It took a harrowing tale about a home invasion to entice Liv Tyler back to work.
"I was sort of nesting for a few years there," says the actress, who recently celebrated her 31st birthday in Paris with little sister Chelsea.
"Because I had been working from such a young age, I wasn't sure about acting
for a while – and being in the public eye. I really wanted to step away from that, which I got to do."
Tyler was 17 when she appeared in the Bruce Beresford film Silent Fall. A few months later, she landed her breakthrough role in James Mangold's Heavy.
Since then Tyler has appeared in 20-odd films, alternating between arthouse projects – Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty – and action blockbusters – Michael Bay's Armageddon.
But the daughter of Aerosmith's Steve Tyler and former model Bebe Buell has worked only intermittently since appearing as the elf princess Arwen in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
And she didn't work at all from the time she fell pregnant until her son, Milo, turned one.
Tyler says her decision to take an extended break allowed her to make a subtle but significant change in the way she approached her craft.
"In doing that, I got to decide as a woman, and as an adult, when I was ready to go back to work. As opposed to when I was a kid, when it all just happened to me."
Unpredictably, it was a screenplay for a horror film, penned by a then-unknown writer named Bryan Bertino, that finally persuaded Tyler to re-enter the fray.
But first she tested the water with a small role as a psychologist in the Mike Binder/Adam Sandler film Reign Over Me.
"I just wanted to see what it was like to be a mum and to work," she explains.
Tyler stumbled upon The Strangers among a pile of scripts she had taken to read during a long flight to Tokyo.
"The title page leapt out at me. I started to read it and an hour-and-a-half later, I picked up my head for the first time. I was riveted," she says. "The minute I got off the plane, I rang my agent and said: 'I have to do this'.
"I was really drawn to the character and the story as a whole.
"It was a great feeling. As an actor, it's pretty rare to have that kind of reaction."
Tyler was so passionate about the project, she became instrumental in getting it off the ground. She even helped to persuade the studio to let an untried Bertino direct.
The gamble paid off. The Strangers, which was produced on a budget of $US10 million, took almost $US50 million at the American box office alone. According to Variety, Bertino has now been signed to make two more features for Rogue Pictures.
"It was a really amazing experience for me," says Tyler.
"I had never done anything like this before. I felt like there was something emotional and physical inside of me that I wanted to get out. And I definitely got to get it out. I got to scream all the time."
Tyler's obvious enjoyment of the process of making The Strangers seems somewhat paradoxical, given the dark nature of the subject matter.
Also starring Underworld's Scott Speedman, it tells the story of a couple with relationship issues
who travel to a remote holiday house.
Once there, they are preyed upon by malevolent masked strangers, one played by Australian model-turned-actress Gemma Ward (The Black Balloon).
At early test screenings, some members of the audience actually fled the cinema, fearing they were watching a snuff movie.
But Tyler stresses that for a large part of the film, the violence is primarily psychological.
"The movie is very dark, but I saw my character as a woman who is fighting for her life. And I enjoyed that," she says, before laughingly correcting herself.
"That sounds sick, doesn't it? I enjoyed the challenge of it, I guess.
"I was so happy to feel that way about going back to work. I just went with it."
In light of Tyler's recent break-up with British rocker Royston Langdon, her husband of five years, one can't help but wonder whether the acting process didn't serve as some kind of primal therapy.
This year might well go down as Tyler's blue period, since she immediately followed The Strangers, which left her physically battered and bruised, with The Incredible Hulk, in which she appeared opposite Edward Norton.
"The Hulk was just as physically and emotionally draining at times," she says.
"I spent a lot of that movie in (in a state of) distress, as well."
That's one of the reasons why she has again taken time out from the big screen.
"Right now, I'm just trying to be the best mum I can be and dealing with a lot of personal things," says Tyler, whose son is now three and a half.
"I've been like this ever since I was a kid. I like to work very hard and then take a big chunk of time off to recharge my batteries and just reconnect with being a normal person again so that I actually have something to give.
"But I am ready to go back to work now – if the right project were to come along."