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I'd rether feel sadness & loss than not have lived at all
by Lorien Haynes, UK Eve, November 2008, Photographs by James White, Scans by Levenia
Newly single Liv Tyler tells Eve how she combines motherhood and movie stardom - and reveals what makes her go weak at the knees
We were all truly shocked when Liv Tyler and her husband of five years Royston Langdon announced their separation in June. Theirs seemed one of Hollywood's most grounded, real relationships. They'd been together 10 years, married in the Caribbean in 2003 and, despite her A-list status and his success in Brit rock band Spacehog, they remained a couple who kept out of the public eye, who focused almost exclusively on raising their son Milo, three, and who seemed genuinely happy.
For Liv, she'd always said she wanted a grounded family life, unlike her own. She is from pure rock and roll stock; her mother, Bebe Buell, was the definitive groupie and a Playboy coverstar who revealed, when Liv was 11, that her father wasn't the man who had raised her (US rock musician Todd Rundgren) but Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler.
Now 31 and reconciled with all three of her parents, Liv is having to embrace life as a single working mother and, talking to her today, you realise people's perception of her as an ingenue (Stealing Beauty) and ethereal glamazon (Lord Of The Rings) deserves a rethink. Having spent the last three years as a hands-on mother, she's grown up, and though this may have taken the romance out of her relationship - she says 'There's not much romance; you don't get so much time together' - she's confronting life head on and going back to work. Dressed down today in soft yellow shirt, jeans and a slight gold chain, she's forthright and direct, but you can see she's most at ease when she talks about her son Milo; here she melts and you see the real woman underneath.
With The Incredible Hulk and The Strangers, you've been very much back to work Liv, but how do you feel about the two years you took off to spend as a full-time mother? I was sort of nesting and I loved every second of it. I'd been working non-stop since I was 14, so it was important for me to have that period away. During the pregnancy and Milo's birth I was in bliss; having that break and just being a mommy. I was offered two things I really wanted to do, just after he was born, but he'd have been three weeks old so that was a no.
Was motherhood a shock at all? I don't think you can prepare for motherhood. Roy and I had our dog, Neal, first. We got him as a puppy and, until Milo, he was our child substitute. We wanted to know what it's like when a being is completely dependent on you.
We heard Roy was very good at burping Milo as a baby!? Roy had an amazing talent for getting burps out. He's such a beautiful dad.
And now back at work - how are you managing the work/life balance on your own? Milo always comes with me on every movie. And I spend as much time with him as I can. Say I'm night-shooting and I've been up all night and I get home at 7am and he's just waking up, I'll stay up with him for a couple hours and cook breakfast and cuddle and then I'll slip off to bed. I'm lucky, he's a really cool little dude - very self-assured and quite independent, and he knows I'm there if he needs me.
Are you trying to give him a more conventional upbringing than the one you had? I love my parents, but I've never wanted Milo to be brought up in the same way as me. I'm not attacking them for it, I just wanted t different way for my son. When I was growing up I really wanted a more conventional life. Like when I was really young, I used to tuck all my dolls in before I went to bed and I loved cooking and sewing. Even when I made my first bit of money from acting, I bought a lamp and a couch from a home store in New York. I wanted furniture; solid things, rather than clothes.
Has your current separation helped you to understand your parents' relationship at all? I have more empathy for my parents now. As a child I didn't understand why that would happen - how that could happen. Everybody had a different interpretation (of the situation) and how they participated. And you know what? I'm OK with all that now. All that matters is whatever kind of relationship I can have with them today.
How are you going about providing consistency for Milo? Well, my life is ever-changing, so the most important thing is that Milo knows I'm always there. We do live a little bit like gypsies in that we are home in New York for a few months and then we make a new home on set somewhere for three months. And Milo always says, 'That's mommy's work' when he sees a motor home, because he thinks I live on a movie set. He thinks, 'Let's go play in mommy's trailer and bring some toys and we'll have a ball'. But my opinion is, it's best for him to be close to me and it's better for us to be together.
Have you changed since you had him? Oh yes. I get confused because sometimes I can't tell if it's just because I'm a mother, or because I'm a woman now. I started working when I was a child. It happened so quickly: 'I want to be an actress when I grow up,' and suddenly I wasn't a grown up, but I was an actress. A lot has changed for me in the past year since I turned 31. I know a lot of it had to do with being a mother. I'm realising and discovering myself more. But my attitude to work has changed, too. I've been making the decision to work consciously and hand-picking the things I've really wanted to do.
Are you a strict or a laid-back mum? I don't really have to be strict, he's a really good kid. I'm not afraid to say no to him if he wants something. I'll reason with him and I'll say: 'OK, you can watch one episode of Scooby Doo but not four and that's it.' And when he starts to cry I say, 'I'm sorry and we'll watch it again next week or tomorrow,' and he's cool about that. To me, if you give them options it makes them feel like they have a little bit of a say.
And as a newly single mum, what's your downtime like? We live quietly in New York. I like going to the farmers' market and buying eggs that were laid that week, or making food for Milo. He's never had food out of a jar. My dad Steven has some chickens on his property in Boston. When we're there, I'm standing in front of the coop, urging the critter to 'Come on, lay an egg!' And Milo's obsessed with cars and tractors right now. During my days off I have to drive him around in this little golf cart, which he calls a tractor. Me - I don't go out much. My favourite nights are staying in, watching TV or going to a movie and eating popcorn. I'm just a normal girl who wears Converse trainers and plays with her baby!
And how do you feel about the possibility of falling in love again? I say to myself, 'Maybe I should be more guarded and protect my heart,' but I just can't do it. I'd rather live 100% and fully feel the sadness and the loss than not have lived at all.
Is it true you can get terribly nervous in public? Yes. I get major stage fright! I've almost passed out before. Once, at the press conference for Armageddon in Cannes, 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 [Affleck] who, later on, said, 'Oh my God, I thought you were going to die!' He saw all the colour completely drain out of my face.
And how are you with the red carpet then - terrified? Well, you get out of the car and your knees are trembling. I always feel shaky, because there are so many people looking at me and I think, 'God, I'd better impress them. Just don't trip! Can you walk straight?!'
Who are your designers of choice for big nights out? I have some one-of-a-kind couture things that Alexander McQueen and Givenchy have made me. And I really like Chloe, Stella, Lanvin, Alberta Ferretti, Dior, Marc Jacobs and Topshop! And Helena Christensen has this store in New York, Butik, that's filled with Danish stuff that I love.
You and Helena are friends. What's she like? Helena's a talented photographer and a great mother [to Mingus, eight]. And she is always totally laid back - contrary to myself! She also cooks incredibly well. I love her soups.
You look great. How do you take care of yourself? I have a real routine, I was raised that way by my grandmother and my mom. I would always wash my face before bed and put cream on and floss my teeth. I do lots of special treatments every day now. I put on masks and cream - I'm like a chemist! I have a whole cabinet of stuff and use it depending on how my skin is doing. A little Creme de la Mer around my eyes always does wonders.
What are your favourite beauty products? I'm a big lip balm fan. I have Dr Hauschka and La Mer, probably the most expensive lip balm at $80. Milo loves to eat it!
How do you deal with the whole pressure to be stick thin? We are all insecure about our bodies. As a teenager I was chubby, I had a perm and braces and I was obsessed with my weight and tried every new diet until I decided to enjoy life. Sure, I would like to be slim all the time, but that's not my nature - and I've finally settled with that. I belong to the body type who gains two kilos on the spur of the moment within two days. Honestly! When I shoot a movie, I lose weight. When I don't work, I enjoy the good things and gain weight. Though I have to say I looked like Moby Dick in my pregnancy!
How did you lose the baby weight? I didn't try to lose weight after I had Milo, because I was breastfeeding, but before I could even go out to LA for meetings about work, I suddenly had 20 pounds to lose and it was tough. There is no trick to dieting. For me it took a lot of exercise. I went to the gym every day. Sometimes I would see my personal trainer twice a day. I also did different diets and fasting, and eventually after a few months, it was gone.
And what do you do to stay in shape now? I've been home for the past couple months and I've been working out almost every day, like 5 days a week, with my trainer, David Kirsch. We go running a lot - at six in the morning - and, on his advice, I've given up on the fries-and-hamburger diet!
What is the most important thing you've learned in life? That I am like a horse, I need to be worked or run every day. I really like hard work, in everything I do in my life. I need to feel like I am accomplishing something every day, be it as a mother, a woman or actress.
And the best thing that's ever happened to you? So many great things have happened to me in my life and career, but I never had this sense of accomplishment until I had Milo.
And if we could grant you a wish today, what would it be? A house with a yard! In England, all my friends have these houses with gardens, but in Manhattan it is all so built up. I definitely want Milo to have nature around him. That was so important to me, growing up - being in the woods, making up stories and playing around. I would love to have a yard. I'd like to get up in the morning and roll around on the grass with him.
And how do you feel about the future as a single mum? Right now, I'm just trying to be the best mom I can be and dealing with a lot of personal things. I've got a child and I'm a tough cookie and I know I can do this.