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Liv a Little

The Sunday Times, February 2004. Transcript by Morloth


She may only be a size 14, but in Hollywood that counts as big. The divine Ms Tyler talks to Bethan Cole about the pressure to be thin and how her rock-star husband had made her happy in her own skin.

Liv Tyler sit in a low modular, bright-tangerine sofa, her legs tucked demurely under her. She looks exactly as she does on film - metallic blue eyes, ripe-cherry lips, cerise nails and skin with a rare luminosity, as white as a sheet of paper.

Tyler is here - and by here I mean in an elegant French appartment above a small Paris art gallery for the launch of Givenchy make-up, of which she was recently made the face. She has just taken part in an open question-and-answer session, talking about her love of lipstick (Givenchy's Tea-Time Beige and Evening pink) and blushers. Various people have told her how beautiful and radiant she looks. Does she feel beautiful, I ask her afterwards. "I feel lucky and I feel a bit tired" she says. "This morning, I didn't feel beautiful untill I'd had my hair and make-up done."

Dressed in a black satin dress with balloon sleeves, a boxy little jacket cinched in at the waist with a leather tie belt and the flattest little ballet pumps, Tyler looks the epitome of Givenchy: neat, chic and ready for cocktail hour. What's surprising, though, is her size. She's tall - 5 ft 10 in since the age of 12 - with long, long limbs, and curvier than the superslim LA norm. "I'm always on a diet," she giggles. "When I was a kid, I was quiet big. I was a little butterball, I was so chubby. I had a perm and braces and all sorts of weird, awkward things, but I had a huge personality: hyper and outgoing."

A famous editor once told her that if she could stay skinny, she would be more famous than Gwyneth Paltrow. Tyler retorted that she didn't want to be Gwyneth Paltrow: She wanted to be herself. "I think it's so interesting that people go on about my weight all the time," she says. "I've been an 8-10 [UK 12-14] my whole life, give or take 5lb or so." So there was no truth in the rumours that she had to lose 25lb for her role in The Lord Of The Rings? "They said I weighed 120lb," she laughs. "I've never weighed that in my entire life."

Liv's exotic body aside, few could argue with the luminescence of her face. It's hardly surprising she has been chosen as an ambassador for a beauty house. "I'm always putting on creams and make-up," She confesses. "It started when I was younger. My mum had all these make-up bags under the sink, filled with the most incredible things, and the second she left, I would just go dig everything out and do my face up." Yet there is a girlish, ethereal quality to her features - the pale skin, the dark eyebrows - that you feel dosn't really need adornment. Touchingly, she gets freckles in the sun, "in a really weird place, too: around my mouth and on my chin." Like that other Givenchy muse, Audrey Hepburn, it is Tyler's naturalness that is the key to her beauty. She may be a box-office draw, but you sense that she is untainted by the Hollywood machine.

In face, what Tyler has is grace - the unexpected grace of the ingenue girl-woman. "Have you been to couture?" she asks with the genuine excitement, as if she is somehow surprised to have been invited. "I went to my first show and everyone looked so calm in the front row. It was beautiful, I loved it. It was elegant but very wearable." There's no ego, no attitude, just old - fashioned good manners and a beguiling generosity of spirit. The first thing she does when I enter the room is to compliment me on my jacket - and you know she means it.

It is often observes that the children of wild parents are peculiarly grounded. Tyler, the daughter of Aerosmith's Steve Tyler and the rock chick playboy playmate Bebe Buell, seems to have nothing to prove. "I was grateful to have all these incredible people and all that creative energy around me," she says, "but I longed for some kind of normality in my life." Indeed if she rebelled againts anything, it is againts rebellion itself. Although she made her screen debut at the age of 19 with nude scenes in Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, she found the experience uncomfortable. "I know that some people might find this hard to belive, but I am a bit of a prude," she has said. "That was never really me. I fought againts the nudity and persuaded the director not to have a naked scene of me having sex in bed. I would not perform such scenes."

Tyler has found the kind of life she wants with Royston Langdon or "Roydie", as she calls him - the lead singer of British band Spacehog, with whom she has been with since 1998. They married in a secret ceremony in the Caribbean early last year. "He's been a rock for me," she said shortly before the wedding. "We all had to put our private lives on hold [while filming the Lord Of The Rings trilogy], but Roydie constantly supported me." Their domestic setup is far from the rock 'n' roll cliche. "There is an image of rock stars being fast and loose," she says. "I am certainly not in that category. I try to live quietly, out of the public eye. We don't go out much. My favourite sort of nights are staying in, watching television, or slipping out to a movie and eating popcorn in the theatre." A couple of years back, the pair spent Christmas with Langdon's parents in Leeds. Tyler ate Yorkshire pudding - and liked it.

Her inner rock chick recently resurfaced, however, when she slipped out of The Return of the King premiere in London to catch the band Kings of Leon. "The reasons I did that are that I like the band, they're my friends - and you can't watch yourself in a movie so many times. I'd seen it three times already. It's three hours long, and I love it, but your butt starts to get a bit sore." She has wanted to attend the New Zealand premiere wearing Maori dress after being influenced by the film Once were Warriors ("I don't often cry at movies, but I really cried at that one"), but wound up wearing something floral by Celine. Her latest project, Jersey Girl, directed by Kevin Smith, has her co-starring with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Was their relationship - or lack of it - evident on set? "I didn't have any scenes with Jen," she says, carefully sidestepping the subject.

Tyler's next film is scheduled to be Steve Buscemi's Lonesome Jim. She has a knack of choosing the right director. "I couldn't care less about the size of a movie. I care about the director and the actors and the story. Those are the things that matter to me, and that's how I pick things I want to do." Of course, it's The Lord Of The Rings, in which she plays the luminescent - and again, very graceful - elf princess Arwen, that has made her name. "The Lord Of The Rings was huge, but it was like working on a million-dollar movie in that way that we all interacte. New Zealand is very classless and we all had the same size changing room. Everything was very equal."

Despite this, it has been well documented that she fell into a depression during filming. I ask her what happened. "I think I'm quite an expressive person, so I didn't go into myself. The problem was with the charecter Arwen, something wasn't working - it wasn't fitting. So, once we had worked out what we were going to do with Arwen, I wasn't depressed any more."

And with that, this most girlish of muses takes a long draw on a Marlboro Light and glides softly, flat-shoed, towards the door.