A screen goddess, a rockstar’s daughter and everyone’s favourite elf princess, Liv Tyler lets her hair down as she chats with Azza Arif in Shanghai about motherhood, Gunpowder, and the importance of a good bodysuit.
Whether you stumbled upon the existence of Liv Tyler in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty, fell in love with her half-elven character Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, or admired her startling role as the sinister cult leader Meg Abbott in HBO’s The Leftovers, the stunning actress has always occupied a special place in the hearts of those of us who grew up in the ‘90s. I, for one, have had an unwavering girl crush since Armageddon.
There I was, at the Presidential suite of The Langham Shanghai, bright-eyed on a Wednesday morning, dithering over whether to start with the much-anticipated cover shoot, or dive head-first into our interview. Liv turns up, dressed in a luscious pastel floral coat and plush hotel slides; her obsidian long waves framing her high, sweeping cheekbones and signature pillowy lips. She looked as beautiful (if not, even more) in person as she did decades ago when the entertainment world first laid its eyes on her in Aerosmith’s music video Crazy. “I hope I didn’t keep you all waiting for too long,” she said grinning, chiming hellos all around. She was so ethereal, so luminous, and almost otherworldly; so much so, that I felt the room actually light up with her presence.
My first impression of Liv was that she was refreshingly grounded. Perhaps that is what motherhood does to a person – it’s only been less than a year since she gave birth to her third child, Lula Rose Gardner. “I love being a mom.” She gushes in her signature lullaby voice. “I remember being about six and always knowing that I wanted to have children and be a mother and have a family. And I’m very grateful to be able to do that. It’s the most important thing in my life; my relationship with my children and my family is how I measure my happiness and success. When I know everything is well at home, I feel good.”
The Tyler-Gardner family- includes Lula, the couple’s son Sailor Gene as well as an older son each from their previous marriages—have settled permanently in London not too long ago. While meeting up with her agent, she casually mentioned that she was looking to find a project in Europe that she could do in the next couple of months, whilst being able to stay close to home. As fate would have it, a week later she was presented with an opportunity to cast in the three-part BBC period drama Gunpowder. “It was of those things that I definitely wasn’t planning on doing at that moment, as I just had Lula and I had just moved,” says Liv. “I had a lot of other things that were at the forefront of my important list, but then it was such a great and wonderful opportunity and a really exciting challenge, so I thought ‘you know what? I’m going to do this!’ And it all just happened really fast.”
Set in 1605, England, the three-part series chronicles the Catholic’s plot to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I. “The story revolves around religion, and what was going on at that time between the Catholics and the Church of England, and there were a lot of really harsh and horrible things going on,” she says. “And I wasn’t raised a religious person at all, even though I am very spiritual, so it was very interesting for me to learn about that time in history and all the historical parts about it and get to know the characters on a really personal level, because I think sometimes when you shoot things that are a part of history they can seem very removed. The way the writer wrote the story and the way the actors portrayed the characters—you felt like you could empathise with their motives and actions, whether you agreed with them or not.”
“I don’t base my unhappiness on somebody else’s opinion”
The part Italian, German, Polish, English and African-American actress played the role of Anne Vaux, who, for 20 years, secretly protected Henry Garnet, leader of the English Jesuit Mission. “My character is really interesting. She is very strong and very independent for that time period. She is not married, and chooses to live a life that probably a lot of them were not accustomed to at that time, so it was very risky for her.”
Although she has been acting since age 16, the daughter of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and model Bebe Buell doesn’t revel in the limelight. She also doesn’t let negative, or positive, comments get to her. “I don’t really pay that much attention to bad reviews. A good comment or a bad comment goes through one ear and goes out the other, and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way at all,” says the actress with a wry smile. “You could give me the most amazing compliment which would really touch my heart, but I’d force myself to forget about it. And someone might say something horrible, but I just think ‘oh that’s their opinion’ and let it go, unless it’s something I personally feel I could do better at.”
Dress & cape, Dior.
She also distances herself from comments about her work and instead has learnt to just enjoy the process of filmmaking and hope for the best. “I don’t base my unhappiness on somebody else’s opinion,” says Liv. “The post-production process can take a year, in which they can edit and change things, or the movie can turn out completely different than what you thought, and so I always sort of happily separate myself at that point and wait and see. But the real special part about it (filming) is the experience of making it, more than the moment it comes out. It’s always a sweet surprise when people like something, and it makes you feel excited when it connects in that kind of way. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t, and you never really know. Part of it is luck, and part of it is quality.”
“After three children and nearly turning 40, I am doing my first lingerie campaign!”
While we wait for lunch to be served, the conversation shifts to her obsession for lingerie—bodysuits to be precise. She shares with me how ecstatic she was when international lingerie brand, Triumph, approached her to be the face of their luxurious line, Essence. And believe it or not, this was the very first global campaign she has ever done for a lingerie brand. “Crazy right? Especially after three children and nearly turning 40, I am doing my first lingerie campaign!” she exclaims. “I love lingerie so much, and collecting different pieces. As a woman, every article of clothing needs a different undergarment: whether you are wearing a white dress, or black pants, you always need something different,” she reveals. “And what I like about Triumph is that they have a variety of different shapes and sizes for you to choose from, and it is nice to be able to have the styles that you like. I carry with me this massive bag with all my different underwear bits everywhere I go, because you will never know what you may need.”
Coat, Bally, Lingerie Essence by Triumph
Liv has always existed in her own sphere, living by her own rules; but the American sweetheart reveals that she is far from being competitive when it comes to anything and everything. “I’m like that with everything, I’m so weird, even with sports! I’m not a very competitive person, I’m quietly ambitious. Obviously within myself, I am very hardworking, and I set goals for myself, but I’m not a very competitive person by nature. Even when I’m watching a basketball game or something, I can see the good in both sides of the team. I guess I am neutral.”
Photographs by Elio Nogueira
Styled by Azza Arif
Hair James Brown
Makeup Marie Thomsen
Producer Ilaria Niccolini/ FTL moda