by Harvey Marcus, UK Marie Claire, March 2012. Photos by Marc Hom. Scans by Rianon.
It's been a rollercoaster year for movie star, rock'n'roll
royalty and model Liv Tyler. Here, she talks
about juggling stardom with the school run and
trying to keep her feet firmly on the ground.
Leans in a little closer, inclines her head, then,
quite unexpectedly, urges me to enjoy her fragrant
hair. "Go on. smell it!" she demands, before dissolving
The 34-year-oold actress is here in her
capacity as the new Pantene Pro-V
ambassador, extolling the virtues of its
'Repair & Protect' range, and she takes
her responsibilities very seriously
indeed. "What do think?" she smiles.
"Smells good, yes? Let's make the whole
interview about you smelling my hair."
It's lunchtime in New York, and we're
sharing a table at a chi-chi Italian
restaurant called Sant Ambroeus, not
far from Liv's home in the West Village.
Neither of us fancy eating so, scanning
the wine list, she fills me in on the rest of
her morning which, other than listening
to Lou Reed while, she claims, "showering
especially for you" , mostly revolved
around the familiar stresses of motherhood
and seeing her seven-year-old son,
Milo, off to school.
being Liv Tyler, the school run usually
means bumping into Helena Christensen
along the way and, after saying goodbye
to their offspring, the best friends invariably
begin their day in the nearest cafe
with 'mom coffee talk'. Only recently, she
laughs, what with growing boys being
growing boys, son Milo has become
increasingly grumpy at the prospect of a
supermodel holding up his morning.
"He keeps asking whether we have to stop
and talk to Helena everyday!"
Our wine arrives, and Liv breaks off to
check u message on her BlackBerry. It's
from her father, Steven Tyler, the lead
singer of Aerosmith. "At long last," she
sighs in that wonderful wispy ribbon of a
voice, "he's got back to me."
Two parts starlet to one part homely
soul, Liv Tyler remains surprisingly
grounded for someone who, by her own
admission, has been through a lot in her
life including, in 2008, the end of
her five-year marriage to Leeds-born
musician and father to Milo, Royston
Langdon. It seems apt she's chosen to
renew her association with Pantene -
as a teenager in the 90s, she fronted its
original ad campaign - because much time
has been spent reflecting on her past
of late, working things out, considering
her priorities as both a mother and an
actress. Two years ago, she and Milo,
together with ex-husband, Roy, relocated
to Los Angeles, renting neighbouring
houses in Loz Felix, an old Hollywood
district not far from the Griffith Observatory,
that iconic landmark made
famous by James Dean's Rebel Without
A Cause. Last summer, they all returned
to New York, the city Liv has regarded as
home for much of her adult life.
"When me and Roy broke up there
were a lot of changes and it was just really
hard," she says. "We all moved to LA -
obviously, separately - just to get a new
perspective. I wanted to see what it was
like." And what was it like? "It was very
healing. I have a lot of really good friends
there. Then we came back together. I'm
always trying to figure out what's best
for him [Milo] as a person. The kind of
person I want him to be. The values I
want him to have. Much as I love my
friends and LA, I wanted him to have
more of an East Coast upbringing. The
sense of community. Walking to school
four blocks away."
Though the migration west offered a
change of landscape, the healing process
remains a work in progress. "I feel like
I'm learning every day how to get
through life and the world," she adds.
"Not just from the divorce. We felt that
way throughout my whole life, ever
since I was a young person. I've had a lot
of big things happen to me."
Her back-story has been recounted more than
a thousand times but remains as enduringly
fascinating as it does
fantastical. The daughter of Bebe Buell,
the colourful 70s model, Playboy Playmate,
singer and darling of numerous
rock stars (she loathes the term 'groupie').
Liv spent her early years growing up
in Maine, New England; a happy childhood
raised, alternately, by her mother,
grandmother and aunt. Throughout this
period, she was led to believe her father
was music producer, singer and song-writer,
Todd Rundgren. Then, aged 11,
backstage at an Aerosmith concert, she
was introduced to what transpired to be
her half sister, Mia. Even at that young
age, the physical similarities
they shared - those lips - were too many
to ignore, prompting Liv to ask if Tyler
was her real father. In later years, Buell
would explain her reason for keeping
Tyler a secret was to protect Liv from
the drug addictions that the singer
suffered at that time.
Given her own unconventional upbringing,
the wish to provide Milo with
stability is, she concedes, more acute
than most. "Absolutely. It's brought up a
tremendous amount of issues, concerns
and worries for me, being a mother, and
how much that meant to me based on
my childhood and what I went through.
Wonderful, beautiful things and difficult
things. It was always a dream of mine to
be a mother. I didn't ever really dream
of being an actress. I used to dream of
being a singer (she's recently recorded a
version of the old INXS song Need You
Tonight for a Givenchy advert), but I
always dreamed of being a mother ever
since I was a young girl."
Having been an only child. and just because
I'm interested, I wonder whether, growing
up, she had any imaginary
friends. "I had a blankie," she says with
wide eyes. "A blankie called Gigi. I don't
remember having a specific imaginary
friend, but I played by myself all the time
in the woods around Portland, Maine.
I was by myself a lot, so I definitely
talked to myself and made up my own
games. I used to wish I had a twin
really badly. I so wanted a twin. That's so
strange." Then you met your half-sister.
Mia. "Then I met my twin," she repeats,
as though the thought had never
occurred before. "Maybe all the time I
was missing Mia. But then I met Mia
when I was 11 and she looks exactly like
me. That is really weird."
Starting out as a model aged 14, two
years later, her father famously cast her
alongside Alicia Silverstone in the video
for Aerosmith's Crazy. In 1994, she
made her feature debut in Silent Fall,
but it was Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty,
paying a teenage ingénue who travels to
Italy following the suicide of her mother,
that really made her name in Hollywood.
Asked to list the highlights of her
career so far, Stealing Beauty figures
prominently, alongside the Lord of the
Rings trilogy. That Thing You Do! with
Tom Hanks, Heavy, Robert Altman's
Cookie's Fortune and The Strangers
which, though ordinarily impassive
towards the financial stakes involved in
movie-making, she confesses to "jumping
on the bed when I heard it made
$30m in the first
weekend when we were expecting $1Om."
The pressure to put her son's wellbeing
first has, she admits, governed,
to a degree, her recent choice of roles
the next movie she appears in will be the
idiosyncratic Robot and Frank alongside
Susan Sarandon and James Marsden
but, in answer to past rumours that she
ever considered quitting acting, she
responds, "I've never really stopped.
Even when I was a kid I'd work for a
year straight and then I would take a
year off. It always felt natural to live my
life again and store things up to put in
my next performance."
Nevertheless, she is not averse to
questioning the motivations of the
industry she's in and, attuned with a
weakness for overanalysis, sometimes
ruminates on whether she would have
preferred the Hollywood of old. "I wish
I was born at another time, so I could
have done big musical productions.
I would have been so happy. I'm very oldfashioned
in that way. I love being an
independent woman but, as far as the
movie industry goes, as a talent you were
more nurtured then. Secretly, I wish
I was owned by the studio."
She falls silent for a moment, relishing
the fantasy of it all. There is an
engaging dreamlike, ethereal quality
about Liv Tyler, a notion given greater
credence when she speaks in that tiny,
breathless timbre of hers. I've met her
before, on a previous Marie Claire cover
story, over five years ago. I know her
ex-husband, Roy, from back home in Leeds.
That evening, the couple were due to
attend a dinner party at the Chateau
Marmont and he'd driven by the studio
to meet her. They were running late, so
Liv politely ransacked the Marie Claire
fashion rail, gleefully parading a succession
of designer dresses while soliciting
both mine and Roy's approval and
opinions. One way or another, you get
the feeling Liv spends much of her life
trying on things, working out what best
suits her and, despite appearances,
remains confused by the options.
Back then, I never found time to ask
her about how I'd read that, while growing
up, she would 'save moments' on
her camera, thousands of them, all
kept in boxes. "I still do that," she
says, with some earnestness.
have thousands of pictures on my phone.
Why am I so fascinated with capturing
moments? I'll tell you why. Because I've
had so much change in my life. My whole
life things have changed constantly, so
psychologically I'm sure I'm quite sentimental.
I want to remember the feeling,
not only what it looks like. When it's
happening, it's so wonderful but I know
it's gonna change or not gonna last.
Everything changes so I want to remember
it because I feel grateful for it." Do
you ever look at them? "Not all the time.
Sometimes. Sometimes I go for very
long periods without."
For the past six months, Liv has been dating
photographer Theo Wenner, though she's
reluctant to expand on their relationship.
I ask whether I can say that she's
happy. She replies in the positive before
quickly adding. "Am I happy in love? I'm
still trying to figure love out. I'm honestly
still trying to figure it all out." What are
you trying to figure out, exactly?
"Everything!" she beams. But in all seriousness,
"Life and love and my ideals of love. And
what love really is. And how it works
and what it all means. I'm
actually really trying to apply myself to
understanding who I am, how I work,
what I've done in the past, and my childhood,
and how I am at raising a child.
What I saw as a child in love, the examples
I saw and how that affects who I am
today in love. All of those questions."
The responsibilities of
trying to be a good mother weigh particularly heavy
on her shoulders. "You can't help it," she insists.
"Every mother does it. I mean the thing
that I beat myself up about quite a lot is
the..." she pauses to consider her words.
"I'm very grateful that I didn't have to
grow up in the public eye and I got to
grow up in Maine and have a real childhood.
I do have my worries for Milo.
I mean, we live in Manhattan in a huge
house, and we have a staff, and we have a
very different life. He would be happiest
if we lived in the country somewhere,
just the two of us." But for the time
being, Liv maintains, she's content to let
the future work itself out. "I don't have
plans that are further than a couple of
weeks ahead. If I've learned anything
about life it's that you don't know what's
going to happen. I'd rather plan where
I'm going to be today."
This afternoon, she has to collect
Milo for a dental appointment but,
before she leaves, I enquire whether,
maybe, we should end the interview the
same way it began.
"You know you want to," she lights up.
"I conditioned it as well. C'mon, I've
never invited a journalist to smell my
Yes, I say, to her obvious delight. It
Liv's beauty hot list
RODIN OLIO LUSSO LUXURY FACE OIL "I use oils as my moisturiser.
I find this one particularly hydrating."
PANTENE PRO-V SPLIT END SERUM "I love this serum. It keeps my long hair in
great condition and I don't have to
worry about split ends."
DERMALOGICA DAILY MICROFOLIANT "I always exfoliate with this product. It's a
fine powder you mix in your
hands with water, then polish
away. It's wonderful."
BLISS TRIPLE OXYGEN INSTANT ENERGIZING MASK "A great pick-me-up for my skin,
especially when I am travelling."
GIVENCHY VERY IRRESISTIBLE EAU DE PARFUM "My favourite fragrance. It has a
deep scent - the key notes of musk and
patchouli work so well."
GIVENCHY HYDRA SPARKLING MAGIC LIP & CHEEK BALM "This gives such gorgeous colour. I take it
with me everywhere."
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