The life of Liv
by Giles Hattersley, Sunday Times Style, November 2015. Photos by Cedric Buchet.
The cult Hollywood actress and daughter of Aerosmithís Steven Tyler has settled down with Beckhamís best friend and had a baby. Liv Tyler tells Giles Hattersley about her crazy rockíníroll roots.
ON MY way to meet Liv Tyler, I panic that her life is so sugary sweet, an audience with her might actually give me toothache. Having lived most of her 38 years cosseted by fame ó famous parents, famous friends, famous personal trainers and nutritionists ó one imagines the actress spends her days in a vacuum of shiny hair, Miu Miu purses and endless brunch chat with Stella McCartney. Certainly her Instagram could spin you into a sugar high. There are lots of snaps of lovely Liv with her gorgeous son, Milo, 10, and adorable new baby, Sailor, nine months, with his tiny hand clasped in the giant paw of his godfather, David Beckham. Or going to the Givenchy show with her biological father, Steven, the Aerosmith legend. Or twilight glimpses of stunning gypsy caravans festooned with fairy lights that you get to sleep in if youíre staying over at Kate Mossís Cotswolds home and youíre, like, actual best friends.
I could go on, but Iím already thinking the woman behind such an artful orgy of celebrity lifestyle porn has the potential to be the smuggest cow in town. But when Tyler pads softly up to a quiet back corner of the Electric House membersí club, in Notting Hill, her face is colonised by something else entirely: shyness. Her soon-to-be husband Dave Gardner, 39, is in tow. "Heís quite shy, too, actually," she says later, in her babyish cool-girl gurgle. Gardner pumps my hand and says heís off to catch up on emails down the other end of the bar. "Iíll be just here," he says, blokeishly. "You got drinks and everything?" He heads off as she orders an iced tea and removes her shoes, and I get my first proper look at her.
So, newsflash, itís not exactly a shocker that she has been signed up as the latest muse/spokesmodel for the high-end fashion website Mytheresa.com. Almost 20 years after Stealing Beauty, Tyler remains a shimmering, 5ft 10in tower of alabaster amazingness. Though it doesnít feel right to stare too much. Unlike some notorious beauties, sheís not wild about the lifetime of unrelenting attention that fluky genes can bestow on a woman. She has been eaten up by the gaze of others ever since the supermodel and family friend Paulina Porizkova shot some stills of her, aged 14, that ended up in Interview magazine. To her credit, it has left her well-mannered and nonconfrontational, if also a little detached. "My whole life, people have been watching me and staring at me," she says, "but Iím very observant. Iím always taking everything and everyone in, in a way that I donít think people realise."
To be fair, she has had a lot to process. She was actually born Liv Rundgren in 1977, the daughter of Bebe Buell (the groupie to end all groupies) and the 1970s rock singer Todd Rundgren, of Hello Itís Me fame. Actually, Hello It Isnít Me would be more apt. Buell got pregnant after a fling with Steven Tyler, but as he was a heroin addict at the time, she opted to keep shtum. Tyler was eight before she met her biological father at one of Rundgrenís concerts, took one look at his face and felt her brain go into overdrive. "I spent so much of my childhood trying to put together all the pieces of the puzzle, because they all had different stories," she says now. "If you were to ask Todd, Steven, my mom or any of my relatives the story of my paternity, then everyone would have a different version. I was like a little private investigator trying to figure it all out. Then, one day, I thought, ĎIt doesnít matter.í"
She became a huge film star in her late teens, the dictionary definition of ingenue. She was catnip to auteurs such as Bernardo Bertolucci and Robert Altman, and there were blockbusters, too, with Armageddon and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. She was also an early exponent of #squadgoals. Letís face it, in terms assembling gal pals, Tyler could teach Taylor (Swift) a thing or two. She was already having sleepovers with Kate Hudson at 14, and added Kate Moss, Helena Christensen, Stella McCartney et al in quick succession in the 1990s. "Weíve been through so much together, thatís what is so sweet about it," she says. "Weíve been teenagers together, through marriages and divorces, careers, living in different countries, the growth of companies, successes and failures. Itís beautiful because, at the root of all that stuff, youíre just the same people who sit down, start laughing, and itís like none of those things have happened."
Tyler needed her friends. While her family came clean about the dad situation when she was nine, she says she couldnít "process" it until her twenties. Then she got married at 26 (to the British rocker Royston Langdon), had a son at 27, divorced at 31, had another son at 37, and is now all set to marry again. Currently, she splits her time between London (where sheís house-hunting with Gardner) and a Manhattan brownstone that she bought aged 23, and had converted by the same interior designer who did up Kate and Willsís Kensington Palace apartments. Milo goes to school in New York; Gardnerís eight-year-old son, Gray, from his first marriage to Davinia Taylor, is schooled over here. Safe to say, she wonít hit her 40th feeling light on life.
She has even toyed with winding down the acting a tad, but when she landed The Leftovers (the HBO series about people coping after 2% of the population suddenly disappeared, currently in its second season on Sky Atlantic), she took it as a sign to keep going through the years when Hollywood is particularly toxic to its womenfolk. "Itís like Sunset Boulevard. You can go so far with that if you allow yourself. I have to accept Iím not 18. Iím not the girl in Stealing Beauty any more. Iím 38 and I have two children. Iím trying to embrace myself in every phase, and I feel different now, in a way I like." She shrugs. Sheís not sure these are halcyon days for women in film, anyway. "My girlfriend Eva Mendes always says, ĎItís not a sexy, fun time to be an actress.í And sheís right."
Obviously, we could be drifting into "my diamond shoes are too tight" territory here, but bear with her. "Thereís so many elements," she says. Having come of age in the pre-internet era, where she was unveiled, Bardot-style, to the worldís press on the Croisette at Cannes, she can find modern celebrity rather brutal. "Thereís so much more scrutiny, criticism and competition. I liked it when there were fewer stars ó just a few unicorns here and there. Now it doesnít take a lot [to be famous]." And even less to get bumped off the treadmill? She nods. "They like the next thing, the next meat."
"Because the family thing is so important to me, it is tricky. I miss out on certain professional opportunities, especially as an actress. By the nature of how my heart works, family is the number-one thing. I learnt that at a young age by watching my parents," she says. "My family dynamic growing up wasnít that successful. It wasnít horrendous, but my goal and passion has always been to have a good, healthy family unit. Being a famous actress, and getting to do all these amazing things, was never at the forefront of my dreams."
Soon she is gushing over her new baby. "Heís so sweet," she says, her voice at full gurgle. "Itís totally different the second time around, because I have a 10-year-old at home and he needs me more, in a way." It has moved pretty fast ó she was knocked up within months of their meeting and she is already calling him "my husband". Perhaps eyebrows were raised when she got together with the football agent and best friend of David Beckham, who was the stealthiest member of the Primrose Hill set. But heís completely on the level. "Humble, modest, hardworking, loyal. We met for the first time in New York a long time ago," she says, explaining that they were originally introduced by the model Lucie de la Falaise, Keith Richardsís daughter-in-law.
"All those friends Iíve known since I was a teenager have also been his good friends here for the past 10 years." She says Mossís seal of approval gave her the confidence to jump in with both feet. "I mean, obviously you never really know what someoneís like until you know them, but you get an idea when you know who their friends are." What is it with you and Englishmen, though? Are we beyond irresistible? She gives a whooping laugh. "I donít have a history of dating English boys, but Iíve had two babies with northern men. Howíd that happen? Totally bonkers. Leeds and Manchester. Itís the Wars of the Roses," she says, smiling. (Actually, this conveniently forgets her post-divorce cinema trips with Benedict Cumberbatch and Charlie Hunnam, but whoís counting?)
As for her folks, it seems familial harmony is a work in progress. Whatís your week-to-week contact with them like? "Not so much," she laughs. "Todd is a real free spirit. Heís a total 1970s hippie and calls when heís coming through town. Steven and I talk on FaceTime all the time. My mother is the most tumultuous relationship I have in my life," she says, more quietly. "Itís always been a big struggle for me, but I love her very much and I try to work on it as much as I can." Good years and bad? "Consistently hard," she says, giving a reflective shrug.
Sandwiched between children and parents, Tyler is keenly aware of her lineage, of the importance of family, for better or worse. "They have such beautiful free spirits," she says of her birth parents. "Theyíre both sort of ageless, so alive and passionate. I hope I can pass those things onto my kids." Pause. "But there were a lot of things that werenít OK that I donít want my children to experience." And do you want more children? "Maybe," she says, so happily that I feel bad for ever imagining sheíd be smug. "Iím excited about my new little family. Itís been quite a whirlwind, all of it, and I wasnít sure it was something that was going to happen, or that Iíd feel that way again, so itís reallyÖ" she pauses, searching for the perfect Liv Tyler adjective, "nice."