Home -> Articles -> Childbirth is a wonderful, magic, amazing experience, but it's pretty f***ing scary: a lot of high stakes
Childbirth is a wonderful, magic, amazing experience, but it's pretty f***ing scary: a lot of high stakes
by Charlotte Edwardes, Evening Stadard, February 11th 2016. Photos by Tom Craig
Liv Tyler is marvelling at the grand terraces of Hyde Park as we drive through town. 'In London sometimes I feel, "Wow, where am I?" It's so much more glamorous to me than New York,' she says, her blue eyes glittering with excitement. 'It's so beautiful, sophisticated and elegant.'
'Wow' is a word Tyler uses a lot. I hadn't expected this wonderment from a hardened New Yorker with a string of Hollywood hits, including the wildly successful The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But then Tyler is unusual and otherworldly. At 38, she has decided she wants to experiment with her career. She both acted in and co-produced (with Trudie Styler) her latest film - an arthouse horror called Wildling, out later this year, in which she plays a small-town cop who offers refuge to Bel Powley's teenage captive.
Thoughts of scriptwriting are running around her head. And there's her hit HBO series The Leftovers, set after the sudden departure of 140 million people from the planet, in which she plays the dark and resentful cult leader Meg. It was her first foray into television, once sneered at in the States. 'English TV has always had talent,' she explains, 'but in America it used to be that you were either sitcom or Hollywood.'
It's a lot. Not least because she's four months pregnant with her second child with her British fiance Dave Gardner, which means commuting between New York and their stucco-fronted house in Notting Hill with their one-year-old son Sailor. Tyler also has a son Milo, 11, with Royston Langdon, another Brit and the lead singer of the glam-rock band Spacehog, to whom she was married from 2003 to 2008.
Wider family, including her dad, Steve Tyler of rock band Aerosmith, are in the States, but she has 'best friends' here, including Kate Moss and celebrity hairdresser James Brown ('Jimmy B'), who's sitting in the front of the car talking about his love life.
Tyler is wedged in the back between me and her PA Kate, and is mildly bemoaning her condition - 'It's like I've been pregnant for three years!' Her ethereality is punctuated by snorts because of a sinus infection she can't shake off ('Who's the fancy-schmancy ENT doctor the singers see? Could we ask Rita [Ora]?').
She's in head-to-toe black: a loose long dress with smocking detail by Isabel Marant and an overcoat by Belstaff, for which she is a brand ambassador. 'You definitely have to dress a little bit nicer here,' she says. 'My London wardrobe is black Stella - fake fur, feathery jackets.' In New York, she says, it's all about 'overalls and Converse'. 'You guys do good hotels,' she adds, before exclaiming: 'We're going to Claridge's, I'm so excited!'
Later, as we sit sipping tea, she explains that it's a family trait to be awestruck and inquisitive. 'My sister Chelsea will go, "Look at that tree! That tree came out of the earth!" And my dad's like that, too. It's an infectious quality and I'm grateful for it.' Cab drivers she quizzes because 'from those people I learn about other cultures and ways of thinking'. In an Uber recently, she was driven by 'an Indian man who had a wife, but it was an arranged marriage. He was saying that was, like, totally normal. And I was trying to understand, asking, "But do you love her? Do you snuggle at night?" '
On the state of her own relationships she is less forth-coming, beyond saying that she's 'so in love'. Gardner is often referred as 'David Beckham's best friend' (they've known each other since they were 14). Tyler and Gardner's engagement was not so much announced as Instagrammed in September - she posted a photo of them together, her wearing an exquisite emerald-cut diamond ring. The proposal was a surprise. 'I had no idea. And I didn't look very attractive. I was pregnant and I was crying and had just come out of the shower and was unpacking... It wasn't a very glamorous moment.'
Given that previous boyfriends include actor Joaquin Phoenix, New York photographer Theo Wenner and the art dealer Vito Schnabel, Gardner is not an obvious choice. A football agent with boyish good looks, he's more Hello! than Hollywood. For seven years he was married to the heiress and ex-Hollyoaks actress Davinia Taylor (Beckham was the best man; Jenny Frost of Atomic Kitten was maid of honour), and the couple lived in Supernova Heights, the Primrose Hill party pad previously owned by Noel Gallagher. Gardner won custody of their son Grey, now eight, when they divorced in 2010. The story goes that he was introduced to Tyler by Kate Moss in spring 2014, and they all went on holiday together to Formentera in the Baleriacs.
Nevertheless, Tyler says Gardner is 'the super-daddy': 'When I go away he has all of them.' She FaceTimes from film shoots and I can't help noticing that she texts him constantly. Today, she is fretting about keeping him waiting. She hasn't seen him for a few days and just wants 'to relax in a hot bath'. Her transatlantic-lifestyle schedule means permanent jet lag: 'My favourite thing at night is to check on everyone while they are sleeping. Grown-ups, children. I actually take quite a lot of pictures of people when they're sleeping, which is kind of creepy because they look dead.'
The new baby is due in the summer; childbirth is daunting since Sailor was six weeks early: 'It's a wonderful, magic, amazing experience, but it's pretty f***ing scary: a lot of high stakes.' The first time around, she grew so tired 'I nearly threw that Gina Ford [The Contented Little Baby] book out of the window. I cried and was like, "F*** you." ' But she has help. 'And I need a lot of help. It takes a village.'
Born Liv Rundgren in New York in 1977, Tyler's mother is Bebe Buell, a Playmate (Miss November 1974). Liv believed her father was the rock musician Todd Rundgren, who lived with her mother between 1972 and 1979, but when she met Steve Tyler and his daughter Mia, aged eight, Liv herself noticed the similarity. Her mother confirmed that Liv was the result of a brief liaison with Tyler, who was heavily addicted to drugs. She's had a lot of therapy to deal with it all: 'Yeah, therapy has been big. I love anything that teaches me about how we work, the great mystery of the brain.' Today she refers to Rundgren and Tyler as 'my dads', saying of Rundgren: 'I'm so grateful to him. I have so much love for him.'
Although she has three half-siblings (Mia, 37, Chelsea, 26, and Taj, 25) on Tyler's side and three stepbrothers on Rundgren's, she says she always felt like an only child. Her mother left her in Maine to be raised by her grand-mother, the formidable etiquette expert Dorothea Johnson, and as a girl she'd lie in bed praying for a twin: 'I've always been very caring. I would say, "Oh, I wish I had a twin sister and she was here with me right now. I could brush her hair or make her laugh." ' When leaving her stepbrothers after a visit, she would feel bereft: 'I was so envious. Whenever something fun was happening I had to leave by myself and they stayed as a unit.'
She saw Tyler when she was growing up, but she says her parents were immersed in their musical community: 'Their jobs were about being in a group, but as an actress I'm always alone. There isn't that feeling of being in a band. I always craved that. That was always part of why I wanted to have a big family. I loved that idea of the little group of gypsies, travelling in a pack.'
Certainly, since she was cast as a 17-year-old schoolgirl by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci for her award-winning role as the ingénue in Stealing Beauty, her films have taken her all over the world. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which she played Arwen Undomiel, required six months in New Zealand. She's also starred in block-busters such as Armageddon, Jersey Girl with Ben Affleck, and The Incredible Hulk, and alongside Ralph Fiennes in Onegin. She almost quit acting recently because she became frustrated with levels of cost-cutting in the industry: 'Today everyone wants to make movies for less, so they cut corners.'
As she gets older, she says that it's producing that really excites her: 'I still have a real passion for acting but in a slightly more snobby way... I only want to work with film-makers that turn me on and make me excited. [Producing] is a whole other set of skills, a different part of your brain.'
Years ago, she told an interviewer that she was tired of reading scripts that had directing notes like 'beautiful young girl walks in'. I ask about her experiences of sexism in the industry. '[Sexism] happens in any industry and I feel blessed that I can say no to it, that I don't have to entertain it - although they do always want to cast the male lead first,' she laughs. 'It is what it is, in a way. I can't say that it has hindered or deeply affected me. I get frustrated sometimes, sure.'
She concedes that it's easier to work with female directors: 'Being an opinionated thought-ful woman,' she says she's had 'to be careful how I com-municate with men. I'm very outspoken and if I'm working on a scene and I've thought about something, I'm going to express it.'
She says she's 'almost over' the stage fright that stopped her from doing theatre and that she would love to perform on the London stage 'if there's an amazing director who'd take me under his wing. But it would have to be performance and character-driven - that collaboration I would love.' Then she adds with a generous smile: 'More than anything in the whole world ever, I would love to do a musical. I'm never not humming a song or singing or thinking of a song. I literally think in song all day long.'