She is everywhere. From the old harbor to the new Port Canto, from the
Majestic Hotel to the Martinez. On posters, on magazine covers, on
television. Although her co-stars are such heavyweights as Jeremy Irons,
Sinead Cusack, Italian luminary Stefania Sandrelli and French veteran Jean
Marais, -- not to mention her director, Bernardo Bertolucci, a star in his
own right -- it is her face, and her face alone, that dots the Croisette
above the title "Stealing Beauty". Not since Nastassja Kinski in Roman
Polanski's "Tess" has a teenager been asked to "carry" a whole picture. A
responsibility that did not escape her during the shooting of the film in
Tuscany, Italy, in the summer of 1995.
"I was terrified. I was afraid it was going to be this huge kind of big
deal and that once on the set I wouldn't be sure which way to go. It turned
out to be just the opposite. It was just very laid back, and everyone was
very comfortable and warm and loving and nice."
Why made her think it would be such a heavy deal?
"Just because of all the things that I had heard about *Bernardo
Bertolucci*! It had been such a big deal for me to get this part..."
When she first heard she had the part, "I screamed, at the top of my
lungs!," she recalls, laughing. "I remember that day as if it were
yesterday. I was feeling... I don't know if "down" is the right word, but I
had, like, a week to wait until I knew. I had just come home from doing a
screen test, and I remember sitting in my room and kind of waiting and then
taking a nap and waking up to the phone ringing--and it was my agent. We
talked for *fifteen* minutes, then I finally said, 'When am I going to find
out?' And he said, 'You don't know yet?' You could have heard my scream all
the way to Tierra de Fuego!"
She would have gone through a crash course on Bertolucci movies if a) she
had been able to find the tapes -- "Even Kim's Video on Bleecker Street had
run out of 'The Conformist' and '1900' " -- b) if she didn't have to rush
to the Cannes Festival where James Mangold's "Heavy" was to be shown at the
Directors' Fortnight; c) return to the States and graduate from high
school; then d) pack up and go to Tuscany.
"It did go kind of fast, didn't it?," she dryly comments.
Indeed. Although she always knew she wanted to be an actress, she says, "I
thought I would have to first graduate from high school, go to college and
study, then get a drama teacher or go to a drama school." She started out
as a model. Just before she went to Venezuela to make some Bongo Jeans
commercials, she got herself an agent and a small article (with photograph)
in the New York Times, in which she expressed her desire to act.
Of course there was this little matter of her name. As everybody and their
mothers know, she is the daughter of Aerosmith's lead singer Steve Tyler.
Patiently, wearily -- she's obviously done it a million times -- she
"I was born with the name Rundgren. 'Tyler' is a new thing for me: I found
out that Steven was my father when I was nine. My mother and my father --
Todd Rundgren, at the time -- were having some differences, so we moved to
New York to start over. I was very excited about finding my new father, and
it seemed natural to just pick up the name.
"It became very frustrating: from that point on, every single article
mentioned that 'Liv Tyler, the daughter of Blah! blah! blah!' I mean, it's
okay, and I'm very proud of him, but it just got boring after a while. A
couple of times I thought I should have kept Rundgren... But then, a)
wanting to be more a part of my real father was only natural; b) I liked
the name -- and it *is* a great name! c) to be honest, at that time I had
just gone into 6th grade, I was still wearing braces and a perm, I really
didn't think of a '*career*."
She remembers vividly her first audition with Bertolucci.
"I walked into the room, it was very quiet, I was very nervous. I sat in a
chair and I could feel my ears turning red... Bernardo asked me several
questions about everything, life, what I was doing, you know..."
Did he or she do most of the talking?
"He did. I wasn't going to talk my head off. In that situation you think of
that person as being an authority figure, like a teacher or something. You
don't walk into the room and start saying 'I think so and so, and this and
that.' NOW I would work the room!"
Bertolucci explained who Lucy, the central character, was: a
nineteen-year-old American girl who comes to Italy in search of... "a lot
of things about the people around her, about herself. This is the first
time that I have ever been able to find that kind of happy medium between
myself and a character. Because I understand her, and like her, very much,
it was easy for me to be her, and be *with* her constantly."
A self-described "laid back energetic" -- "I need excitement! I like to sit
on my ass every once in a while for a day but I can't do that all the time"
-- Tyler is in almost every scene of "Stealing Beauty". As often happens,
there comes a point in the making of a film where "ownership" of the
character switches from director (Bertolucci) and scriptwriter (American
novelist Susan Minot) to the actor that portrays it. "It's true," Tyler
says. "They handed you the ball, it's all up to you now." At some point,
the actor knows the character better than they do.
"Neither 'better' or 'worse', just differently. As long as you find
yourselves on the same wavelength about her. Otherwise, it would be
Early on, unlike many a model turning to acting (Cindy Crawford springs to
mind), Liv Tyler, both cleverly and tactfully, decided to go for ensemble
pieces (in James Mangold's "Heavy", she shares the bill with Shelley
Winters and Deborah Harry). No "the lead-or-bust" tantrum, then...
"...or now!" After "Sleeping Beauty" was completed, Tyler was offered "a
tiny little cameo" in the new Woody Allen film.
"At first I went, 'Boo-hoo, I didn't get the big part.' But the more I
thought about it and sat on it, the more I thought it was really cool. I
hate it when I admire a person and they don't get out of my face; it's,
like, the most annoying thing! And I don't want it to happen, I don't want
to just make five films and be rich and have fifty pictures of me and be
done. I want to be Maggie Smith or Vanessa Redgrave, make lots of films,
and even greater ones when my hair is grey!"
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