If there is one word that is repeatedly used to describe Liv Tyler, it’s ‘ethereal’. And it’s not just because of her most famous role, playing elfin maiden Arwen Undómiel in the hugely successful The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Her naturally glowing porcelain skin, doe eyes and signature pillow pout (inherited from her dad, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler), all fuse together to give the actress an otherworldly beauty, whatever film role she takes on. But don’t let that breathless, girly voice fool you – this is one tough cookie. After all, when you’re the daughter of one rock star and the ex-wife of another (she married Brit musician Royston Langdon in 2003; they divorced in 2009), being a wallflower isn’t an option. “I’m a strong, big-boned girl, and tough,” she says. “I have a lot of opinions and I’m pretty bossy.”
But it doesn’t stop people from assuming she is shy and retiring, she admits. “I played an elf – it was my job to be ethereal,” she says. “I guess it’s because I have a soft speaking voice. But I am trying to speak up more.”
At 37, Liv says she is finally finding her feet. “I think that now, as a woman, I feel much more comfortable in myself. I used to get so shy. But now I think that I’ve overcome those kinds of feelings. I know now that the worst thing that you think could happen is never going to happen. Even if it does, you should just laugh your way through it.”
A fresh challenge
It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago Liv was considering turning her back on Hollywood and retiring to the countryside with her nine-year-old son, Milo. But that was before the script for The Leftovers – the show that would put her back on the map – landed on her desk. “I’d think: maybe I should just move to the country and open a store and write books and make music and have a million babies and take in animals,” she says. “Part of me always longed for » it. I’d look at the entertainment industry as a whole and I’d think: where do I fit into all this and do I even want to be a part of it? Then this came along and it made everything worth waiting for.”
The apocalyptic drama about a mysterious event that sees 140 million people suddenly disappear is Liv’s first foray into TV after two decades on the big screen. Already the show has drawn comparisons with 1990s cult classic Twin Peaks, and has garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. If you haven’t tuned in yet, her performance as Meg, a troubled young woman dealing with a devastating loss, is a masterclass in portraying latent rage.
“It’s about human beings and their journey and their pain,” she says of the series, which also stars Justin Theroux (aka Mr Jennifer Aniston). While her character deals with her intense grief by running off to join a cult, Liv says she has her own way of dealing with hardship. “[I am] very quiet and sad and rational. I feel a lot. But I’m also very resilient,” she says.
Despite a CV that spans two decades and runs the gamut from teen comedies like Empire Records and That Thing You Do! to big-name blockbusters like Armageddon and The Incredible Hulk, Liv still had to audition for the role, as Meg was originally scripted to be a redhead in her 20s. “I don’t think they were thinking about someone like me,” she says. “I think they were probably going to find a new, young girl, so I did have to go in and sort of show them… I’ve always been very shy at auditioning; I’m not so great at it.” She admits that after the audition, “I actually prayed to the universe to show me a sign, that if the project happened, it was a sign that I was meant to keep acting.” And it seems the universe listened.
All coming together
It’s not just Liv’s career that is enjoying a renaissance – there are exciting changes afoot at home as well this year. She recently announced she is pregnant with her second child to her new partner, Dave Gardner, who is David Beckham’s former sports agent (the pair were reportedly introduced by Kate Moss). She’s also achieved her dream of rural living, having recently bought a country house near Hudson, New York. “For seven years I’d been saying that I wanted to do an HBO show with an ensemble cast. And I wanted a house in the country,” she says. “And getting to have another child? If you knew me well, they were the things my heart longed for. And they all came together, like a speeding freight train, in one year.”
The actress is clearly relishing her pregnancy – especially as it means a break from the Hollywood obsession with dieting. “The most fun thing about being pregnant again is having those mum hormones flowing around. You’re more present in your body, and it’s making me a better mother for Milo,” she says. Adding, “It’s fun not being on a diet or thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I have to go to SoulCycle every day’.”
It’s clear that Liv is finally getting the settled family life she has always craved, but, given her unconventional upbringing, the narrative could easily have been very different. Born Liv Rundgren, the surname of her stepfather Todd, she only learnt the identity of her real father at the age of 10. Her mother – model Bebe Buell (the inspiration for Kate Hudson’s character in Almost Famous) – thought it best to conceal the truth, as Tyler was in the throes of a drug addiction at the time. “My mum was very young  when she had me, and she didn’t necessarily have all her tools in her toolbox,” says Liv. “We kind of grew up together, which was a beautiful thing. But we moved around a lot, too, between Maine and New York, and it was hard for me.” She adds, “I worked very hard on myself in order to be fine. It wasn’t easy.”
When you look at her teenage years – she was scouted as a model at the age of 14 and got her first acting role in an Aerosmith video at 16 – she could have easily transitioned into a Hollywood wild child. But instead Liv chose to grow up – and fast. “My life has been so extraordinary. I think certain things that were probably meant to happen a little bit later happened at such a young age. I never fully experienced my childhood. I’ve spent a lot of time having to grow myself up in many ways and also to sort of slow myself down and allow myself to live at the pace that I am,” says the actress, who married at 25.
Perhaps as a reaction to her own chaotic upbringing, she’s always made a point of putting family first. When she had Milo, she took a career break to focus on motherhood. “Ever since Milo was born, I haven’t really been making many movies because I just can’t imagine being away from home for long periods of time,” she says. Her latest career move allows her to film near her city home in Manhattan’s West Village. “It’s a steady job, and that’s something I’ve never had before. It feels like such a luxury.”
She has also remained close to her ex-husband and his English family in an attempt to create stability for her son. “We have the best Yorkshire Christmases – so under the radar,” she says. “And I’m so happy that Milo gets to have that in his foundation – the humour and the ‘groundedness’, those Northern qualities.” She also remains close to both her stepdad, Todd, and her biological dad, Steve. “[Milo] has a ton of grandparents – semi-normal ones in Leeds, and then totally bonkers ones on my side,” she says.
Liv has also created her own ‘Hollywood family’, consisting of her best friends, Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney. But, despite her superstar pedigree, she prefers to shun the paparazzi glare, swapping LA for New York.
“The only time I ever felt scared was when we lived in LA: creepy men in cars following you and your child around. That’s not normal or OK. But here [New York], I feel like they give me a good distance and they’re quite respectful, and if I ever really ask them to go away, they will.”
With the chips all falling into place for her, Liv has a fatalistic attitude towards her fortune for 2015. “I believe that everything happens when it’s meant to happen and you can’t force that hand,” she says. “[In 2014], I’ve been so happy just being home and being a good mom and going to work – my plate’s been perfectly full,I haven’t wanted any seconds.”
Since her first acting role at 16, Tyler has progressed from teen romcom roles to hitting the big time in huge blockbusters like Armageddon and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Red carpet style
Having grown up with a model for a mother in Bebe Buell, Liv has always had an eye for fashion, choosing feminine and sophisticated styles when she graces the red carpet.
Counting the A-list likes of Eva Mendes, Kate Hudson and Stella McCartney among her closest pals, Liv has always been a well-connected sort of girl.
With a rock star dad, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, and her own paparazzi following, Liv has done her best to shield her son Milo from the weirder side of fame, moving from LA to New York to avoid the “creepy men in cars”.