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Interview for Cinemas-Online

Cinemas-Online, December 2002

NEW YORK - Sitting down with Liv Tyler, one has the feeling of being in the presence of a remarkably open and radiant young woman. In the sixties, one would have called her a flower child, in the sense that she doesn't pursue life with a fixed agenda or timetable of ambitions. Raised in a small rural town in Maine along the northeast U.S. coast, where her mother Bebe Buell often entertained rock stars like Mick Jagger in her living room, Liv was given the freedom to openly wonder about who she was and what she wanted from life.

"Even though my mom was heavily plugged into the rock and celebrity scene, I was never a part of that," says Tyler, 25. "I was a regular teenager who sort of floated through life. And when I started working as an actress, I feel like I kept on floating and never really tried to figure out what my life was about. But I've changed a lot in the last few years. I feel more mature. I also think that spending a lot of time in New Zealand working on Lord of the Rings, where I didn't have many friends and I was often on my own, forced me to think more about who I am and start thinking more about the direction I wanted to take in terms of work. I guess I got to a stage where I knew that it was time for me to be more focussed on what I want out of life."

The Two Towers is the second instalment in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and once again audiences will find Liv Tyler playing the part of Arwen the Elf Princess. Once again, Tyler's Arwen will be romanced by Viggo Mortensen's heroic Aragorn, while the rest of the Fellowship does battle in some of the most fantastic fight sequences ever staged in film. Away from film sets, Liv Tyler's personal life continues to be occupied by her engagement to rock musician Royston Langdon, whom she plans to marry some time before the end of the year. In the meantime, renovations on her $3 million Manhattan penthouse apartment will soon be completed, and Liv is looking forward to making a home with Langdon as soon as possible.

Liv, will we be seeing more of you in The Two Towers than in the first Rings film, Fellowship of the Ring ?
Yes, and I'm anxious to see the final cut because the actual shooting of the three films was so complex that it was hard to figure out how everything would finally be put together. The Two Towers is really the heart of the relationship between Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Arwen, and even though most of the material is taken from a short story, Peter Jackson (the director) had woven it into the overall arc of the film. I think audiences are going to enjoy seeing how their love story evolves, even though it's a difficult one.

How satisfied were you with Fellowship of the Ring ?
I loved it. I think The Fellowship of the Ring has some of the most spectacular storytelling we've ever seen. He's helped recreate Tolkein's universe and done it with integrity and at the same time created a very exciting movie. And the reaction of audiences was very positive, including very hard-core Tolkein addicts. If the film hadn't worked, you can imagine how hard people would have come down on everyone involved.

What is different about your character in The Two Towers ?
My character is more evolved. I think I also had to grow into Arwen's soul because the whole challenge for me was to somehow find a way of playing this woman who is 3000 years old and must obviously have an incredible wisdom and depth to her. It's not easy to identify the gestures and expressions that you would imagine someone like this having. I think I found the right balance in The Two Towers.

Did your father, Steve Tyler, see the first film ?
Yes. It was so funny. Steven usually falls asleep during movies, but this time he bought all these chocolate bars and candies and stuff for himself and me and a few other people who came to the premiere. He was constantly playing with the plastic wrappers and making all this crunching noise that it was driving Ian McKellen crazy. I thought Ian was going to get up and grab all of dad's candies and take them away. Steven eventually fell asleep for a little while - I think he was a little disappointed that I didn't have a bigger role in the film - but then he woke up. He liked the action sequences a lot, though! I also got a long email from my other dad, Todd Rungren, who saw the film in Hawaii where he lives. He told me how much he enjoyed the film and how he loved my character and thought I did a good job. That made me feel pretty good.

When you finally see the films unfold on screen, does it make the two years you spent on and off in New Zealand making it seem worthwhile ?
I think so. I don't know what was happening to me in New Zealand, but I was intensely homesick for a lot of the time. There were a lot of moments where it was frustrating to be there and not have that much to do. It was also a very isolating and strange environment for me, being away from all my friends, not being able to call that easily because of the time difference between New Zealand and New York - I was feeling very strange for a lot of that time. But looking back on the experience, I have to say that it marked an important time for me personally. When you're alone so much of the time, you think so much more about your life and everything that's really important to you. When you're living in New York, and you have all your friends, and your agent calling you, and all your usual routines, you often don't spend much time reflecting on your life. It's all kind of mapped out for you. I learned that solitude has its own very strange beauty to it, even though there were a lot of moments that I wished I was with my friends and my own things.

Are you and your boyfriend Royston Langdon still planning on getting married ?
Yes. We thought about getting married this summer but he was busy and then I was shooting a film this summer and so our schedules were too complicated and we didn't want to stress ourselves over it. It's going to happen, but I don't want it to become some kind of media event. I just want it to be beautiful and meaningful for us and for our families and friends. Roy feels the same way.

What makes your relationship with Langdon work ?
I've always had this incredible attraction to him. We seem to be so comfortable together, the kind of thing that's really hard to find sometimes between couples.

Is it true you were seeing Langdon before you broke up with Joaquin Phoenix ?
No! Are you trying to get me into trouble ? Those stories started after I gave an interview last year and said that I had a crush on Roy before I broke up with Joaquin. But that's all it was. I had met him three years before we actually got together, and I thought he was this very cool, very interesting guy. But it was one of those fantasy things where you never imagine yourself actually being together with that person - you know, you just realise that fate has worked out differently. Then Joaquin and I broke up, and that's when I started seeing Roy and it was just incredible. I never felt so close to anyone in my life and there was from the very beginning this powerful bond between us.

Does your mother find it ironic that you're about to be married to a musician ?
Well, I think the whole family thinks it's ironic. I guess there's something about creative people that attracts me. I love hearing Roy sing or play piano while we're alone at home. I'm not sure it's the fact that he's a musician per se that is what made me interested in him in the first place - he could have been an actor or a sculptor or whatever - I think it's more that he's a beautiful person on the inside. There is just something about him that makes me feel so good about being with him.

That must have made it hard for you while you were away for months at a time in New Zealand shooting the Rings films ?
Yes. That was the hardest thing in the world for me. It was impossible to fly back home for the weekend because the plane trip itself takes twenty hours! So we talked on the phone as much as possible, and wrote letters and emails, but it was still hard for me. That's why I think our relationship is going to last a long time because we went through a long separation like that where we wouldn't see each other for months and months and yet we still wanted to be together so badly. Now it's like heaven being together even though he still goes on tour with his band now and then and I still make movies.

Does the fact that couples in the film and music industries necessarily have to spend a lot of time away from each other make it more difficult to sustain a relationship ?
I'm sure it does. That's why we're very aware of the obstacles and we are doing everything we can not to place unreasonable pressure on ourselves. We try not to freak out if we have to be away from each other - I even went on tour for a few months with Roy and his band last year. So I think we know that we're both going to make efforts not to let our work interfere with our love for each other. I also think that sometimes it's healthy for couples to be away from each other for short periods - as long as it's not too far away like in New Zealand!

You haven't been doing that many fashion shoots lately. Are you trying to tone down the Liv Tyler sex symbol image as much as possible ?
(Laughs) I don't know. I try not to think of myself that way and I don't think I'm particularly beautiful at all. I think society spends much too time focussed on a certain notion of what's beautiful and what kind of look is cool, that it causes a lot of stress and anxiety on people to conform to those kinds of images. I think we'd all be a lot better off if we truly didn't care so much about external cosmetic appearances. We should all learn to relax about how we look.

What about your film career. In the past you've said that you haven't had that many definite ideas about the kinds of movies you want to make.
I still don't, except that I want to focus more on character-driven films now and less on big-budget, sprawling kinds of projects like Armageddon or Lord of the Rings. I think I would rather concentrate or more intimate stories - like Heavy, or stories about couples where you explore very basic emotions. The problem is finding those kinds of films. Sometimes that means you're not going to work for a year because you don't find or you're not being asked to make those movies. That's happened to me and of course that begins to wear down on your nerves because you start freaking out why you're not working!

But surely you must be getting good offers now after the success of Rings ?
Sometimes. But I don't think anyone looks at my work in Rings as being something which affects the box-office success. There's this basic financial equation that's attached to an actor's name, and I haven't really had the kinds of big films where producers will point to my name. So I still have a long way to go to get to the point where my name will be more marketable and that's when I'll starting getting more good roles. I think I've made some good films like Onegin and One Night at McCool's but unfortunately they didn't do that well in the theatres. So much depends on the marketing campaigns and whether you find the right strategy to get people to see a movie. But I still look back at those films and I don't fault my judgment for wanting to be in them.

Do you get very anxious when you're not working ?
Oh, I get anxious all the time, so work doesn't have that much to do with that! (Laughs) I think I enjoyed the time off I had after Rings because I was really burnt out and frustrated from me being away from home for so long. So I was very happy not to be working for a while after that, getting back to my life in New York, being with Roy, and just doing the kinds of things I needed to to feel whole again. I think that time was important for me. I definitely want to work more. I feel that I've evolved so much as an individual in the last few years that I can bring so much more perspective to my work. I think you need to go through difficult moments in your life, moments where you're thinking very hard about your life, so that you can raise your level as an actor. So I feel more prepared and confident about taking on difficult roles than I ever have. Things feel really good for me now.