by James Fallon, W Magazine, July 1998. Photos by Michael Thompson.
Once a precocious teenager, Armageddon’s Liv Tyler has grown up into a precocious adult.
Liv Tyler's in a mess.
The actress has been living at the Covent Garden Hotel in London for the past few months, and now she's
packing up to fly away. "It looks like I’m such a slob," Tyler says, standing in the midst of open suitcases,
cartons and room-service trays.. "I'm really not - it's just trying to pack up four months of stuff. I bought way too
many clothes and books."
Tyler, 20, has just finished filming Onegin, opposite Ralph Fiennes, and she's off to Cannes to do publicity
for that film as well as for Armageddon, the upcoming Bruce Willis blockbuster. After a few days in Cannes,
she'll jet back to America and go right into Robert Altman's latest movie, Cookie Fortune. She has keen keeping
up this pace since last fall, when she shot the period drama Plunkett and MacLane in Prague, and had to fly
back to the US four times to shoot her remaining segments for Armageddon.
"The most sleep I got the whole time was flying in British Airways first class, because of the beds," Tyler
says, flopping down on a sofa and kicking off her black and white striped flip-flops. "It's been a hit wild."
While separated from her family and Friends, Tyler has tried to make the hotel room feel like home. A small teddy bear with a pink ribbon around
its neck sits comfortably tucked under the covers of her bed. She has also brought over some baby pictures, which are now packed away in one of the
seven cardboard boxes that sit against a wall.
"Joaquin brought me the bear when he visited, along with my rubber ducks." Tyler says, referring to her boyfriend of two and a half years. Joaquin
Phoenix, whom she met when they filmed Inventing the Abbotts. Despite rumors that the two had Split, Tyler is clearly besotted with Phoenix. She
refers to him constantly - revealing that she falls asleep immediately every time she spends the night with him, and that he's always part of her wishes.
"I wish all the time about things," says Tyler. "I wish on loose eyelashes; I made a wish about Joaquin the other day on a dandelion; I wish on 'Star
light, star bright'... things like that. I'm definitely a wisher, although you have to be careful what you wish for."
Despite a few rare moments like these, when Tyler really acts her age, it's hard to believe she's only 20. Tall and voluptuous, she's also incredibly
poised. Even greeting a stranger at her bedroom door doesn't seem to faze her. There's no shuffling of feet or staring at the floor. Instead there's simply
a look-'em-in-the-eye, straight-armed handshake, with a hand that's as large as a man's. Yet virtually everyone who meets Tyler is struck by her
remarkable openness and innocence - surprising traits, considering everything she's lived through so far.
The daughter of longtime groupie-model musician Bebe Buell, Tyler grew up thinking that her father was Todd Rundgren. When she was still a
baby, her mother sent her to live in Maine, where Buell's cousin raised her until she was three. Buell then moved up from Manhattan to be with her
daughter, and they moved back to New York together in 1989.
If being raised by a singer whose boyfriends included Rundgren and Elvis Costello weren't unconventional enough, Tyler learned at age 10 that
Rundgren wasn't her father. Buell revealed that her real dad was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who didn't even know he had a daughter. Liv had been
introduced to him a year before, backstage at a Rundgren concert, and she'd noticed a striking resemblance between herself and the singer.
"We do things in exactly the same way," she says excitedly, lighting a cigarette. "Last Christmas, I went down to visit him and I was wearing overalls
and a straw hat. He got out of the car when he met me and he was wearing army overalls and a hat as well. We just looked at each other and
laughed. When we're together we, just have so much fun. He'll mix these healthy drinks in his kitchen and we'll take them up to his dressing room. We
both wear the same size clothes and we'll just stay up there trying on clothes for hours. And we're both obsessed about our complexions and have
8,000 different potions and lotions and things in our bathrooms."
"Even when he's on stage he's still my daddy," Tyler continues, her voice
growing softer with emotion. "He... sparkles. It's as if be's glowing from inside.
He's always so excited about life and so happy. I'm like that, too; even when
I'm depressed I'm just thankful to be alive. I remember my mother telling me
when I was little to always appreciate things. We were never that religious, but I
remember that as being my religion."
Tyler laughs as she recalls her school years, which ended at age 14 when she
dropped out to become a model. "I'd go to school and be hyperactive and get
kicked out of class," she says. "I remember my last few years at York Prep and
the principal, Mr. Klineman, who liked me a lot. Every time I'd be kicked out
of class and sent to stand in the hall, he'd be walking by and he'd just look at
me. He really understood me and would talk with me about life. He knew I was
responsible and mature but I was always the one standing in the hall!"
In small-town Maine, Tyler's family life also helped her stand out from the
crowd. There weren't many other kids at school whose mothers sang in a band.
Tyler remembers going to her mother's concerts and seeing the parents of all
her school friends there.
"My life was different from all of theirs, mainly because they were all rich
and had big houses and we didn't," she says. "We weren't poor,
but we struggled at lot."
Once she began modeling at 12 - after her mother's friend
Paulina Porizkova took some pictures of her and showed them
to an agency - Tyler would go to school during the day and
then dash off to a modeling assignment. But she disputes stories
that describe her as a model-turned-actress.
"Where does that come from?" she says. "I was a kid when I
was a model, 14 years old and chubby. I didn't do that much.
My biggest job was for Italian Vogue but mainly I did things for
YM and Seventeen."
She sits upright and stems waving her hands around as she
complains about the labels that have been attached tn her. In
addition to her modeling, Tyler is also remembered for her
brief stint as an MTV vixen: In 1994, she started in the
Aerosmith Video Crazy, romping around in a convertible with Alicia Silverstone.
"I'd made three films before I did that video, bur I'll never live it down,"
she says. "What difference does it make?"
In any event, modeling wasn't very important to Tyler, and she decided at
14 to become an actress. "I was always the little entertainer as a girl and always
loved music," she says. "My mom and I would always be dressing up, and we'd
open the windows of the house and sing as loud as we could." As she talks,
Tyler sometimes chews on the inside of her check, a nervous tic she can't kick.
Tyler's recent burst of activity follows an 18-month break she took after finishing
Inventing the Abbotts. She'd done another string of films before that one
(including Tom Hanks That Thing You Do and James Mangold's Heavy) and
needed some time off simply to live 21 a regular life. So she moved out of her
mother's place and into her own apartment in New York, spent time with
Phoenix and her other friends and hung out. (She also hired a new manager to
replace Buell, who'd been representing her since her modeling days.)
"I just felt I needed time to grow up," she says. "I cooked dinner, bought flowers,
read, looked at my clothes. It's so nice having a place of your own. I went back
to New York last week and when I got into my apartment the smell was so
beautiful. I lay down on my bed and I was shaking - I almost passed out from bliss."
Tyler says she almost didn't do Armageddon, because she had never imagined
herself in a summer action flick. But when she learned that Ben Affleck,
Billy Bob Thorton and Will Patton were also starring, she decided to go
ahead. In the film, she plays Willis daughter, who gets to Stay on Earth while
her father and her lover (Affleck) fly off into the sky to save the planet from
"I decided to do it tor the experience and to learn from it," she says. "I
wanted to see what those films are like. So I stuck my toe in - not my whole
leg and definitely not my whole body." She discovered that acting in a movie
with Bruce Willis includes such perks as helicopter flights, decent food, trips
on Willis private plane to Idaho, and even staying at the luxurious Hotel du
Cap during the Cannes Film Festival. Tyler had ogled the hotel during her
first visit to the festival, for Stealing Baeuty, and wondered what one needed
to do to Stay there. "Now I know - you need to do a Jerry Bruckheimer
movie," she says.
But she has no plans to swim in the hotel's pool, a famed celebrity hangout.
"No way," she insists, shaking her head. Is she Worried about the paparazzi?
"No. I'm worried about my ass hanging out in public," she laughing.
The indie projects Plunkett and MacLeane, which was directed by Jake
Scott (Ridley’s son), and Onegin, a film adaptation of the Pushkin love stony,
marked a big change from Armageddon. While Tyler enjoyed doing both
film, she seems to have had more fun with Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee
Miller in Plunkett then she did with Fiennes in Onegin. Asked what it was like
working with Fiennes, Tyler simply replies that it was "fine". But she seems
to have bonded with Onegin director Martha Fiennes, who is Ralph's sister.
"Our relationship was funny," says Tyler. "It was so intense and serious
when we were filming, sometimes all she had to do was give me a look and I
would immediately understand what she wanted. But at the same time, every
day she would come in and we'd each say, 'Oooh. I love what you're wearing.
Where'd you get that?'"
According to Martha Fiennes, Tyler been out a string of other actresses for
the role of Tatyana, including Kate Winslet and others with more classical
training. 'Liv is this incredibly powerful entity,' says Fiennes. 'We all joked
that most actors move at a pace of 18 frames a second, but Liv moves at 30
frames a second. She has a presence, a grace, a sense of timing and is so
happy in herself that she's totally captivating, both on screen and in person.'
Tyler and the director had their disagreements.
However The initial plan was for Tyler to do a nude
scene in Onegin but she protested, even though she'd
appeared naked briefly in Stealing Beauty. "Some people
are comfortable with showing their bodies, and I'll
do it if it's central to the role," she says. "It's just that
as soon as you do it it's ail over the Internet and in
Celebrity Skin and Celebrity Sleuth. I look at those magazines
sometimes because they're hysterical, but I really
don't want to be in them. And I really didn't want to
do it for this film. I remember saying. 'I'm not even 21 yet!' Who says I have to show my body as
well as my soul? There's plenty of time for me to do that stuff if I want to."
There sure is. Tyler will turn 21 in early July, and she shows no signs of becoming blase she's
still shocked when she sees her picture on huge poster along the Croisette in Cannes.
"I'm only doing one thing, one tiny thing." she says, her eyes widening with surprise at any
suggestion she might one day get bored. "You can't look at life like, 'Oh, I've already done that.' You
constantly have to find now things. Sure, there are a lot of places I've been, but there a lot of places
I haven't. I want to take tap-dance lessons and piano lessons and read all those books...
It's endlless. Life is endless."