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Liv-ing in Middle Earth

Dreamwatch, August 2001.

Anyone who doesn't already know of actress Liv Tyler will certainly do so by the end of 2001. Possessing an unusual beauty, marked by one of the most distinctive set of lips in the business, the five-foot-ten-inch, blue-eyed actress with flawless porcelain skin is starring in one of the most highly anticipated film trilogies since Star Wars.

The Lord of The Rings is J.R.R. Tolkien's groundbreaking epic of good versus evil, extraordinary heroes, wondrous creatures and dark armies of terror, The first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, opens this December, with two further films, The Two Towers and then The Return of the King, released over the following two years. Making the first time an entire feature film trilogy shot concurrently with the same director and cast, the undertaking was one of the longest and unique productions in Hollywood history.

Having finished filming around last Christmas, Tyler says that the entire shoot lasted for a year and a half and she's happy to have some time to herself now. "We did the three films all at once, not in order, but all at the same time," she says.

"I'm just relaxing (we filmed) in New Zealand, so I was really far away a lot of the year. People don't realise what hard work that is... Sometimes I'd be there for two months and then I'd come home for a month. I went down there for a week once and came back. I, more than anyone, went back and forth constantly over the whole year and a half. I'm in all three films, but it was sporadic, whereas a lot of the other guys - the Fellowship - were there the whole time. It wasn't like coming to LA for work from New York. It was really far, but it was amazing."


Tyler feels the exhaustive traveling was worthwhile, as she became part of the world that was created for the film. "The whole experience was amazing," reveals Tyler. "It was really great to be there in this magical place. It represented The Lord of the Rings, too, because everything we were surrounded by was somehow affected by the film. There were hundreds of people working on it. I think we shot in every possible warehouse or big space there was to shoot in. We just kind of took the town over."

The town that Tyler mentions is Wellington, New Zealand, where much of the film was shot. "Everybody was so supportive and sweet and everything was so organic and home-made," she says. "Almost everyone that was working on the film was from New Zealand. Things weren't coming in from Hollywood. All the special effects, all the costumes, all the prosthetics, all the armour - everything - was being made there. Then there was another company in the same building, called WETA Digital, doing all the digital effects."

In order to bring the world of The Lord of the Rings to life, great attention was paid to detail from all aspects of production. New Zealand - based WETA Digital had the enormous task of making Tolkien's fantasy land of Middle Earth real and believable to audiences through the creation of convincing visual effects. The WETA Workshop began creating conceptual designs for the trilogy two years before filming got underway. With a crew of over 120 technicians, the workshop has every facility they require under one roof. For the production, a tremendous number of artisans were tasked with making realistic props; a team of over 50 people worked to handcraft each costume from scratch; the dialect and creative language coaches had the task of teaching the actors Tolkien's Elvish language; and experts in medieval arms choreographed the enormously detailed battle scenes.

The story of The Fellowship of the Ring centers around Frodo (Elijah Wood), a young hobbit and the nephew of Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). In his mission to rid Middle Earth of the powerful One Ring. Frodo finds himself caught up in epic events that will reshape his world. In the trilogy. Tyler portrays Arwen, the beautiful and bewitching elf who must choose between immortality and her love for Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), a human raised by elves who is am important member of the Fellowship.

"My story is with Aragorn and it's about our love and relationship," describes Tyler, talking about her storyline in the trilogy. "It's really beautiful and amazing. In the book, Arwen's only in it a couple of times and in the back of the book, there's a huge appendix and one of the biggest chapters is all about Aragorn and Arwen and they wanted to incorporate that more into the film. Tolkien didn't really write about women that much - though Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) is in it - and one of the only other women is the spider character (Shelob) who tries to kill Frodo, so it was nice to have some female energy in there. It wasn't like there were making it up, it was from Tolkien's story. It's this unbelievable, classic, hopeless romantic love story about two people from totally different worlds. Her whole thing is that she has to decide whether or not to give up her immortality to be with this man that she loves, which means giving up her whole life and her family, so that's really beautiful."

Born in New York on 1 July 1977, Tyler was raised in Portland Maine until the sixth grade when her family returned to Manhattan. The 'love child' of an eight-month-long relationship between former model/Playboy Playmate/sometime singer and rock grupie Bebe Buell and full-lipped Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler, Liv Tyler's natural sophistication led her to begin modeling by the age of 14. After decorating such fashion magazines as Seventeen and Mirabella and appearing in numerous prints ads and television commercials, Tyler had caught the acting bug, making her film debut in 1994 as the sister of an autistic boy in the film Silent Fall.

With breakthrough performances in such films as the critically acclaimed Stealing Beauty and Tom Hanks directorial debut, That Thing You Do!, Tyler quickly became Hollywood latest 'it' girl. At 24, with more than a dozen films under her belt, she has followed her heart, getting engaged to Royston Langdon, lead singer and bassist for the band Spacehog.

"I'm in love with someone who I have been with for a really long time and that's what makes you happy," she says giddily, when addressing the issue of whether or not she's too young to get married. "I have been working for a long time and, in a sense, I think that made me grow up a little quicker than most young people my age. It's what I want and what I believe in."

Now that she is content, not just with the success of her career, but in her personal life as well. Tyler reveals that she doesn't let movie industry pressures to remain thin and beautiful get to her. "I'm not in this to be thin," she says, "I'm in this to act. I need to be healthy in order to do my job right and that means being strong. I look at fashion magazines and I go, 'Oh, God!' With designer clothes, the models are so thin, but that's because they are models. That's their job. You're not supposed to look like a model. They're supermodels because they're super-beings, in a way. I do photo shoots a lot and they'll try to squeeze me into the samples that are from the catwalk and they're a size two. I'm size eight, so that's hard, but I have to just see past that. I'm really lucky that I'm surrounded by people that work for me that actually care about me and that I'm friends with. My agent and my publicist and everyone that I'm around really love me and care about me."

Tyler's biggest reservation about taking on the role of the elfin princess in The Lord of the Rings was the amount of time the film would take her away from home. "That was hard decision," she reveals. "I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is going to be a year,' and then I thought, 'Well, it's only a year,' I got to New Zealand and, the first time that I was down there, I was there for two months. I was alone, living in this huge house, and it's really windy in Wellington, and it was scary because I'm a New Yorker and I've always lived in apartments with other people in the building. That was good for me because I learned a lot about being alone and being so far away. I did get homesick a lot because I like to be around my family and my loved ones, but it was a good experience..."

Behind the camera on The Lord of the Rings was New Zealnd native Peter Jackson. Born on Halloween in 1961, Jackson received widespread acclaim for him 1994 feature Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey and went on to direct Michael J. Fox in The Frighteners.

Tyler had nothing but praise for the man at the helm of it all. "He's done such a superb job with this film and the performances are amazing. A lot of times, when you see movies like this, the performances are lacking a little bit. It's more about the effects and I don't want to go and see a movie like that. With a story like The Lord of the Rings, it's all about the characters. Yes, the world is really relevant, but it's all about these people and these characters and the journey that they go on. It's vital for that to come across in the film. That was Peter's main focus all the time and he cast it so well. Everyone was perfect for their part and everyone worked so hard to put their characters across."

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