When Liv Tyler was cast as Arwen, the elf princess in the Lord of the Rings movies, she got so deeply into character that when she met with reporters at a chateau near Cannes, where the film's giant marketing campaign began, she seemed more like an elf princess than a movie star. Standing on the broad lawns overlooking the French countryside, she was the one cast member who had retained her memory of the movie's elf language, repeating a few words of what sounded like soft Gaelic, and she demonstrated the walk and posture of the elves, an ethereal alertness."It's difficult to be elvin all the time," she said. You're constantly poised and weird."
Poised and weird doesn't exactly sum up Liv Tyler, but the ethereal alertness has been a constant: the surprising delicacy as the object of desire in Heavy (1996), the sweetness of the girlfriend in That Thing You do! (also 96'), the smile of a little girl that made her so wrong for her role as the prickly beauty in One Night at McCool's (2001), the ext pout and heartbreaking overbite of the Rings cycle.
Tyler has had two beginnings in her life, She was born 32 years ago to Bebe Buell, a model and former Playboy centerfold (Miss November 1974) who named her little girl after Liv Ullman, who had been on a recent cover of TV Guide. Bebe told Liv that her father was the rock star Todd Rundgren, a fiction that Liv exposed when she was nine years old and realized that she looked an awful lot like a different rock star, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. Mom eventually owned up, and Liv Rundgren changed her name to Liv Tyler in 1991.
She had an unusual beauty - she's been voted the second greatest natural beauty in movies, after Audret Hepburn - a look that reminded many people of Elizabeth Taylor. "Its cool to be compared to her, but honestly, who gives a damn?" she said.
But for a while, her beauty was her calling card. She started public life as a model most famous for her appearance in 1993 in a video of Aerosmith's song Crazy (along with another rising start name Alicia Silverstonce).
Her ethereal poise won her roles in a couple of films before she made her breakthrough in Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty as the young American seeking love and mystery in Italy, one of three films she made in 1996. ("I was just a kid," she said later. "I'd done a couple of movies, but I'd never been to an acting class in my life.")
It was an innocence that served her well the following year, as the sexually cautious sister in Inventing the Abbotts, co-starring with Joaquin Phoenix, with whom she had a three-year romance. She later married rock musician Royston Langdon; they have a son, Milo.
Hollywood wasn't sure what to do with this otherworldly beauty. She did two movies with Robert Altman, disappearing into the ensemble but holding her own.
Kevin Smith cast her in his blue-collar romance Jersey Girl in 2004, when she had become slightly puffy - "I've been told that if I'd lose weight I'd have more work, but I refuse to submit myself to those standards," she once said - but she seemed too earthbound. She was the girlfriend in the big-budget blockbuster Armageddon (1998) and The Incredible Hulk (2008), and she co-starred in The Strangers, a home-invasion thriller that proved she could look terrified when necessary.
You can't blame her, though, It's difficult to be elvin all the time.