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Liv on Red
Making my boho family work

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 [24] 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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