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Into The Woods

by Sarah Harris, Vogue UK, November 2015. Photos by Venetia Scott. Scans by Edina.



It is all change for the enchanting Liv Tyler - styled here by her friend Kate Moss. She talks to Sarah Harris about the new man (and baby) in her life, house-hunting in London and her unexpectedly dark television debut.

Do you remember that moment, back in childhood, when during a slumber party two friends would be chatting 19 to the dozen and then suddenly one would drift off to sleep without any warning? That is what has happened now. Liv Tyler has fallen asleep next to me, purring like a content kitten. We're not having a slumber party although I imagine she would be fun in a slumber-party situation - we're at London's Bulgari Spa getting facials and pedis. Liv's idea. And it isn't that our conversation has sedated her - at least, I don't think it has - it's more that she got to bed at 3am last night after drinks and dinner with Tabitha Simmons and friends at Chiltern Firehouse, coupled with the fact that she was up at 6am this morning tending to her sons, 10-year-old Milo and her newborn, Sailor. And then, out of nowhere: "Oh my god, I just woke myself up with my own snore!" For the record, it wasn't a "snore", it was more like something out of a Disney movie, and actually I'm surprised there weren't bluebirds and butterflies circling the moment she woke.

Liv Tyler - as tall as you imagine and seemingly unaware of her own beauty - is blessed with one of those faces immune to ageing. At 38, that bee-stung pout is as voluptuous as it was when she was 18, her fair, dewy complexion is as luminous, her hair as enviably glossy and long as it has ever been, and those piercing blue eyes not in the least bit jaded - even on only a few hours' sleep.

We met earlier in the day for lunch at E&O in Notting Hill. Tyler has spent a lot of time in the neighborhood lately, thanks to Sailor's father, David Gardner, the west London-dwelling sports agent/best friend of David Beckham, and the new man in her life. It's the day after her Vogue shoot, styled by Kate Moss. On that: "I spent the entire day in my underwear, I metaphorically and literally felt naked," she laughs, over dim sum and sea-bass sashimi.

Liv - actress daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler and former model Bebe Buell - started modelling at 13 years old. "Back then, I didn't love being told what to do. That was hard for me as a rebellious little New York City girl, especially coming from the parents that I had. It wasn't that I wasn't obedient, but I'm not great with too much authority. But it's fun for me now as a woman."

More so when the stylist is one of her best friends. Liv has known Kate Moss since she was 14; they met in New York in a circle that included Mario Sorrenti, and she describes the supermodel as one of her original girlfriends. "Kate is a magical unicorn. She was doing all these poses for me and I was trying to mimic her. I love how she doesn't give a fuck, she just moves in these free ways, and of course what I was doing didn't look anything like what she was doing. I felt like a total amateur." (The worldwide contract with Givenchy as the face of its Very Irresistible fragrance that lasted 10 years would say otherwise.)

Her latest role is a departure from the big screen, and sees her starring in HBO's addictive hit television series The Leftovers, a dark and depressing drama based on the acclaimed novel by Tom Perrotta and co-created by Damon Lindelof (of Lost). Set in New York, it follows the lives of those left behind three years after the sudden disappearance of two per cent of the world's population. Liv plays Meg, a troubled woman struggling to come to terms with the aftermath, who runs away to join a cult called the Guilty Remnant.

It's her television debut. "TV never used to be such a big deal in the US, but now the quality of scripts, the directors... Every big director that you love is either developing, producing or directing TV. The quality of characters, especially for women, is amazing," she enthuses. "They're complex, layered and interesting." She started to look at projects and came across The Leftovers, and approached Lindelof for the role surprisingly, he needed some convincing. "He didn't understand how I could play the part, because I was already 'Liv Tyler' and he wanted an unknown, and also because people think of me as sweet and ethereal. But then he watched me act a scene and he said, 'Wow, Liv Tyler is pissed!' He saw this anger in my interpretation of Meg and so I got the part, for which, by the way, I look like shit: ugly, baggy white clothes and no make-up."

As a child, Liv sang and danced around the house "like a Showgirl" and thought she would grow up to be a singer. Certainly, she had an appreciation for her father's music. "I remember I was 16 and Liv slept over at my house," says her close friend Kate Hudson. "In the morning, we decided to get breakfast down the street. I had this really old convertible car, and one of her dad's songs came on the radio. This was the first year we'd known each other, and I didn't really know how she would react. I think a lot of kids, when they come from that, try to hide it or downplay it - I know I did. She turned it up so loud - it was 'Janie's Got a Gun' - and she just had so much joy and love for her dad's music. I was thinking, there is so much freedom in this girl!"

"I remember taking a call from an interviewer when I was really young," says Liv, "and they asked me, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' and I said, 'Excuse me, can you hold on?' I put the phone on my lap and asked my mum. She said, 'Baby, you're going to be an actress.' And so that's what I said. It was such a weird moment, and not like in a stage-mum way, it was like she could see my future with a crystal ball."

After appearing as a runaway schoolgirl in Aerosmith's 'Crazy' music video, Liv was cast in the film Empire Records aged 16, before making her name two years later as the lead in Bernardo Bertolucci's coming-of-age romance Stealing Beauty - "If there is a moment in my life that I'd like to relive, it would be that Tuscan summer," she says. Blockbusters such as Armageddon and the Lord of the Rings trilogy followed, and she's hardly stopped working since - until Milo got too big to take on set. "Until The Leftovers I was struggling," she admits. "I always wanted to be a mother and I wanted to be a present mother, and if you're shooting a movie it means you're gone for months at a time. So I was trying to find my way into something that I wanted to do, plus I had already lived this lifetime of a career and I was wondering where I fit in now."

Her desire to prioritise home life over career moves is arguably a result of her own less conventional childhood. In 1988, at the age of 11, she discovered that musician Todd Rundgren, the man who raised her, wasn't her biological father; it was Steve Tyler instead. "My parents weren't around a lot; they were very young - my mother was only 23 when she had me - and so they probably weren't fully equipped with all the tools they needed to be great parents." "Liv has seen a lot of life," says the musician Michael Stipe, who first met her in New York when she was 11. "She doesn't suffer fools gladly," he continues. "In a street fight I'd definitely want her on my side, she's intensely loyal, deeply grounded and she can cuss like a sailor. Whenever I think of Liv, I think of her laugh. She has the best, biggest, most genuine kind of hee-haw belly laugh of anyone I know."

If anyone is ripe for going off the rails, Liv Tyler fits the profile: rock-star pedigree, model mum who posed for Playboy, child star, dramatic parental plot twist and friends with all the right/wrong people, but her image as a Hollywood wild child is misplaced. Work has always given her the discipline to stay focused, but it also accelerated her maturity.

Some Liv Tyler milestones: she bought her first home - a five-storey brownstone in New York's West Village - when she was just 23. "It's the smartest investment I ever made." Regardless, it wasn't a walk in the park. Each floor was a two-bedroom apartment, and so she led a full historic renovation with the then little-known architect Ben Pentreath (who went on to design the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Kensington Palace home). At 26 she married British singer Royston Langdon of Spacehog (they divorced in 2008), and at 27 she gave birth to Milo. "I did everything early. Even though I was only in my mid-twenties, I had been working so much for so many years, I felt older and ready to settle."

Speaking of which: "Sorry, I have to check on the baby," she apologises, speed-texting a message home to David. "This is so rude, I'm so sorry." (Tyler is a stickler for manners. Her grandmother Dorothea Johnson worked as an etiquette teacher for 40 years. The two of them even penned a book together, Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top.)

Although it was hairdresser James Brown who engineered the romance between Liv and David, she first met him via Kate Moss - "3 million years ago" - at the CFDA awards. They struck up a relationship last year and she fell pregnant with Sailor (who is named after Nicolas Cage's character in the David Lynch movie Wild at Heart) soon after.

Both her children were surprise pregnancies - but Sailor's arrival was the biggest surprise of all, in more ways than one; he was six weeks early and weighed less than 51b when he was born. "It was crazy because David and I had been living in this beautiful whirlwind. It was intense, all of us wanting to be together as much as possible, and I wanted to nest. I hadn't been pregnant for 10 years, and so to feel that again was amazing; but I just had this feeling, I knew he was going to come early." David was working in Asia and had a flight booked to New York on February 12. He sent her flowers every day, counting down the five days before his arrival. "I got flowers for five, four, three, two... but we never got to the last bunch because I went into labour on February 11. I think Sailor thought it was the countdown to his birth and so that was that. It was crazy and scary." Nothing was ready. There was no crib and no clothes, partly because she doesn't believe in baby showers. "I'm a bit superstitious; I don't even like to talk about the name until the baby arrives." Her sister Mia met her at the hospital and she called their father, who was in Nashville. He left his house right away, booked a flight en route to the airport and arrived in time to cut the cord. Sailor's premature arrival meant that he had to stay in hospital for two further weeks. "I left there not being pregnant and without a baby. It was so weird."

Being apart from loved ones is par for the course lately and it can be tricky to navigate, especially when it comes to logistics - from the menial (what everyone is having for dinner and where) to the complex (figuring out schooling for her sons). David is based in London, where he also has a son, Grey, with former wife Davinia Taylor, while Milo's father lives in New York, where Liv and Milo spend the majority of their time. "I feel like I've been living out of a suitcase for way too long," she says. Although they are currently looking for a bigger home in London, Liv will always flit between London and New York.

"I love this gypsy lifestyle," she shrugs. "I love my job and I'm grateful I'm able to make money this way, but to me, success is based on how well my family is doing." There is no doubt she is homely. "Some of my favourite times spent with Liv are relaxing and laughing by the fire when she comes over to our house in the country," says Stella McCartney. "When the kids are finally in bed and it's girl time."

"I have a feeling she'll be in the rocking chair next to me when we hit 90, and she'll still be cracking naughty jokes," says Helena Christensen, a friend since they met at a party in the late Nineties. Now Christensen passes on soup recipes (Liv likes to cook) and advice on schools.

I ask Liv what her dream day would be and she answers without hesitation, "Twenty-four hours with my family, where none of us have to be on phone calls, we'd all be totally present, all together, totally basic, normal."

Our afternoon at an end, I drop her off at a house-viewing in west London. She steps out of the car and the look on the estate agent's face says it all. No, Liv Tyler wouldn't know a thing about being normal.



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