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It's a scream

by Linda Barnard, Toronto Star, May 2008.



Liv Tyler is lying on her hotel room bed in her bathrobe, detailing a recurring bad dream.

"I kept having nightmares before the (scene) about opening my mouth and nothing comes out," the 30-year-old Tyler tells the Toronto Star over the phone from New York about her onscreen scream debut.

Tyler was relaxing for a few moments before dressing to tape The Late Show with David Letterman, an event that caused a stir outside the studio when the usually demure Tyler showed up in ruby lipstick, a black satin dress with dramatic lace décolletage and sky-high black heels.

Tyler's first horror movie, The Strangers, opened yesterday. And the soft-spoken beauty best-known for her roles as Arwen, the half-elven princess in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, gets to shake the rafters with her terrified screeches.

"It so burst forth. I was terrified. The only time I had ever screamed in my life was on a roller coaster, which I loved," Tyler says.

"I had no idea," she adds of how she prepared for her first scream scene.

Then Tyler says proudly, "And suddenly this monstrous, ridiculously loud thing comes bellowing from the depths of my gut."

The movie, a low-budget debut by first-time writer-director Bryan Bertino, stars Tyler and Toronto-raised actor Scott Speedman as a young couple who return to the secluded country home where they're staying after a wedding and are terrorized by three masked intruders.

Tyler and Speedman are on screen for the entire movie and she describes the physically demanding shoot as "a very draining experience."

"It was hands down the hardest moviemaking experience of my life," Tyler says. "But it was tremendously wonderful as well. I loved seeing how far I could go. It was such a release to be emotional all day."

Although she only faced a 12-hour day on the set thanks to budget restrictions – unlike big-name features where crew overtime pay isn't an issue and days can go 18 hours and more – Tyler said she didn't get much of a break.

She was working at a fever pitch. Not only was it "very scary and emotional," the role called for Tyler to do very physical scenes.

"There would be times when I would feel like I was going to vomit," Tyler says.

"I would collapse at the end of the day. You're putting your body through such trauma."

Shot two years ago, The Strangers marked Tyler's return to work after a break following the birth of her son, Milo, now 3, with husband British rocker Royston Langdon.

"I took a couple of years off and just enjoyed being a mother and indulged," she says.

The couple announced their separation earlier this month and Tyler quietly replies, "I'm not really ready to talk about that right now" when asked how she's coping.

But she was eager to talk about her five months living in Toronto last year while shooting The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, the physicist with a secret. Tyler plays Banner's "lover and best friend," Betty Ross, in the movie based on the Marvel Comics series. It opens June 13.

"They love each other so much, but they can't be together," Tyler says.

But a passion that worked out just fine for Tyler, who makes her home in New York City, was her fondness for Toronto.

"I loved Toronto so much. I really miss my friends there. I loved my makeup and hair people," Tyler says of the time she spent in a small rented house in Rosedale with Milo.

"It's so child-friendly and there are so many parks," she says, naming the Don Valley Brick Works and St. Lawrence Market as two of her favourite places to hang out.

Tyler, the daughter of Playboy centrefold Bebe Buell and Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler, has been modelling since she was 14 and moved into acting after starring in a music video for Aerosmith's "Crazy" in 1993. She started landing movie roles soon after, moving into bigger parts, including Inventing the Abbotts, Armageddon, the LOTR trilogy and Jersey Girl.

Small wonder the busy actor enjoyed some downtime in Toronto, despite clocking in "the longest hours I have ever worked" on The Incredible Hulk.

"I think Toronto has such a nice balance between work and pleasure," she said. "Whereas in New York, people just work constantly."