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Tyler holds her own against male co-stars in McCool's

by Joshua Mooney, Chicago Sun-Times, May 2001

As she sits down in a Los Angeles hotel room, actress Liv Tyler shows off an impressive piece of jewelry. She stole it, she says, from fashion designer Stella McCartney. Well, OK-she didn't steal it, Tyler admits. It turns out that Tyler and McCartney are pals, and the jewelry was a gift. "But I had to beg for it," Tyler says.

It's no surprise that the American Tyler and the British McCartney are friends with similar taste in baubles. Both are famous young women in their 20s, at the top of their respective fields. More to the point, both women have legendary rock stars for dads. Tyler, 23, is the daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler (her mother is former model Bebe Buell), while McCartney is, of course, the daughter of Beatle Paul and his late wife Linda.

Although Tyler didn't grow up with her rock star father, she did inherit his charisma and outgoing personality. By 14, she was a working model, appearing in magazines such as Seventeen. Before she was 17, she had made her feature-film acting debut, co-starring in the Bruce Beresford film Silent Fall. She turned out to be a gifted actress. In a relatively short time, she has given fascinating performances in films such as Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty and Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune.

The young actress also has flexed her blockbuster wings, appearing opposite Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis in the 1998 adventure hit Armageddon. But Tyler has a knack for exploring quirky avenues in offbeat, smaller films, and she has done so again in her latest, One Night at McCool's. The black comedy, directed by Harald Zwart, also stars Matt Dillon, John Goodman, Michael Douglas and Paul Reiser.

If that sounds like an awful lot of macho male talent to go up against, well, it is, and Tyler does so gamely indeed, as the film's main female character. The entire "Night" is pretty much Tyler vs. the guys-with Tyler coming out ahead. She plays the aptly named Jewel, a sexy and scheming woman who discovers how remarkably easy it is to wrap several men around her fingers at one time, to attain the house of her dreams. McCool's has an intricate and imaginative structure. The film is one tale told from several perspectives, changing slightly with each telling. In the case of McCool's, three men discuss how their lives have been affected by the wily, deceptive and utterly intoxicating Jewel. Randy (Matt Dillon) is a bartender at the local watering hole McCool's. Lawyer Carl (Paul Reiser) is a customer. Detective Dehling (John Goodman) shows up there to investigate a crime.

Because each man sees himself, the other men, the events of the night, and, most of all, Jewel, from his own perspective, the audience faces an interesting situation: We know that each version of the story shades the truth and isn't quite "reality." But then again, we never do see the real "reality" on screen. This structure made the film an intense challenge for the actors, says Tyler, as they were required to play several versions of their characters.

"One of the things I loved about the film is the fact that you only see their three different points of view," she says. "It's all about projecting-which is something I could really relate to. We all do that from time to time ... You see someone and you imagine what their life is like, and how they would make you feel. I liked the idea that these guys are projecting what they wanted Jewel to be, and she's going along with that, to get what she needs from them. But she's also giving them something they're missing from their lives."

At 23, Tyler is about to expand her on-screen profile significantly. She is one of the stars of the highly anticipated Lord of the Rings fantasy film trilogy, the first episode of which will reach theaters at the end of this year.