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Liv Tyler - Why marriage and motherhood rock her world
by Nell Casey, UK Harper's Bazaar, May 2006
Liv Tyler has left the wild ride of her adolescence behind: her acting acreer is going from strength to strength; she has a husband and son she adores; and she harbours dreams of an idyllic life in the country. NELL CASEY discovers how the teenage siren once famous for her 'Crazy' striptease has grown into a woman - albeit one who still wears braces.
Liv Tyler sweeps into the Spotted Pig, a hip gastropub in Manhattan's West Village, her head covered by a fur hat with ear flaps and her body buried in a long winter coat, with only her milk-white complexion peeking out. She gives a warm hello to the waitress, arranges for the two of us to move to a private room, and then turns to me, shakes my hand, sits down and peels back her upper lip. 'I have braces,' she says. Her braces, as it turns out, are almost invisible; in the form of a perfectly fitted mouth guard, they are clear and essentially disappear on her teeth. I would never have known this detail if it were not for Tyler's open-hearted, charming vulnerability.
'I love this place, but I haven't come in a while, since I'm not really eating at the moment,' says Tyler, laughing and settling into a booth in our private room. She lights a cigarette, a habit she has almost kicked except for the occasional social smoke. 'I've been on a diet and I don't really drink,' she explains, 'so I like to have one thing that feels decadent from time to time.' Since giving birth to her son Milo 16 months ago, Tyler appears to have acquired a kind of satiated grace. 'During all the success and attention I got for my work early on, I was always focused on creating a stable family life,' says Tyler. 'I'm really old-fashioned. So I just feel so lucky to have my own family now. It gives me such happiness.' It seems the 28-year-old actress, having recently taken two years out from her career, has reached a pivotal moment in her life. Once famous for portraying adolescent beauties teetering precariously on the brink of womanhood, she has now fully bloomed into a Hollywood star.
Shortly before she became pregnant, Tyler took a starring role in Lonesome Jim, a low-budget dark comedy directed by Steve Buscemi and co-starring her friend Casey Affleck. 'I knew Liv would bring depth, warmth, compassion and humour to her character [Affleck's girlfriend], because she has those qualities in spades,' Buscemi said about his decision to cast her. 'I had worked with her previously [on Armageddon] and knew she was easy-going yet serious about her work. And fun to have on set.' Next, Tyler will play a therapist opposite Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler in Empty City, a film about the psychological aftermath for a man who loses his family in the September 11 disaster. It is a serious role in a weighty drama but, as it is the first one she will take on as a young mother, the question at the front of Tyler's mind is how she will handle the oft-debated juggling act of balancing work and motherhood. 'When you are working, it is very extreme; you're often working 14 hours a day, six days a week,' Tyler says, meditating on her decision to resume acting. 'I don't know what that will be like with a child. I'm sure I don't feel very good. But I want to try.'
In the past, Tyler has alternated between independent films such as Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty (a movie she now jokingly refers to as 'Stealing Booty'), in which she played a young ingenue bent on losing her virginity, and her turn as Arwen in the Oscar-winning trilogy The Lord of the Rings - a role that occupied her for four years. Not all of her film choices, however, have been as savvy. In 2001, for example, she appeared in One Night at McCool's, playing a manipulative seductress, a role that seemed mainly to capitalise on her considerable sex appeal. Tyler makes it clear that she would now like to stretch herself more as an actress. 'I don't have a master plan, though,' she says. 'There aren't that many amazing roles for women, and there are a lot of amazing actresses, so you just have to truck along and remain emotionally available and hope that the right role comes your way. Unless you are nominated for or win an Oscar, it's not like you can just say, "This is what I want to do next."'
Meanwhile, her marriage offers her a comforting retreat from the unreliable world of acting. When discussing her marriage of three years to Royston Langdon - the former lead singer of Spacehog, who is currently creating a new band with two of his brothers - she is girlishly exuberant. 'We have known each other for years,' explains Tyler, who first met Langdon through her former boyfriend, Joaquin Phoenix (now a close friend), and his sister Summer (both of whom are part of a star-studded circle of friends that also includes Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney). 'When I first got to know Roy, I'd get all nervous and giddy. He was so sweet and shy and quiet and thoughtful and lovely, and I had a crush on him for a long time. He comes from a more traditional background that I do; his family is small, they're all very close and his parents are still together. So he helps bring a lot of those things that are important to me into my life - intimate, traditional kinds of things.'
Tyler has equally embraced her new role as a mother. She quickly obliges when I ask to see a picture of her little boy, and pulls out her phone, which has a photo of a blond and grinning Milo, bedecked in a striped Babygro, gazing out from the screen. 'He's so adventurous and brave,' Tyler tells me proudly. 'We went to a birthday party the other day. There were kids there between his age and five, running around and pushing cars. It was nuts, and he was just so happy! At other times, though, he just clings to me. I call him my little koala bear. You know when they just hang on to you? It's just so sweet to have someone adore you so much, and you adore them so much. Sometimes I hold Milo and I literally feel that my heart is going to blow up with this overwhelming feeling of love.'
It seems that the only difficulty with motherhood for Tyler has been losing her baby weight. 'It's been a lot of hard work,' she confesses. She had assumed she wouldn't have to try very hard to trim down once she'd given birth. 'Everyone said the weight would come right off with breastfeeding,' she says. 'But even though I breastfed for seven months, mine didn't budge. I've been dieting and exercising like crazy to finally lose these 25 pounds.' Tyler spreads her long fingers over her abdomen and admits that, even before pregnancy, her stomach was always her 'trouble area'. Over the past six months, though, she has tried everything from weight-lifting to a raw-food diet, recently settling on an exercise regime that includes Pilates and sessions with a trainer - sometimes twice a day - combined with healthy eating.
Of course, all this exercise and getting back into shape to attain the perfect Hollywood figure wouldn't be necessary if, as Tyler occasionally imagines, she left it all behind. 'Roy and I sometimes think, "Should we sell our house and move?" We could move to the country and open a spa or a restaurant. I love cooking and giving people facials and massages. But then, of course, we couldn't afford to live the lifestyle that we're used to. And we both still have a lot that we'd like to do career-wise.'
Indeed, Tyler says it's her work that keep her from chucking it all in. She loves the creativity involved in inhabiting new characters and, despite the case of the jitters she regularly gets before appearing anywhere publicly, acting always feels right to her. One might imagine that celebrity status offers such addictive luxuries - she was sent three free prams and boxes full of baby clothes within days of announcing her pregnancy - that it could prove impossible to ever let go. Tyler insists this is not the case. 'Honestly, it's not a big part of my life. I see the effects of money and power on people in this business and I think it's heartbreaking because you know that it won't last for ever,' she says. 'Also, I was raised to think that you do those things - go to premieres or fancy parties - when you have to; if you're promoting something or if your friend is involved. It wasn't considered the most elegant thing to go to every single event.'
Tyler's grounded attitude to life is even more surprising when she describes it as having been shaped by her unconventional childhood. It wasn't until she was nine years old and she was introduced to the Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler that she realised he was her real father. 'At first, when my mother [musician and author Bebe Buell] told me that she had someone she wanted me to meet and pointed at Steven, I asked if he was Mick Jagger's son,' Tyler says, laughing. She had such a strong connection to him, however, that when she later saw how much she resembled his other daughter, Mia, Tyler confronted her mother and discovered the truth. Previously, she had what she describes as a loving home life, spent mostly in Portland, Maine. She was brought up by a community of strong women - her mother as well as her aunt and her grandmother. The lone male family presence was musician Todd Rundgren, who Tyler believed was her father until she learned otherwise. She still remains close to everyone in her expansive family, including Rundgren, whom she refers to now as her 'spiritual father'. 'It's a very eccentric situation,' Tyler says with a slight edge to her tone, 'but it's what is normal to me.'
As a child, discovering her celebrity roots may have been, to some degree, thrilling, but contending with it as a grown woman has been another matter. The role of celebrity is not one Tyler is always willing to embrace, particularly now she is a mother. 'It's really hard living in the West Village and having photographers around,' she says, 'because often, especially on the weekends, when I get up with Milo in the morning, I bring him with me to walk the dog - still in my pyjamas - and, you know, some days you don't even get to brush your teeth right away! And then there are photographers snapping pictures as you walk out the door. So I've been craving more privacy.'
She also admits that trying to come across honestly in the press can sometimes be a futile exercise for her. 'Some journalists write what they want to write,' she sighs. 'It can be nasty and infuriating because they're trying to make you a certain kind of person. You're telling them what you're like and they're not listening. People have written that I'm against plastic surgery, for example. I don't have any judgement at all towards people who have had it, even if, personally, I don't love the look of very "plasticky" plastic surgery. After all, I'm only 28; I'm sure I'll do something some day. I don't want to, but I don't know what it's like to be 45 and to have something that's driving you crazy.' Tyler is especially reluctant to be made the spokesperson for the 'curvy figure', as she puts it. Although she is aware of the reality - and the pressure - in her profession to slim down quickly after pregnancy, she adamantly refuses to let media scrutiny make her anxious about her body.
Tyler is also careful to point out that she and Langdon do not plan to move to Leeds, his hometown, as has been rumoured in the past. The actress does have a love affair with London going on - but, at the moment, strictly as a visitor. 'I have a lot of friends there. And I love staying at Claridge's. I had a big tea party with my friends and their kids in my suite the last time I was there. And my favourite shopping in the world is in London. They have such incredible style, very eclectic; the British just get it.' It's no surprise then, that Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo, all British designers, are among Tyler's favourites.
And thus the ingenue enters that inevitable and inevitably complicated phase of life: adulthood. There are a variety of ways that notorious parents and early fame - as well as striking beauty - can send a life flying off the rails, and yet this is easy to forget when spending time with Tyler. She has maintained a steady head and heart in the midst of her parents' wild ride. Despite being in the public eye from a young age, she has grown from the 17-year-old siren boldly doing a striptease in her father's video for 'Crazy', into an actress taken on by Bertolucci and Robert Altman. And, as quietly as she can, she is creating, with Langdon and their child, the close family life she has always craved - including, Tyler hopes, having another child. It's hard to begrudge her any of it.