Liv Tyler [elf]
by Diana Wichtel, The NZ Listener, May 2000.
Lord of the Rings remains, despite
the odd teaser on it's website, a very
hush-hush project. "I'm not sure
how much of it I'm allowed to talk
about." worries imported star Liv
Tyler, in the throaty tones of a fledgling
screen goddess. With a hint of pre-emptive
self-mockery - surely people haven't been
taking the piss? - she volunteers, "I'm an
elf." We know. Arwen. Daughter of
Elrond. "Young she was and yet not so,"
etc. Elf royalty.
It's probably fitting that the elf queen
should be played by Tyler, daughter of
Aerosmith's legendary Steven Tyler and
career rock girlfriend Bebe Buell,
step-daughter of another music legend, Todd
Rundgred. Rock aristocracy.
So, how fares Arwen in deepest, darkest
Wellywood? Tyler must be able to tell us
something - anything. Having our own
Peter Jackson, once better known for
blowing up sheep, film J.R.R. Tolkien's immortal
trilogy here is a big deal for us. We're...
nervous. Tyler will say that she has been
shooting nights in bad weather and she's
fairly shattered. "My body clock's just
kind of like blah." 'They're not working her
too hard? "This film is definitely the hardest
film I've ever worked on in my life."
Physically? "In all ways, really, but mainly
the physical stuff. Bruises and rain.
Because I'm one of the only girls, I have
to be extra brave. When the boys hurt
themselves, they pretend like nothing
happened and just keep going. I'm kinda
like boo-hoo and I have to try and keep
She's trying to toughen up. "It’s a good
test," she says brightly, "of one's strength."
Tyler, 22, and with almost as many films
to her credit, is a trouper. She has worked
with Bernardo Bertoluoci (Stealing
Beauty), Robert Altman (Cookie's Fortune)
and Martha Fiennes, sister of Ralph,
in Onegin, the Fienns's adaptation of
Alexander Pushkin's verse naval Eugene
Onegin (opening here on June 1). She's
happy to wax lyrical about all of the
above, especially Altman. She took time
during her Christmas break to appear in
his latest movie. A tiny part, but she was
happy tn do it. "I'd walk across the room
So what's it like working for Peter Jackson?
"He's a little hobbit." squeaks Tyler
so affectionately that, wherever he is, Jackson
must be experiencing the sensation of
having his cheeks well and truly pinched.
"He's such a sweet man. He's really
passionate about the material. You can
watch his face when he's watching the
monitor and he's completely engrossed in
what's happening. That's always a really
nice thing to see."
Much as we’d like to pursue Jackson's
resemblance to a small, furry-footed hole-
dweller, we're really here to talk about
Tyler's sumptuous period piece, Onegin.
Tyler plays Tatyana, tragically in love with
the cold fish Onegin. The tale of complex
emotions and relationships was one she
could relate to. "I've always been a sensitive
girl," she says drily. And her own
background has enough tragic behaviour
and domestic complexity for three Russian
novels and a good Hollywood screenplay.
She grew up believing that Todd
Rundgren was her father until a chance
meeting with Steven Tyler at a concert had
her putting two and two together and
making Dad. "It was a lot of little things.
The moment of complete realisation was
when I met my sister." When Tyler
came face to face with Mia, Steven Tyler's
daughter from another relationship, it was
an unnerving moment. "We looked like
twins. Both really chubby, perms and
braces." Chubby? Ex-model Tyler? "I was
a total porker."
So she was 11 before she learnt the
truth. Which want that her mother did not
want to bring a child up around the drug
casualty that was Steven Tyler at the time.
Did Tyler ever feel angry about the deception?
"Um... this is not interview material,"
she chides, before characteristically
answering anyway. "Shit happens. I've
never really had the sensation of anger
about it all. Everything worked out for the
best. As an adult, I'm able to be close to all
of them, which I'm really grateful for."
So, she never went through teenage
rebellion? "What did I have to rebel
against?" indeed. If anything, she was
extra focused, extra hard-working. Qualities
that she has needed in her chosen
profession. For Onegin, she filmed on
location in Russia. But the toughen scenes
involved trucking in snow and ice to
re-create a St Petersburg ice-skating scene
in the English countryside. In spring.
"That was hysterical. The ice kept melting
Everyone kept falling. My knees were
fluorescent purple with bruises. I had to go
home because my knees ware so messed
up." Heavens, Sounds worse than Lord
of the Rings. "That," she corrects with
feeling, rainy night shoots clearly still on
her mind, "was nothing." For mercy’s
sake, Peter, let up on the girl.
No really, insists Tyler, she's having a
blast. Enjoying the work, the change of
scene. Maybe, from this great distance, she
can shed some light on the whole thin
thing that's going on in Hollywood. "I
don't understand it. I mean. I'm hungry. I
eat. I don't find anorexic and really skinny
woman particularly attractive." We get
onto Kate Winslet, who seems to have
struck a blow for the more voluptuous end
of the spectrum. "But she's had to struggle
though it. How dare anybody ask her
f-ing how much she weighs or even
comment on it? Who cares?"
Was coming here a chance to retreat
from such industry pressures? Tyler sees
it more as a chance to test herself. "Can I
commit to something for a year and a half,
essentially give up my life to work on the
film? I'm completely on the other side of
the world from everything I know."
A hard thing to do. "Well... it will
never be this hard again. I won't get the
chance to make three films in a row
again." Let alone as a small woodland
creature. Does she ever catch herself
thinking that grown people running
around being hobbits and elves is a hit...
silly? Great peels of laughter from Wellywood.
"All the time. I can't help it. There
are these little Monty Python moments.
Have you seen... I think it was the Life of
Brian, where they didn't want to bother
learning how to ride horses? This guy
walks around with a coconut going
clip-clop, clip-clop." (Actually, it was
Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
Not, she hastens to make clear. that she
finds Lord of the Rings more then usually
hilarious. Committed as she is to her
craft, Tyler finds that the whole industry
cracks her up. "The movie business is
completely comical. Sometimes I'm like,
'What am I doing?' We put so much into
making it seem so real and so painful and
so everything. And, at the end of the day,
it's just a movie." As we speak, Tyler's
off for a well-earned three-week break.
Then it's back for a lot more Lord of the
Rings. Rain and bruises, Clip-clop, clip-clop.
The original scans (click to enralge):