by Will Lawrence, The Times - The Knowledge, August 2008. Photo by Sarah Dunn.
Recently separated and with a young son in tow, Liv Tyler is
getting her career back on track, she tells Will Lawrence
Liv Tyler and I are shivering
away in South Carolina during
a chilly midwinter shoot for
her new film, Strangers.
huddled around her cigarette for
warmth. In May this year she
announced that she and her husband of
five years, the musician Royston
Langdon of the British band Spacehog,
were to divorce - and as she
steaks (a good few months previous
to the announcement) she offers a
few signs that her relationship is
under pressure. When she talks
about her passion for Langdon, she
uses the past tense and goes on to
say that "family and stability no longer feel so important."
Since the news broke, the 31-year-old New Yorker has remained
tight-lipped. In June this year she told
reporters: "I am certainly not ready
to talk about things, but I feel it is
important for Roy and I to protect
our son's privacy. That's really important to both of us." When we met, her
son, Milo, was living with her on
location. "Heís obsessed with cars
and tractors," laughs Tyler. "During
my days off I have to drive him
around in this little golf cart, which
he calls a tractor."
So Tyler is at a crossroads, not just
personally but also professionally.
Since she shone as the elf princess
Arwen in The Lord of the Rings
trilogy, her professional output has
been something of a disappointment -
from Jersey Girl through to Reign
Over Me and this summerís big-budget squib, The Incredible Hulk.
"With the films I made after The
Lord of the Rings you have to remember
that I became a mother quite
soon afterwards," she counters, "so as
well as having a long period away
from acting. I was a new mum and
wanted smaller, supporting roles
those kinds of parts were important
for me then."
She cheerfully defends the career
choices that she's made. "I thought
that Jersey Girl got too much bad
press, and with Reign Over Me, well,
it was nice to get back working, being
a mum, especially after taking time
off to have Milo and to spend the first
year with him. With The Incredible
Hulk I was offered the part as I was
driving home, and they only gave me
a day to decide. I worried about agreeing without having seen a script, but I
had to make a quick decision."
Tyler says that the time she spent
away from work, caring for her son,
rejuvenated her passion for acting.
"I'd been working non-stop since I
was 14 years old so it was important
for me to have that period away. It
was a really interesting, reflective
time, making me realise that I do
love my career. I had always toyed
with that dream of moving to the
country and having lots of babies. I
would go back and forth between
that. So I when I came back, I was
hungry to work."
Strangers is a taut psychological
horror film that offers Tyler a chance
to rekindle some of the critical praise
she enjoyed in films such as James
Mangold's 1994 offbeat drama Heavy
and Robert Altman's Cookies Fortune. It is a brutal film, and
Tyler features in almost every scene. She
describes it as "gritty, feeling like the
original Texas Grain Saw Massacre."
The story focuses on a couple,
played by Tyler and Scott Speedman,
who return to their isolated holiday
home after an evening spent bickering at a friend's wedding reception.
An already fractious situation then
takes a turn for the worse when they
hear a rapping at the door The moment they answer, a gaggle of masked,
knife-wielding strangers besiege their
home. The couple's relationship, and
courage, is then put to the test.
"For me it was important that I was
in every scene of this movie," explains Tyler. "While with Stealing
Beauty, for example, I was in almost
every scene it was not like this Plus,
it is something new - I've never
really screamed before! I was thinking. 'Oh my God! What if I have the
weakest scream ever?' When we
were shooting our first scary scene,
though all of a sudden this huge roar
came out I loved it. Really, I've only
read a handful of scripts this good in
all my career."
Tylerís screen career stretches
back to 1994. She was born in New
York, the daughter of the Aerosmith
singer Steven Tyler and former Play-mate Bebe Buell, although she
believed that the rocker Todd Rundgren was her father until she was 11
years old. "I donít think my dad was
in any position to be a father, Steven,
that is," she says. "And what an amazing thing Todd did for me. Luckily, it
just made me feel more loved."
When she was 14, Tyler began
working as a model - she remains
the spokesperson for Givenchy ("My
job with them is like being the Avon
lady," she laughs) - and alter making her debut in the film Silent Fall
she went on to carve a rich and varied screen career. She has worked
with a wide variety of directors, from
Bernado Bertolucci (Stealing Beauty)
and Altman (Cookie's Fortune and Dr
T and the Women) to Tom Hanks
(That Thing You Do) and Michael
Bay (Armageddon). It was the Lord of
the Rings trilogy, however, which
fired her to international renown.
"That was four years of our lives going back and forth to New Zealand
and every Christmas we would go
and promote it," she says. "It was
amazing, but when that was over I
felt a little empty and wanted to be a
normal person for a while. I was
really homesick when I made those
movies; I was madly in love with Roy
and he was in New York a lot and
that seemed too far away from New
Zealand. So though I enjoyed the experience - the place is so beautiful -
I felt a little alone out there. I had
a longing; I was in love, so back then
I longed to go and see my honey."
Her mind is fixed on to her career.
"After having almost two years away
with Milo. I just want to work now.
During the pregnancy and Milo's
birth I was in bliss, of course, having
that break, and just being a mommy.
I wasn't freaking out about not working, I was offered two things I really
wanted, just after he was born, but
he'd have been three weeks old and
I'd have to stop breast-feeding and go
straight to work."
"I'm glad to be back. Now that I
can bring my son with me. I don't feel
as torn as I once did. I no longer feel
that longing for family or for stability.
Now I feel that I can focus differently
and concentrate more on my career."
If she is at a crossroads, Tyler acts as
though she knows exactly which
road to take.