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Liv in Hollywood

by Joan Smallwood, M3, August 1996.

Okay, so you saw her goofing around with Alicia Silverstone in Aerosmith's 'Crazy' video but this 18-year-old can rock with the serious roles too. After appearances in Silent Fall, Heavy and Empire Records, Tyler next embodies - ahem - legendary director Bernardo Bertolucci's ripe vision of a young woman's sexual awakening in Stealing Beauty.

When I arrive to interview Liv Tyler, hailed by critics as one of the most beautiful and talented actresses they have ever seen, she's still in bed suffering from a combination of jet lag and party fatigue.

The first thing about her that will make your eyes go wide is HER LIPS - puffy and red and obviously inherited from her famous father.

Her MILE-HIGH LEGS do come in a close second. They are the kind of legs that could hurdle cars, and she has used them to leap from modeling to film.

In person, her most striking maquillage is not supermodel - perfect eye paint but rather the chipping metallic - blue polish on her toe nails.

Listening to her, it's easy to forget that she is just l8. But a lot has happened in those years. With more wit and intelligence than you would find on several miles at catwalk, she has done more than most people twice her age.

People think she had a wild childhood, but, although she got to see more than enough cool bands and good rock'n'roll, she certainly was not living in a house of drug addicts.

So how did she survive her childhood?

"When I was a baby, my mom would take me everywhere. But I would sleep through everything. As soon as the music stated. I'd pass out, and as soon as it stopped I'd wake up. Mom said it was really funny - I'd sleep through every situation I needed to sleep through," recalls the silvery-voiced Liv, who was raised in Maine by her mother, Bebe Buell, now 40, the witty and glamorous Palyboy model-turned-celebrated-escort of rock stars such as Elvis Costello, Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart.

The whole family did not live together properly until they moved to New York, which is still their home. It was a bohemian lifestyle that encouraged her to perform. She was naughty as a little girl. She had a little red plastic guitar and a rocking horse, and she used to perform naked for her mom's friends. It was this picture of herself as a baby holding the red plastic guitar she chose for her high school yearbook amongst her thousand of perfectly posed covers for Vogue and other top magazines.

"What my mum told me about her party days, it would have been so much fun, so glamorous, but the drugs part of it would have been very scary because I know all about that kind of thing. I know what it does, so it's no fun. I couldn't have fun at a rave..."

Maturing very young, there were many times when she had to be the mom, too. "We'd sit on the couch and I'd be the therapist. My mum told me about her time with Steven [Tyler] and Todd [Rundgren] and Elvis," remembers Liv, who, before movies, was best known for having two rock stars as 'fathers'.

She was raised as former Utopia frontman Todd Rundgren's daughter and her parents wanted to wait until she was l8 to tell her the truth because they had made a decision: She is a kid and we don't want to confuse and bring this up now.

After meeting fast-living Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler at one of Todd's shows in Boston. Liv started receiving presents and stuffed animals from him, and eventually, at 11, she figured out Steven was her biological father.

"It was exciting. I didn't see the bad side of it. I just thought, 'Wow, I've got two dads and all these brothers and sisters. Christmas is gonna be great!'

My father has since told me all about his (drug) addiction. He's a survivor, it's unbelievable and I'm very happy for him. We speak often. I've learnt from my parents mistakes.

My mom has since remarried (to 28-year-old musician-producer Coyote Shivers) and I'm still close to Todd. But I think we need to spend some time working things out.

I was an ugly child - a little, awkward kid who was chubby and much taller than everybody and I was actually really surprised when I started to get taller and slimmer and come together. I'm glad it was like that. I still think I'm really awkward. It makes me more humble."

Modelling was not a planned career move, says 5 ft 10 in Liv. Family friend and supermodel Paulina Porizkova took some pictures of her for fun, but British Vogue bought a picture at the 14-year-old, then Interview... The next thing she knew, she had an agent and modelling jobs and was being invited to travel and wear clothes and play dress-up and miss school.

What else would a girl want to do? Modeling was fun lot a while because "it was an after-school job really, instead of babysitting, to make some money."

Then it stated getting a little strange because it was a job and she had to really watch what she ate and it made her sad.

"It just struck me that it wasn't something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So when I got the part in 1994's murder mystery Silent Fall (her first film) starring Richard Dreyfuss, I stopped modelling, though most of my fans want the opposite, hoping my modelling days will stretch out forever..."

Liv's next acting role was in Heavy, in which she plays a young waitress who becomes the object of desire for a shy, overweight diner cook (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Her co-star Evan Dando "was so nervous", laughs Liv. "I felt like I'd been acting my whole life, because I was saying, 'It's OK, you can touch me, you can kiss me, I'm not gonna bite your head off.' He was terrified."

Then came Empire Records, set in a record store. Director Allan Moyle remembers: 'The first time I met Liv, I was telling her how I wanted the cast to really be like a family, and she reached across the desk, took my hand and said, "Allan, Allan, I can help you with that." It wasn't the kind of thing a normal l7-year-old could do.'

Now her career is set to rise with the release of Stealing Beauty, a chamber piece of the heart. Two weeks into production in Tuscany. Liv took a long distance call from Woody Allen wanting to cast her in his first musical. Having completed roles for both Bernado Bertolucci and Allen, she is currently playing the lead in Tom Hanks' directorial debut. That Thing You Do! a rock'n'roll drama.

Stealing Beauty, a departure from Bertolucci's recent epics like The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky and Little Buddha, concerns 19-year-old Lucy Harmon - "a good ol' American girl." says Liv - who goes to spend the summer in Tuscany with old family friends of her recently-deceased mother.

"Her father is sending her there to get her portrait done, but I think in her mind her main focus is to renew her acquaintance with the first boy that she ever kissed four years before, when she was last there." says Liv.

Lucy wants to lose her virginity to him, but he's not there when she gets there. He does get there, but things don't quite work out the way they were planned. In the absence of young love, a variety of characters - played by Jean Maratis, DW Moffett, Jason Flemyng, Stefania Sandrelli and Jeremy Irons - become awakened by Lucy's blossoming womanhood and all-too-transparent intentions. Lucy's a pulsating vein. She's the freshest vein. Her presence has a profound effect on the household, reminding the inhabitants of the pains and pleasures of youth.

"It is not simply sex that lures them," cautions Liv. "Not everybody wants to have sex with her. She's not this big sex symbol at all. It's more her youth that excites them, and the change."

Bertolucci brought the idea fort Stealing Beauty to novelist Susan Minot after reading her short-story collection, Lust And Other Stories. It is the first Bertolucci movie without the vivid tones of his legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

"Shot in and around a Tuscan villa where the actors also lived, we all had to share a bathroom. We'd be brushing our teeth in the hall and running around and singing. It was pretty nutty.

The familial atmosphere suited me just fine. Getting up at five every day was, like, no problem. I was up and out and excited to be there," continues the wide-eyed actress, who still views her summer in Tuscany as the ideal Hollywood experience. "It's never going to be that beautiful again!"

Liv was in Cannes when Bertolucci made an announcement about the film. "The first thing he said was. 'I would like to introduce to you the star of my next movie, and my muse.' I was shaking so much. Bernardo said I looked like I was four years old. I was so embarrassed; I had never been around that many paparazzi before." She giggles, her dulcet voice tinkling with pure delight. "He called me his muse!"

Liv took one of her "first big trips by myself", to London for the screen test, where she found that the script had changed to include a subplot in which Lucy discovers a secret about her parentage. It was a curious coincidence, because "I don't think Bertolucci knew," says Liv. "I don't think he could have."

Having inherited her mother's model looks and her father's Jagger-esque lips, Liv could easily forgot small-budget film such as Heavy and go down the more glamorous route to Hollywood stardom.

"I don't like those films. If those films were good I would say yes," declares Liv, who is still not used to seeing herself on film. "It's one thing when friends video you, but to see yourself on the big screen as this huge being, crying and things, is no fun."

And in a so-far-glittering career, Liv's first role in her father's video still troubles her.

"I was a bit bummed out that that was the first thing that ever came out because I'd made these films that I'd worked my ass off for and to have a video come first, that's all anyone says - Aerosmith Video Vixen. Superbabe Liv Tyler. It's frustrating."

In the love department, Liv, voted Miss Woman of the World last year, is shopping more for scripts than for romance.

"I don't have much of a love life right now. I'd rather be at home with my cat Little Man, a book and bed."

Besides, Hollywood is calling.

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