The actress talks about growing up with two rock-star dads and raising her own brood in London
As the daughter of rock legend Steven Tyler and model Bebe Buell, Liv Tyler was widely known well before her breakthrough role in 1996's Stealing Beauty. Now, the 39-year-old actress is raising a famous family of her own with sports agent (and David Beckham BFF) Dave Gardner in London, England. "We're a bit like the Brady Bunch," says Tyler by phone, with her signature soft laugh. "Four kids: two big boys [Milo, 12 (Tyler's son with ex-husband Royston Langdon), Grey, 10 (Gardner's son with ex-wife Davinia Taylor)] and two babies [the pair's son Sailor, 2, and daughter Lula, 10 months old]."
In timing with Mother's Day, the little ones just wrapped their first big gig: a Gap campaign that Tyler co-directed and starred in, which aims to celebrate moms and their kids while also calling for donations towards Every Mother Counts. "It was so sweet to watch Sailor and Lula on camera, just running around and playing," recalls Tyler. "I see them every day, all day long, but watching the playback and seeing them be their own little people was so incredible." We chatted with Tyler about all those special moments her mega-family affords her.
How did you develop the concept for the short film? "I was trying to think of how I felt the experience of motherhood was, and to tell that story. Honestly, it was very visual in my brain. I just saw a lot of flashing moments of how life is throughout the day. There are wonderful moments, terrifying moments, emotional moments. I wanted to capture that and not having anyone specifically doing anything, but just being in front of the camera and allowing something natural to happen."
How did your first filming experience with Sailor and Lula go? "I don't think they understood that there was a camera there, so we were just sitting on the floor, playing with balloons and bubbles, and doing what we always do. Sailor was very interested in the dolly grip and all the tracks, like a train. He kept walking towards the camera, which was kind of amazing. He wanted to know what all the machines were and everything."
What does a typical night in your household look like? "The evening is my favourite time of the day. We try to have dinner together, kind of early, then the big boys have homework and tutors. The babies have a bath and go to bed by 7, and we usually watch a movie or do something with the big boys."
What's your approach to letting your kids be in the spotlight? "I just want them to be able to enjoy their lives and their friends and their schoolwork. I go off to work and I come home, and I try not to talk about it too much. They understand that sometimes I get dressed up and go out at night. When Milo was a baby and we were night-shooting for The Incredible Hulk, he told all his friends at the park, 'My mommy works nights.'"
While your dad is certainly well known, you were raised by your stepfather Todd Rundgren and didn't know Steven Tyler was your biological father until you were 8. Know, you're raising a blended family of your own. What challenges go along with that? "It's a beautiful challenge, and something that evolves every day. It's about paying attention to each other and to the family dynamics. You have to be flexible, resilient and really aware of each other. And life is like that, you know? We all have to exist side by side and work and build relationships. It's kind of like training, in a way, for them to see early on and have respect for how different we all are."
Given you experiences as a parent and with your own parents, what's your take on nature versus nurture? "I didn't know my dad way my dad, but when I started spending time with him and met my sister, I could definitely see the physical resemblance between us. Also, there was just the feeling. The nature side of things is quite powerful and bigger than you are in many ways. But it's tricky. Every kid is really different, plus, as an actress, I'm trained to think that I can do anything I put my mind to. In that respect, I feel that anyone can do anything if they're loved, nurtured and encouraged in the right kind of way."
How are you enjoying living in London? "It's like getting to have a whole new adventure. I always loved being in New York, but it's kind of hard with little babies. London is amazing because there are so many parks. Every weekend we go on some kind of adventure. Last weekend we went to Kew Gardens. It's so beautiful and it's all right here. Are you in Toronto?"
Yes, I am! "Toronto is one of my favourite cities in the whole world. I got to live there when I was making The Incredible Hulk, and I loved it. It has a really nice balance, especially for parents with kids. It has amazing parks and restaurants. I love Toronto so much."
What is the most memorable mother's day gift you've ever received? "They're always so sweet. I get two Mother's Days now because Mother's Day already happened here in England. This year, they all made me a card and brought me breakfast in bed-it was a huge cake that said, 'We Love Mommy'-and then we all snuggled in our pyjamas. Wouldn't it be nice if it was like that every day? I'll have to remind everyone that there's another Mother's Day coming up."