Liv Tyler interview
Slick Devil Movie House, August 2011.
From the moment she appeared in the Aerosmith video Crazy fronted by her father, Liv Tyler has been in the hearts of males and has established an excellent career with lead roles in Hollywood blockbusters like Armageddon, Lord of the Rings, and The Incredible Hulk as well as challenging roles in smaller fare like Super and Heavy. In the majority of these films, Tyler plays the object of someone's affection, but none are showcased as strongly with the repercussions shown in her latest film The Ledge.
In The Ledge, Tyler plays Shana, a recovering drug addict married to the man who helped her on her path. While he's completely devout in his faith, Shana, while loyal to him, slowly discovers she isn't as devout as he. It's triggered when she meets her neighbor Gavin, an atheist who develops feelings for her, and she begins to feel the same, resulting in a potentially deadly triangle that will end in the loss of a life.
To promote The Ledge, the Movie House and a roundtable of reporters spoke to Tyler about the film, working with director Matthew Chapman, shooting on a tight schedule, and talks about her legendary father in this exclusive.
Q: Does your character in the film give new meaning of the term "To Die For?"
LIV TYLER: (Laughs) Never quite used it in the way of this film that's for sure.
Q: Is it a coincidence that in Super you also play a recovering drug addict who leaves her husband for someone else?
LT: That was a complete coincidence, yes.
Q: What was it about Shana in The Ledge that you really responded to?
LT: I actually met Matthew Chapman the director over four years ago for the first time. I read the script and just had never read anything quite like it before. I was intrigued by the characters, their flaws, and all the things that they are going through. They tried to get the movie made and years later it all just came together at the last second. I happen to be good friends with Charlie Hunnam. One of my best friends is the cinematographer. All of a sudden, I felt left out of the movie. I kind of shouted out, "Oh my God, The Ledge, Shana, wait!" Then Matthew heard I was asking about it again and he wrote a very nice letter telling me that I was always his vision for the character. He asked me if I would get on a plane to Baton Rouge and make a movie with him. I packed my bags four days later and left. It was a very small budget, very few days to shoot. There was a lot of material to get done in such a short period of time but it was worth it.
Q: How was it working with Charlie being that you two were already friends in blossoming a relationship?
LT: Really good. How do I describe Charlie? He's a very thoughtful, stand up guy. He was raised very well in an English way. He's just a good man. He's very considerate of everyone around him. He's very hard working. He cared a lot about this project. I know he worked a very long time with Matthew to get this made.
Q: When you first read the script, were you taken by Shana right away?
LT: Yeah, I was very intrigued by her. I actually at that time had never played a part like that before. Just the complexities as a younger woman I might not have understood her in a way I do now. I think the thing that resonated so much with me and the reason why I made this film is that in life we are so quick to judge others, like you're quick on what someone is by what they wear or what they believe in. Yet you really have no idea of what someone has been through and who they are. Life is long and complicated. In religion and politics, some people have very strong beliefs. We might not always understand them. I recognized that in my character and in myself while I was playing her for a month in Louisiana that we're all just trying to cope in life and find a way through good and bad situations. Those beliefs that these characters have. Gavin, Charlie's character, believes the way he does because of loss and pain. He lost a belief in something bigger than himself because he's so hurt. Patrick Wilson's character, Joe, has this sort of opposite thing he's put all his focus and attention in redeeming himself through religion. After doing this film, I'm not so quick to judge people as I used to.
Q: Do you keep a character, especially one who's as complex and deals with many emotions like this, with you after filming is done?
LT: Yeah, I mean coming home from filming is always intense. Not only because you've spent this long amount of time as another character but because you're working so intensely. Nothing else exists in your world other than making that movie so when it's over you're definitely feeling a sense of loss or readjustment for sure. It does take a while to shed some of that head space the character occupies for that time. It's also very exciting and great to be done with it and move on.
Q: It was such an intense role, at the end of the day, did you all try to lighten the mood to get out of the heavy handedness?
LT: We just didn't have any time. We shot this film in less than a month. We would work and work and work. There was a lot of dialogue to do each day. We would generally go home, memorize the next day's amount of dialogue, and go right back to work. When I could, I liked to go to the corner bar, have a whiskey to relax and listen to the jukebox. We didn't much letting our hair down.
Q: There's a lot of good non-verbal looks you do in the film.
LT: I do?
Q: Yes, your reactions to everything around you was very well done.
LT: Thank you.
Q: Was that something you had talked to Matthew about beforehand or was it just being in the moment as an actress?
LT: It's not that calculated. I am the character and I'm just observing the situation so whatever happens... happens. I might have an idea sometimes about a specific look or manner I want to go to, "Time for Look #31," but generally it's really not that thought out.
Q: What did you think of the notion that Gavin has in the film that the idea of seducing a woman is to put an idea into their heads. You think there is any validity to that?
LT: It depends on the situation I suppose and who the man is.
Q: Do you think it's a male fantasy for that to happen?
LT: Maybe but that's up for Matthew Chapman. He wrote it so he would know better than I would. Obviously he believes that. It's an interesting question. Putting it towards Shana, it's just that she's so locked up in her world. I felt that she never trusted herself or her own instincts because if she did the things she wanted to do it would lead her to a very dark and bad place. I think she's very repressed. Just the idea of that and sometimes that happens in life. Male, female, old, young, you just don't understand it but you have a chemistry with them. I think that it's quite scary.
Q: Do you think that Shana is in a way a savior for both Gavin and Joe in that they view her as a way to make their lives better but their points of view are black and white. Was it always like that in the script and did you all find a way to bring balance to the relationships?
LT: I would say that I feel that the actors brought more substance to it. I didn't see them as completely black and white. I think that's what comes through in the story, the idea of "Don't judge a book by its cover." What you see is what you get. It's not very true in this situation because they've had such colorful experience. In that moment of debate, maybe their views are black and white but that comes from the amount of pain they've all experienced.
Q: Without giving away the film, in the final act, there's an emotional scene involving your character that is gut wrenching and difficult. What kind of direction did you prepare for that?
LT: Actually to be honest, Matthew and I were not on the same page that day. I got angry at him at one point because the shooting schedule was so tight, I sat bound to a chair with a ball in my mouth literally for about six hours and didn't get a close up until they said "Sorry we have to wrap now. This day is over." I had maybe a minute to do all that performance. It was so rushed and not fair in a way to me. I was really mad about that.
Q: You were purely tortured to do that scene?
LT: Yes but I didn't have to stay tied to the chair all day. I did that for Patrick because I wanted to be able to be fully present for him. Making movies this small when you really don't have a lot of time is hard because at the end of the day all the creative people want to make the best movie possible but producers want to make the cheapest movie possible. I don't mean that in a critical way. It is what it is. There's no more money. When it's the tenth hour, there is no overtime. You have to walk away and it's really hard sometimes. You didn't get to finish everything that you wanted to. To let it go is really hard.
Q: What is your thought that being this was made in a short time on a Super low budget, you've kind of transitioned lately from Armageddon and Lord of the Rings, blockbuster films, to smaller scale films like this and Super. Do you find working on these smaller budgeted films more challenging?
LT: Well it's interesting because a lot of these films might not get made if they weren't made in that form. That's great because these interesting projects are being made. It was fortunate for me to make The Ledge and Super. The film I had done before these two was The Incredible Hulk and I had taken a year off after that film. It was really interesting because on The Incredible Hulk we could go double and triple time to shoot for 24 hours if we wanted to and had all the money in the world to some extent. To make a movie like this where every single person is on set because they're passionate about it is very thrilling because it's these people with this set amount of days and GO! There's a thrill in that to test yourself in that and see what you can get done.
Q: Speaking of The Incredible Hulk, are there any plans of returning to play Betty in The Avengers?
LT: I don't know. I don't think so. I kind of know some things but I can't answer them.
Q: Have you read your father's (Steven Tyler) autobiography?
LT: I started to read it. It's a funny thing reading your parents' life story. My mom has a book too and it's just one of things where as a human you want to know more about your parents but as the child of a rock star, you want to just think ignorance is bliss.
Q: Are you surprised he was a judge on Americal Idol this year?
LT: I wasn't surprised by that at all. I'm surprised by him. He surprises me all the time with what he'll think of next. He's magical, crazy, and I honestly felt so proud of him as a person because as a family we had a rough couple of years. It wasn't easy but he pulled himself out of a very tough place. I know it wasn't easy for him at all but he got through it. For Idol to come up and for him to be brave enough to do it at his age to do something different. I see him really happy right now. He's so full of life and it's great to see many people discover his personality for the first time. I didn't even know that people didn't know that part of him.
Q: What's coming up for you?
LT: I'm not sure what's coming up. I have not been so focused on making movies in the past couple of years because of some personal stuff. Nothing bad, just personal stuff. I moved to Los Angeles with my son and then we moved back to New York. He just started kindergarten this year. I haven't read a script in six months because I don't want to be away from him. I want to create some stability for him so just now I'm starting to read scripts again. I have a couple of things that I'm attached to which I hope will get made soon but other than that it's just family life.
Q: Thanks Liv and best of luck with The Ledge.
LT: Thank you.