Live and let Liv
by Eileen Condon, The Irish News, April 1999
Liv Tyler has already starred in Hollywood blockbusters and been linked to her fair share of scandal, but she insists her feet are still firmly on the ground Being the beautiful love-child of a model mum and rock star dad its no surprise that Liv Tyler as found fame in Hollywood. However she tells Eileen Condon why working with an-all British cast on Plunkett and Macleane was such an enjoyable experience
Actress Liv Tyler is only 21, yet she has already taken the film world by storm. Leading roles in high profile movies such as Stealing Beauty and the blockbuster Armageddon has made her one of the hottest properties in Hollywood.
But it is the actress's life away from the big screen that could be straight out of a movie script. Her famous model mother Bebe Buell became pregnant with Tyler during a brief affair with Aerosmith singer Steve Tyler. The actress was brought up by her mother and until she was 11 she actually believed her mother's long-term boyfriend Todd Rundgren was her father.
Last year Tyler found herself the subject of further scandal when she had to deal with rumours that she was romantically involved with her Armageddon co-star Bruce Willis. And later she hit the headlines again after refusing to strip naked for a scene in Stealing Beauty. Her refusal incurred the wrath of legendary director Bernard Bertolucci with reports of a major bust-up on set. Actresses twice her age would find such scandals difficult to cope with but Liv is made of pretty sturdy stuff.
The young actress claims her ability to cope is a result of having discovered at a young age that her childhood had been a lie. "It was a tremendous shock," she says, recalling the moment she was told her real father's identity. "I had guessed it already from the sort of phone calls my mom had been making, you know, 'we have to tell her', that sort of thing. But it still came as a shock. I don't think I spoke for an entire day."
On top of having to cope with the life-changing revelation, Liv is now estranged from Todd Rundgren, the man who had brought her up. "The saddest thing in the whole episode is that Todd is not part of our lives at the moment," she says. "I think he was unhappy about learning the truth. He was a wonderful father to me when I was growing up and has nothing to hide." Liv admits that the whole experience has left her feeling older and wiser than her 21 years, but there's no doubt it has stood her in good stead for the feisty young women she tends to portray on screen.
That strength of character is particularly evident in her latest film, Plunkett and Macleane, a rollicking adventure of highway robbery and derring do. Liv plays Lady Rebecca, the defiant niece of the lord chief justice of London in 1748, who is entranced by the romance of England's most wanted highwaymen. She is the only American in a cast of esteemed British actors, including Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller and Ken Stott. The actress admits the experience terrified her. "My first memory of making the film was getting over the fear," she laughs. "We were all doing a script around a table, and it seemed that every single theatre actor in Britain was there. "Apart from Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller, there was Ken Stott, Michael Gambon and Alan Cumming. I felt that they were all wondering why the director Jake Scott had cast me. "My first day of filming was a scene in which Rebecca is lying in bed, in corsets and stockings, smoking a pipe. It certainly helped break the ice with the cast and when we see the scene in the film it adds some spice," she says giggling.
Although she's no stranger to sexy scenes Liv insists on having some control as to how they should be done even if that means having bust-ups with the likes of Bertolucci. "I'm afraid he did get mad at me," she admits, "He is after all king of the love scenes, with films like Last Tango in Paris. He didn't speak to me for an age but then presented the scene as I wanted. "But I did not win every battle on that film. He wanted me to pose naked under a tree, while my character is painted by an artist. I finally agreed to show one breast only."
Unlike her father whose wild living has been well documented Liv's steely self-control extends to her private life too. She doesn't do drugs, rarely drinks and spends most evenings at home in her New York apartment. Steve Tyler may have enjoyed the trappings of success but his level-headed daughter has no intention of going down that road. Her only vice, she claims, is the occasional cigarette but she quickly points out, "I'd never smoke in front of a young person. I would hate anyone to think I was some sort of role model and then begin smoking as a result."
And as for those rumours about Bruce Willis? The reality could be a little less scandalous since the forthright young actress makes it perfectly clear what she thinks of his superstar lifestyle. "He had three trailers all for himself on the set of Armageddon which I thought was a bit silly," she reveals. "All his entourage are from New Jersey and know him from his bartender days. We had lunches like you wouldn't believe, there was a Sushi bar, pasta bar, steaks and grills, all served in trailers as big as my apartment. "Then I went to Prague to film Plunkett and Macleane and it was much more simple. I was having dinner with lovely people like Ken Stott who would really make me laugh."