by Jane Mulkerrins, Red magazine, July 2014. Photos by Max Abadian.
She's friends with Gwyneth and Stella, likes to drink beer in the afternoon, and would love to exercise more if only she could get her shit together. Jane Mulkerrins hangs out with Liv Tyler and discovers a down-to-earth goddess.
Liv Tyler and I are debating oyster etiquette. "Really? You just swallow yours straight down?" she asks, a little incredulous. "You have to chew them, so you can taste them properly," she insists, picking up a particularly plump, juicy one in its shell, dousing it with mignonette and tipping it into that famous, generous mouth, before gleefully chomping down.
Not wishing to disappoint, I bravely follow suit. Tyler looks delighted and raises her half-pint of beer in a toast of celebration. I'm discovering that the 36-year-old actress, model and mother-of-one is an extremely fun lunch date indeed.
I'd already had a hint that she might be when, a few days earlier, an email arrived suggesting we meet at her favourite local dive bar, on the edge of Manhattan's West Village – an impressively low-key request for an A-list Hollywood actress. When I turn up, however, on a sunny Tuesday lunchtime, chairs are stacked on tables and a cleaner is busily hoovering up last night's detritus.
Tyler arrives a moment later and we make an alternative plan, heading to a rather more upscale establishment, The Spotted Pig, a stylish New York spin on a gastropub. And in the space of just a three-block, five-minute stroll together, as passers-by pretend not to stare and workmen call out to her, I get a small taste of life in Tyler's fishbowl.
"Anonymity is like gold to me – it's so valuable and precious – and I love places where I can relax and not worry about standing out or being looked at," she tells me. Unbeknown to us both, however, paparazzi are lurking a little distance away, and the next morning, pictures of us simply walking to lunch are posted on Mail Online.
Even dressed down, as she is today, in her hipster-regulation
black jeans, her favourite black Converse, a trench coat (albeit
Burberry) and Ray-Bans, Tyler is catnip for photographers,
hidden or official. With her big, blue Disney eyes, china
complexion and those unfeasibly pouty, pillowy lips, she
began modeling aged 14, though she quickly changed her
focus to acting, "l just didn't like being told what to do - I have
a hard time with authority." she laughs. "In films. I'm very
happy to serve directors because I really
respect them. But when I was modeling at
14 or 15, and just had to stand there and look
pretty and not talk, I didn't like that so much.
Everyone thinks of me as being softly spoken
and quiet, but i have a lot of opinions and run
very bossy. I think I'm quite a tough cookie.
I guess it's because I have a soft speaking voice."
It's true: her voice is girlish and breathy,
though not self-consciously so, but I'd venture
that it's also her manner, which is thoughtful,
mellow and open. Still in her teens, she starred in
independent films Empire Retards and That Thing You Do!,
before seducing Jeremy Irons - and every member of her
audience, male and female - in Bertolucci's dreamy comming-of-age
story, Stealing Beauty. In her twenties, her ethereal
looks made her the perfect casting for Arwen in the Lord
Of The Rings trilogy, and she started in other big-budget
smashes including Armageddon and The Incredible Hulk.
In her thirties, however, Tyler seemed lo step
back a little from films. "Ever since Milo was born, I haven't
really been making many movies because I just can't
imagine being away from home for long periods of time."
she explains, as we settle into a corner banquette in the
restaurant. The dive-bar plan may have been aborted but
Tyler, who knows the menu here like the back of her hand,
has ordered locally brewed beers for us both, along with
a dozen oysters and chicken livers on toast. "I know they
sound disgusting, but they are so delicious and really
naughty and decadent." she urges. "Everything's delicious
here, but really fattening, and I'm on a diet."
Her son, Milo, whose father is Tyler's ex-husband.
Royston Langdon, of the British band Spacehog, is now
nine years old. "My measure of success is how good a parent
I can be, and the life that I can make for Milo, and part of
that is creating stability," she continues. "My mum was very
young  when she had me, and she didn't necessarily have
all her tools in her toolbox - she wasn't married and didn't
have her own home. We moved around a lot, between New
York and Maine - with a lot of love, I'm not complaining
but it was hard, and the thing that motivates me and makes
me feel good about myself is to know that I'm giving Milo
stability, and can watch him thrive and flourish."
It is hardly surprising that stability should be something
Tyler so openly aspires to for her own family. The daughter
of model Bebe Buell, she famously only discovered that Steven
Tyler was her father when she was IO years old, after meeting
him at an Aerosmith gig and noticing a resemblance between
herself and his daughter Mia. She had, until then, believed her
father to be Buell's on-off long-term partner Todd Rundgren,
also a musician. "Perhaps I shouldn't think this way but, from
a very young age, I had this idea in my head that if you are
very successful in your career and you're giving all of your
attention to that, then your family life will not..." she pauses
for a second, and covers her eyes with her hands. "I need to
word this in the right way," she says. "The life of your family
possibly won't flourish as it might. But when you focus on your
family and you put that first, then your career
suffers in some sort of way," she continues,
with a wry smile. "I can live with the career
part not going so well, I think, but I don't think
I could live with my family not being happy."
This summer, however, she will make her
small-screen debut as Meg, a troubled young
woman, in high-profile new HBO series The
Leftovers, also starting Justin Theroux. Filmed
here in New York, it has meant, for the first
time, that she can take on fulfilling work and
still be a hands-on mother to Milo. "It's a steady job, and
that's something I've never had before, and it feels like such
a luxury," she says excitedly, "And on the days I don't work,
I can pick Milo up from School, take ballet classes, play guitar,
go to the country... have beers on a Tuesday afternoon."
She also appears to have an admirably functional
relationship with her ex-husband, who she divorced in 2008
after five years of marriage. "We're still family," she nods. "We
spend a lot of time together and make plans together; our
lives revolve around each other and we rely on each other."
To the extent, in fact, that Tyler and Milo spent last Christmas
with Langdon's family in Leeds. "We had the best Yorkshire
Christmas - it was so under the radar, it was great." she fizzes,
extolling the virtues of Royston's mother's mince pies. She
admits that a search for some stability, plus her accelerated
journey into an adult career, led her to settle down young,
marrying Royston at 25, and having Milo a year later. "I think
that when you start working at such a young age, by the time
you get to your midtwenties, you feel what most people
probably feel in their mid-thirties or early forties," she notes.
"Everything is accelerated, so when i got married and then
got pregnant with Milo, I felt so grown-up."
Tyler is, however, sanguine about her divorce. "I grew
up in a very bohemian environment, and I always
knew that it's a natural thing to love someone very
much but, for whatever reason, sometimes who you
are as individuals makes it difficult for you to stay in
love forever, or even just live together forever," she
sighs. "But I'm completely devoted and dedicated to Milo and
to our little family, no matter how eccentric it might seem to
others." Having grown up as an only child herself, she would
definitely like to have more children. "I'm 100% planning on
it, but the dock is ticking," she says, though she doesn't seem
overly anxious. And in terms of romantic relationship status,
she coyly says she is "not without love just now", smiling and
twisting her long dark hair around behind her head.
These days, she has solid relationships with both her fathers,
Rundgren and Tyler. "Todd's always on tour, and he's such
a 1970s rock star that he'll arrive in town and ask me to dinner
that night. I can never get him to let me know a few days in
advance." She raises an eyebrow in affectionate despair. "And
my dad is actually coming this week to do something with Milo
at school, which I'm really looking forward to." The notion
of rock god Steven Tyler turning up on grandparents' day
at school is certainly a delicious one. While her mother has
recently relocated from New York to Nashville, Tyler has a
strong network of supportive girlfriends - "the family you create for yourself",
as she calls it - including Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney.
"I see Stella whenever she's here, and we have a weird, crazy conversation,
say 'I love you' and then she's jetting all back to London. She's got four kids,
and a million businesses, " she says in awe. "And Gwyneth's just really good
at everything. She's very organized, whereas I'm far more sensitive and adaptable. She's good at structure and routine
and schedules, whereas I get lost all the time. I'm always late and always rushing."
As we tuck into the chicken livers on toast (as promised, far
more delicious than they sound) and a second beer, I enquire
why she's on a diet - most women would kill for her figure: tall
and curvy but slim. "I'm kind of always on a diet, to be honest."
she confesses. "There's just a level of self-discipline that I have
to have when I'm working, in order to feel comfortable in my
clothes. And this winter was hard - I'd set an athletic goal for
myself, but when it came to it, I just couldn't quite get my
shit together." She does Pilates and works out with a ballet
instructor, Mary Helen Bowers. "She comes over to my house
and We do a whole series of crazy butt things and ab things
and arm things. In just a couple of days I feel better about
myself. It's really important with exercise to find the thing
that wits your body," she notes. "I want to be good at boxing,
but it's too quick for me. And running!" she exclaims. "I want
to run, but I fucking hate running." I ask whether the self-consciousness
brought by the presence of paps, on streets, and on beaches in
particular, bothers her. "It's certainly not fun to have them there.
No matter what you look like I'm sure we all feel
vulnerable in a bikini. I'm very cautious when I am on beaches now." On a recent
Tyler family holiday to Hawaii, while Steven strode around in bright yellow
shorts ("He is just not discreet at all,
he looked like a pirate wizard," she laughs), Tyler demurely
donned leggings and a vest. "I was very pale, and just didn't
want my picture taken in a bikini at that point. So I wore
a lot of clothing, and I had a ball. You can be smart about it."
She is also in the process of buying a country house upstate,
where she and Milo can roam around in blissful privacy. "The
city's my home but I also long for the country existence," she
says. "I come alive. I get a little bit more eccentric and wacky -
I'm just totally myself. I don't think about what I'm wearing
and i feel like I can be the mother I want to be." The decision to
buy the home - after decade of thinking about it - also signals
a new stage of liberated independence. "The years go by and
you're more clear about who you are, and the things that
work for you. You're no larger thinking about what you want
your life to be, but actually making it what you want it to he."
She glances at her watch and apologizes; she needs to
collect Milo from school. "I'm no longer waiting for some
man to ride in on his white horse and take me to the country,"
she smiles. "I'm taking myself to the country."
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