Vogue UK, February 1996. Photos by Albert Watson.
Bertolucci's new heroine is 18-year-old
rock-child ingenue Liv Tyler.
Toby Young meets her in New York
Waiting for Liv Tyler in a busy
restaurant in Greenwich Village, I
thought it would be sensible to ask
the maitre d' to help me look out
for her. But I wasn't quite sure
how to describe her. "She was a
I said sheepishly, not wanting him to
think I was boasting about the company I keep
"But, er, she's only l8."
In six months' time this problem won't arise as Liv
Tyler will be, if not quite a household name,
certainly one that any New York maitre d' will
recognise. Two years ago, she graced the covers
of a rack-load of magazines as a model. Now,
with four new movies in the can - one with
Woody Allen, the independents Heavy and
Empire Records, and Bernardo Bertolucci's
Stealing Beauty, in which Tyler plays the
lead - her face will soon be back on the
newsstands, this time as a star.
When Tyler appears, miraculously
only 10 minutes late, she looks like a
typical East Village teenager, with a long
brown overcoat, black trousers and a
floppy, leopard-print hat pulled low over her
face. The first thing you notice about her is how gawky
and self-conscious she is, a refreshing quality in someone
who has been in the spotlight since she started modeling
at 14. As Jeremy Irons, her co-star in Stealing Beauty,
points out, "It is wonderful to see someone at that age who
still has a little awkwardness, and such a relief compared
with all those Californians who are 12 going on 32."
Perhaps he's thinking of Alicia Silverstone, the
18-year-old star of Clueless with whom Liv appeared in the
video for the Aerosmith single Crazy last year. Liv's
father is Steve Tyler, Aerosmith's large-lipped front man,
as you may know though if you don't, you'd be in the
same boat as Liv was until she was 10 years old. Her
mother, the Seventies model Bebe Buell, was living with
the guitarist Todd Rundgren when she became pregnant
with Liv and, since Tyler was both an alcoholic and a
drug addict at the time, she decided it would be better to
let her think that Rundgren was her father.
Liv first met her real father backstage at a Todd
Rundgren concert when she was nine. "My mother came up to
me and said. 'I want you to meet someone.' She pointed
at this guy and I said. 'Is that Mick Jagger?' And she said.
'No. it's Steve Tyler.' I'd never heard of Aerosmith."
Tyler began taking an interest in his daughter and, as
they saw more of each other, the truth began to dawn.
"I gradually worked out that he was my father,"
"We have the same lips, the same legs, and he had this
other daughter a year younger than me and we were like
Liv Tyler seems almost preternaturally well-adjusted
for such a product of rock'n'roll culture. "It was the
she says breezily. "Things were different."
expect her to have gone through rehab herself by now - or
at the very least be hanging out at the Viper Room with
Courtney Love and Drew Barrymore. The only trace of
her background is that her best friend is Keith Richards's
son Marlon; otherwise she seems... well, so normal.
Wasn't it at least traumatic to discover that the man she'd
been calling daddy for 10 years wasn't her real father? "I
was over the moon about it,"
she says. "It was like, two
dads! Isn't Christmas going to be a blast!"
She sounds just
like the upbeat heroine of the sitcom My Two Dads.
The fact that she appears so undamaged may be due to
the protectiveness of her mother, a self-styled 'human
pit bull' who also serves as her manager. "She's so smart,
very sharp, very strong,"
says Liv, "and she used to be
part of the business. She's good at what she does."
It was Tyler's air of innocence which appealed to
Bertolucci. The main character in Stealing Beauty, Lucy
Harmon, is a virgin at the beginning of the film, who
receives her sentimental education over the course of a
romance-filled summer in Tuscany. Tyler is well cast for
this, since she is about as far from being a conventional
Hollywood starlet as it's possible to be without seeming
sexually repressed; the kind of teenager who manages to
be the apple of her fatherís eye without giving him
sleepless nights. This same virginal quality appealed to
Woody Allen, who has cast her as the latest in a long line
of pubescent actresses who serve as forbidden
love-objects in his films.
Isn't she concerned about working with such distinguished
directors without having had a single acting
lesson? "My films are my acting lessons,"
she says. She
gestures towards the window, indicating the streets of
New York. "This is my acting lesson."
She does admit to
some slight trepidation about being in a Bertolucci film,
but says he soon put her at ease. "He's such a good listener.
He's really patient. He just treated me like an equal."
Though Allen's will be her fifth film, Tyler hasn't
neglected her education, having graduated from a New
York private school earlier this year. Will she follow in
Jodie Foster's footsteps and go to college? "I would love
to go to NYU and study loads of things,"
she says, "but
I would like to make a couple more movies so I can be
financially secure. Then I'll take a lot of time off."
isn't she financially secure already? "I certainly
haven't made millions."
It's symptomatic of the world Liv Tyler has
been brought up in that she thinks you need millions
in order to be financially secure. Yet it is a
tribute to her that in spite of having a life that
most teenage girls can only dream about she
appears to be completely unspoilt. As she gets
up to leave the restaurant I tell her I'm going
to stay behind to pay the bill. "Oh,"
she says, looking
embarrassed. "D'you want some money?"
Of all the celebrities I've interviewed, she's the first one
who's offered to pick up the check.
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