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Liv Tyler comes back to earth with Jersey girl

By Iain Blair, ENS, The Manila Times, March 31, 2004

Original page

TALK about extremes—Liv Tyler has gone from playing a fairy princess in Middle Earth in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy to being a simple Jersey girl in her new film, Jersey Girl.

Gone are the pointed ears and flowing robes, replaced by blue jeans and sweatshirts. Long gone too are the magical forests and elves, now replaced by the decidedly not picturesque, unromantic blue-collar neighborhoods of suburban New Jersey.

But if you think this must have been easier for the actress, you’re wrong.

“In some ways it was quite difficult for me to make the change as I’d grown so used to speaking with an English accent and having wigs and not really being myself,” admits Tyler. “Those were a lot of the tools I used to easily slip into that character of Arwen on Lord of the Rings. But on Jersey Girl, I suddenly found myself on the first day sitting in a diner with Ben Affleck and I had five pages of dialogue and I was dressed pretty much how I dress, and being a young contemporary woman, and I found it a lot harder. I actually felt completely naked in a way as I didn’t have all those props and wigs to help me be the character.”

Directed by Kevin Smith, Jersey Girl tells the story of Ollie Trinke (Affleck), a smooth and successful Manhattan music publicist who seems to have it all. But his perfect life is suddenly upended when his beautiful young wife Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez) dies tragically in childbirth, leaving him as a single father, and totally unqualified for the role. One day he snaps, gets fired from his big city job, and out of a job and out of luck, he reluctantly moves in with his father (George Carlin) back home to the New Jersey suburb where he was raised.

Here, he forges a new low-key life, working for local government, and bringing up his young daughter Gertie (Raquel Castro), all the while dreaming of one day returning to the bright lights of Manhattan.

But his life changes again when he meets Maya (Tyler), a girl who works at the local video store and who challenges his priorities and perspective. Slowly, Ollie begins to realize that sometimes happiness can be hiding right in front of you.

“Maya’s a truly unique character in that she has so many different layers to her, which I feel is so true of everyone,” notes Tyler. “We all have different sides we reveal at different times, and she’s this very bright, intelligent girl who’s also very feminine and very kind and funny. So she was very appealing to play and a lot of fun and very liberating after Lord of the Rings. I’d been playing Arwen for almost four years.”

So how was it working with Affleck again for the first time since Armageddon?

“It was great, and I love working with him,” she reports. “He’s a very sweet soul and a very generous actor, so that’s great. I always feel really free and I think for some reason we have this nice chemistry together on screen.”

Which is just as well, considering some of the scenes they play together. They have a very funny interrupted sex scene in a shower, “which was as funny as it looks,” she reports. “We were on a soundstage in a tiny room so the water in the shower wasn’t proper running water. It was from a tank and dirty and stinky, and we were just doused in it all day long.”

And prior to this, when Maya discovers that Ollie hasn’t had sex in some seven years, since the death of his wife, she offers to give him a “mercy hump.”

“When I read that I went, ‘Oh my God! Would she really offer to hump him out of mercy? How real is that?’” laughs Tyler. “But the more I played her, the more I realized that she genuinely does feel bad for him. She can’t believe he really hasn’t had sex for seven years, and she’s almost like a doctor or nurse—‘Come to the doctor’s office because you desperately need help!’

“And one of the things I really liked about this story was that as people, we all at many times in our lives go through periods of forgetting where we are and dreaming of things that we don’t have or feel we should be doing. I feel like you constantly have little revelations, like, ‘Oh, I’m good at this’ or ‘I don’t need to be thinking the grass is always greener.’ And I like that idea and that she’s comfortable in herself and encouraging him to feel the same way.”

So what was it like working with then-couple Lopez and Affleck? “Because all my scenes with Ben were later, I wasn’t around them as a couple, but all the press and paparazzi was crazy,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it the first day I arrived on the set, it was 6 a.m. and there were already hundreds of people outside the diner where we were shooting. And by lunch there were thousands. I hadn’t realized how famous Ben was. It was like The Beatles and kind of crazy, as I’ve never gone through that kind of attention.

“The closest was the last Lord of the Rings premiere in New Zealand. I’ve been to lots of premieres but this was amazing and I felt like it was the closest thing to understanding maybe what my father [Steven Tyler of Aerosmith] goes through.”