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Liv on The Times
It's time for Tyler to Liv another life

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.

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Liv on The Times