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Liv on the new man in her life: her son

Gulf News, October 2005

Liv Tyler talks exclusively to Vinita Bharadwaj while in Dubai to launch a new perfume.

Having just read an essay by American writer Joseph Epstein that mocked the modern-day trend of celebritydom, I was secretly worried about meeting Liv Tyler.

What if she embodied all that is negative about celebrities? What if she didn't want to answer anything personal, as one of the PR persons had indicated?

What if she just wanted to talk to us for only five minutes? She did none of that.

In Dubai, to launch Very Irresistible Givenchy for Men, Tyler talked exclusively to Gulf News in an intimate, one-to-one interview.

The young mother and daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler was here for three days with her best friend and said she was enjoying her time "lounging by the pool and taking care of myself in the Givenchy spa", at the One and Only Royal Mirage.

Recovering from jet-lag, her only concern at the time of her interview was if she'd be able to walk up on the stage, "without falling off".

Between a couple of sighs that were the only giveaways of her fatigue, the Hollywood actress speaks of her movies, her men and her life.

You've stepped into the shoes of one of Hollywood's most loved women, Audrey Hepburn, by becoming the Muse of Givenchy. Was that daunting at all?
I've never really thought about it in exactly that way. She's just completely irreplaceable and I adore her and am a huge fan of her contributions in life and cinema.
It is an incredible honour and it feels good to continue that relationship of an American film star with the French passion for fragrances.

How's motherhood?
[gasps] Amazing. At the time, I miss my son very much. He's ten months old and it's just really hard to be away from him.
How did everyone react to his birth? What was your dad's reaction at being a grandfather?
My family was just so happy. My father was really thrilled. I mean, he's their first grandchild so there was just total joy all around.
He's been the most amazing gift to my life.

How did you zero in on the name Milo?
Well, I didn't know if he was a boy or a girl until he came. I had a few ideas for names, but he sort of named himself in a way.
We went through a lot of names and somehow the one we just kept coming back to was Milo.

How's the movie career getting on? You've got Lonesome Jim releasing soon.
It's a very small independent film that I shot.
Gosh, it was ages ago, right before I got pregnant so that's about a year and a half and I've just been taking a break and not thinking about work at all.
I've just been enjoying the luxury of being a mom and being able to stay home and be with my son and breastfeed and do those sort of things.
I am going back to work next year.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy must have taken up a lot of your time. Are you over that whole phase?
It's funny because when it was happening, I don't think I appreciated it enough.
I didn't realise what a big part of my life it was or how much I loved it, because it was just always happening.
I appreciated my relationships, but at the time I was very homesick because I'd be away shooting in New Zealand and would just want to go home.
But now, I really miss everyone so much and I would die to go back to New Zealand again and shoot.
In fact, I miss it so much that I had a dream recently that we were asked to go back and I was so excited to go back with Milo, but then woke up to discover that it wasn't true.
I just thought to myself, 'How pathetic is that?'

Was working with Bernardo Bertolucci on Stealing Beauty a sort of going-home experience for you, considering it was shot in Italy?
[Liv's father, Steven is half-Italian]. It was amazing for me. I really love Italy. Not to diss [sic] the French [smiles at Givenchy representative], but I really had a natural connection to the language and the place, the food, the people and the land. I just had an instant connection with the culture.

What it was like working with talents like Tom Hanks (That Thing You Do) and Ralph Fiennes (Onegin)?
Amazing, you know, often the most special, talented - again not always - but they're often the most humble, sweet and normal people. I mean someone like Tom Hanks is such a lovely, generous and kind man. He's not in anyway sort of a big star. I think this is all a new trend, you know, this whole, my car is bigger than yours and I've got more security with me and my rock is bigger than yours...

Or my dog is smaller than yours...
Exactly. It's so strange, but I guess people are different and they enjoy different things. Working with Ralph was great for me as I really had to audition for that part and I'm still surprised as to how I managed to get that part over all these English actresses.

For someone your age, you've managed to build a pretty diverse portfolio - blockbuster film [Armageddon], a few independent films and of course even the fantasy films - is that a conscious decision? To be different all the time?
Absolutely. For me, I don't have, I've never had a desire to be a 'star', or be famous, maybe because I'm what you would call a second-generation celebrity. In many ways, acting actually found me. I was asked to go on a couple of auditions and I had no training of any kind, it was just something that happened and that I happened to love. But I'm very selective about how I pick my parts. It really has to be a complete set reaction. I mean I get offered so many movies, where it's like millions of dollars and all this hype, but it's not always that. Sometimes it's the script that's not right or the director and I couldn't do a movie just because it was about money. It really has to have the elements. And I also think I'm really drawn to different roles, otherwise I'd just get bored in my job.

So singing was never even considered an option despite the genetic influence?
Oh I love singing. I never thought I would be an actress. My mom used to say that I would, because she'd always call me a drama queen, when I'd do these parts. I love singing the most, but it just didn't happen.

You mentioned before that you're a second-generation celebrity, but are always described as someone that has no airs. How does Liv Tyler stay grounded?
It's all I know. I just know how to be me. I'm often shocked when I meet other people and the way they live their lives and how they treat other people. I'm just a normal person and I believe that 100 per cent and I really don't feel extra-special because of who I am or what I do. If anything I really like to make people feel comfortable when I'm around them and I don't like to make people feel uncomfortable about the fact that they're around me. So in that sense, I really like working with Givenchy, because I get to talk to so many women and about simple things that I love like make-up and skin care.

Has the celebrity culture grown out of control than say since you entered the industry?
Of course, it's enormous. I don't like to complain about it too much because it's just the way it is. But I think it's unfair that one can't have afternoons in the park with their son without worrying about being stalked.

But you still manage to stay out of the celebrity magazines when compared to others...
[smiles] Well I don't go out to a lot of events. But at home we have these photographers that wait outside our home all the time. And every week we're in the magazines. They sort of follow you in your neighbourhood when you're just grocery shopping or going for a pedicure or if I'm with my son. It's actually quite scary because they're these strange men with a backpack and a hat following you and you sometimes don't even see the camera. It's only when you keep bumping into them that you realise who they are. And in a sense it's actually like stalking. I'm just scared for my son because I don't know how to explain all this to him. I've been thinking a lot about things like where I want to live and what kind of life I'd like for my son. Should I move to the country? Or should I stay in Manhattan? All those things.

And finally, who in your opinion is the better musician - your father or your husband?
[laughs] That's an impossible one! I love them both. There are certain songs of my father's that I listen to and I can just cry, but I do like the older Aerosmith better than the newer stuff. More from the '70s. And my husband's voice just makes me melt.

So do you both sing to your son?
All the time. Milo's just so good with rhythm that even at six months he could sort of time the music and would sway to it.