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Rock Goddess - Liv Tyler's guide to life
by Deborah Feldman, UK Tatler, July 2010. Photos by Lorenzo Agius, Scans by Lorna
Liv Tyler launched her career pole-dancing in her father's Aerosmith video. Now the model and movie star is divorced from her own rocker husband and waiting for the next bolt of romantic lightning to strike. She talks Betty Ford, babies and Bertolucci with Deborah Feldman
To live together, said Orson Welles, you need a very big house. Or, in the case of Liv Tyler and her siblings, you need the Betty Ford Clinic during 'family week'. It's there the Tyler clan recently united to support their patriarch, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, back in rehab after 20 years of sobriety. 'At the end of the week they told us we were the most beautiful pack of wolves they'd ever met because we all look so much like my despite having three different mums,' says Liv.
Her complicated heritage as the secret daughter of Steven Tyler and former Playboy Playmate of the Month and super-groupie Bebe Buell, combined with the statuesque, pouting-yet-innocent good looks she inherited from them, seized the public consciousness when she was still in her teens. Aged 19, she was cast by Bernardo Bertolucci as the lead in Stealing Beauty, his lyrical, Tuscan evocation of sexual awakening. He 'was overwhelmed by her erotic impact', and the veteran director's words proved prophetic - Tyler's luscious beauty has been celebrated ever since.
Roles followed in Armageddon, alongside Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, and in Onegin, opposite Ralph Fiennes. Her starry-eyed marriage to, and recent divorce from, British musician Royston Langdon have created speculation, but Liv remains serene and somehow otherworldly. No wonder her appearance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as Arwen, an ethereal 300-year-old elf princess, was so convincing - it seems it wasn't a stretch. That luminous quality is as present today, on the Tatler shoot in Switzerland, as it was during that production. 'Peter Jackson was an inspiration to work with,' she says. 'But it was completely all-consuming, and going back into my normal life was pretty intense.'
Mind you, her everyday life has always been far from ordinary. Liv was 11 when, after meeting the girl who turned out to be her half-sister Mia backstage at an Aerosmith concert, she asked her mother if Tyler was her real father. She excitedly shows me a picture of her half-siblings - Mia, Chelsea and Taj. 'It's insane, isn't it? Can you believe how much we look like him?' And she's right. They all have the lupine quality: piercing eyes, proud nose and full lips. Still, it must have been a shock. Liv had previously thought her father was the music producer and solo artist Todd Rundgren, whom Bebe dated for five years and whose name appears on Liv's birth certificate. But she's upbeat. 'It was exciting. I didn't see the bad side of it,' she says with a cheerful glint in her eye.
Up to this point, she'd lived in New York and Maine, being looked after alternately by her mother and her grandmother and aunt. 'I had a normal, happy upbringing,' she says. 'I played in the woods and climbed trees and had the influence of three very strong women in my life.' Once she discovered Tyler was her father, Liv assumed his surname and in 1993, at the age of 16, began her career, at her father's instigation. In Aerosmith's 'Crazy' video she was barely clad, skipped school, entered an amateur pole-dancing competition and seduced a petrol-station owner alongside Alicia Silverstone. The day after finishing high school, she flew to Italy to shoot Stealing Beauty: 'While most teenagers were in their own world, going through all sorts of angst, I had the most beautiful summer of my life and found what I really wanted to do.' She does concede, though, that 'it's only recently that I've been able to really relax and start enjoying my life'.
A smiling Liv, the face of Givenchy since 2003, prepares to have her hair and make-up done for our photoshoot. We are at the sleek Givenchy spa in the luxurious Le Mirador Kempinski hotel dramatically perched on a ledge overlooking Lake Geneva, where she spent yesterday doing promotional work, but she shows no signs of weariness, relaxed in green Monrow tracksuit bottoms and a black Etoile Isabel Marant T-shirt. Her five-year-old son, Milo, appears, wraps himself around her neck and helps choose her clothes for the day. 'He always knows what will suit me best,' she says. Despite having his mother's long, slender limbs (she's five foot 10), he's blond with a tiny button nose and looks more like his father.
She makes her own coffee, then gets ready for the day with a cocktail of antioxidants and omega oils provided by the spa therapist, who, she says, 'read my energy levels and said I was like the Energizer Bunny with an overactive brain from too much thinking'. She chats away to her friend and hairdresser James Brown, whom she met in New York when she was 13, along with close friends Kate Moss and model Lucie de la Falaise and her husband Marlon Richards (Rolling Stone Keith's son). 'We were babies when we met and really looked out for each other - now we're a family.'
Other friends include Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney, whose 'beautiful, magical place in the country' provided a retreat last summer after a G-Star shoot in Paris and a whirlwind tour of family and friends that started in Maine and ended in England with a visit to Langdon's parents: 'I am so grateful to his family and their eccentric, Yorkshire sense of humour.' Even her summers sound exhausting. 'What can I do?' she chuckles. 'That's my life and it's really fun. It's kind of non-stop, but I'm used to that and I'm a bit of a gypsy anyway. And Milo loves it.'
Following the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Liv filmed The Strangers and The Incredible Hulk before having Milo and 'refusing to work'. 'The thing is, I wanted to be a mother my whole life,' she says. 'I remember being six and knowing that I wanted to be a mum and used to have little troll and Cabbage Patch dolls that I would put to sleep at night.' Langdon had the same dream: 'He was a wonderful father and still is an amazing father. We were just so happy to have a beautiful healthy baby who is now such an amazing person.' Asked about the break-up, she remains polite, never dropping her gaze, and talks about something different. The tactic initially leaves me wondering if she heard the question. Eventually she says that she and Langdon are 'good friends who love each other a lot'. Maybe the passion just ran out. As she says later, she's a passionate person who's 'either very in love or not'. She's had two big loves. The first was Joaquin Phoenix, whom she dated after meeting him in 1997 on the set of Inventing the Abbotts - they made a hot, young couple.
Of both relationships she says it's 'been something magical that's brought us together. I fall in love once in a blue moon and it's really incredibly rare. That's not to say I don't see lots of cute boys who I fancy. But the boy you want to make out with is not necessarily someone you want to be with. If it's meant to be, it will be.' Friends have tried to persuade her to go on dates, but she's resolute. 'I wouldn't be capable of having a casual fling. I'm far too sensitive and I just wouldn't have any pleasure from it. Anyway, the magic happened with Roy and I'm sure it will happen again.'
Liv Tyler is certainly not one to dwell on the negative. For the moment she's left New York and is living in a rented house in Los Angeles, where Langdon and her half-sister Mia are nearby. 'I felt like I needed a bit of a change and felt sad to be in our house and go through all that. I needed something that was neutral and kind of new and not so emotionally connected.' For the first time in the interview, she seems distracted, fidgeting with her handbag and breaking off to have a glass of water before continuing. 'It's healthy for me right now. I'm trying to be really in the present and not planning too much. I used to be a really big planner and worrier and, if there's anything I've learnt in the past couple of years, it's that you never know what's going to happen or what tomorrow will bring.'
She has just finished filming two 'very, very small and independent movies' both in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Both will be released later in the year, though Liv doesn't trouble herself with release dates. 'I enjoy working on a project, and the rest you can leave to the universe.' The first, Super, is a comedy with Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon. The other, The Ledge, is only the second film by British director Matthew Chapman. Milo stayed with Langdon, his mother Cynthia, and then at Liv's godmother's house in Maine. 'It's the first time I've ever spent this long without him,' says Liv. 'It was really hard, but it's also hard bringing him back into the mix and working so hard - it's exhausting.'
Milo has been travelling with Liv for shoots in Paris and, now, in Switzerland. 'I wouldn't have it any other way, and he likes to be with me,' she says. Her own upbringing was very different, with her mother away for long periods of time. Bebe had a string of lovers, from Mick Jagger to David Bowie; Kate Hudson is said to have based her character in the film Almost Famous on Bebe. When I ask if they are close, she becomes more hesitant. 'What do you mean?' she asks, before reluctantly adding: 'My mum is hysterical. We have lots of fun.' After a little more encouragement, she offers an answer that seems rehearsed but nonetheless sincere. 'I find in my life my relationships with both my parents are constantly evolving and you definitely understand things in a new way and have a new perspective on things they went through in their youth. I see them now more as human beings than as parents, and I try to understand the struggles and things they've been through in their life. My mum is an amazing grandmother. She buys the best books, about dragons and dinosaurs, which Milo really wants to read. And Milo is obsessed with his grandfather. It is super-special too, because he has no idea who Steve is or who Aerosmith are, but he finds him so magical. Milo is simply addicted to his Papa Steve.' Not two words on might expect to associate with wild-boy rocker Steven Tyler, but ones she assures me he is entirely happy with.
Tyler has built an extension in his basement that his grandson has nicknamed 'Hawaii' because it's filled with Hawaiian 'tchotchkes' and music. Access is by stairs or slide. Liv throws her head back and laughs out loud: 'Then you go through a massive games room and a TV room, through two sliding doors into a huge glass solarium with an indoor pool where there's a little waterslide and a rope swing, and Milo begs me every day to go there.'
It makes Liv Tyler happy that Milo is just as cheerful at his grandparents' house in England, in a trailer with his mother or in luxury at the George V hotel in Paris. 'He really doesn't seem to notice where we are,' she says with delight, 'but it is important for him to have some type of routine.' She should know: with a less-than-average childhood herself, Liv Tyler, daughter of a rock legend, celebrated actress and world-famous model, still insists 'there's no place like home - as long as it's filled with family'.