Bryan Bertino, in "this amazing little town in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina [where] Bryan found this amazing little bar that was just a tiny little hole in the wall called Therapy Now.
"You had to be a member and there were about five people there, and we would go every Friday night and play pool and drink shots and do karaoke," says Tyler.
"I hadn't had fun like that in a long time, and I kind of needed that."
And yes, Tyler ended up crooning a song by her father, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. "Bryan is Southern, so he knew all sorts of great country songs," says Tyler. "But one time we did a duet of What It Takes, by my dad, which was hysterical."
Tyler confesses she also enjoyed working with and getting to know Speedman, whom she calls "a fantastic co-star".
"I didn't even really know who he was," she says. "I'm the worst. It happens with all of my co-stars. I'm like, 'Who's that?' And then I have to go [on the] Internet and, like, Google them.
"Of all the male actors that I've worked with, he was such an amazing support to me," adds Tyler. "And I needed a lot of support because, firstly, I was a new mom. My son was only a year-and-a-half old, and this was really my first movie back. It was physically, emotionally and in every way draining for me."
To prep for hours of eluding intruders, Speedman dragged Tyler to go jogging. "It was a great crash course in being physically strong," Tyler says, adding that it came in handy for The Incredible Hulk.
"When I was hanging out of the back of a helicopter in a harness [in Hulk] I was like, 'Hey, no problem,'" says Tyler, who on June 13 takes over the role of Hulk's true love, Betty Ross, from Jennifer Connelly, who starred with Eric Bana in 2003's Hulk.
With two potentially big summer movies on the way, Tyler says her next stop will be the local cineplex near her L.A. home.
"I'm going to wait and go see ['The Strangers'] with my sister, Mia, in [a] movie theater," says Tyler. "I want to see it with an audience. I just can't wait to sit down with my sister, because we both like horror movies."