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Liv on UK Marie Claire
Love? I'm still trying to figure it out

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 into laughter.
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.

However, this 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.

"Obsessively, I 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 hair before."

Yes, I say, to her obvious delight. It smells good.

Liv's beauty hot list

"I use oils as my moisturiser. I find this one particularly hydrating."

"I love this serum. It keeps my long hair in great condition and I don't have to worry about split ends."

"I always exfoliate with this product. It's a fine powder you mix in your hands with water, then polish away. It's wonderful."

"A great pick-me-up for my skin, especially when I am travelling."

"My favourite fragrance. It has a deep scent - the key notes of musk and patchouli work so well."

"This gives such gorgeous colour. I take it with me everywhere."

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