Liv Tyler thinks she knows why she is always late. “It’s because I get so consumed,” she says as she meets me around the corner from her West Village brownstone, dressed in a smart black pantsuit and sandals, a delicate necklace glinting from her neck, the chain strung with tiny hearts.
“Every moment is interesting to me,” she continues, a bit breathless. “So just walking out of the house, I wind up speaking to everyone and asking how they are, and then before I know it . . .” She shrugs and screws up her nose comedically. “I’m not very good at putting on blinders. What’s going on over there? What’s over there? I get into everything.”
Tyler, 38, smiles and removes the elastic band she’s wearing on her finger like a ring, then wraps her long, dark hair into a messy topknot. She recently gave birth to her second son, Sailor, with Dave Gardner, a top sports manager who lives in London (her first child—Milo, 10—is from her marriage to musician Royston Langdon). But she shows no signs of fatigue or frump. Instead, she smiles and suggests a road trip to Red Hook, Brooklyn, to look at an old friend’s art gallery.
Her car, which she insists on driving herself, is freshly vacuumed, belying any trace of her hectic family life as a working mother of two, save the children’s CDs tucked into the door pockets. As she pulls onto the Manhattan Bridge—“Maybe I’ll put on my glasses so I can see and not kill us”—Tyler jokes that she is often teased about her vehicle, which by celebrity standards is dated and modest.
“I’m pretty smart about spending,” she says. “I’ve had this car for 10 years. Everybody makes fun of me, but I don’t need another car. I don’t even like new cars.”
Tyler prefers knobs to touch screens. She longs to engage fully in her world, using every sense. She fears that modernity is costing us intimacy and connection, not to mention style. “Can we talk about why are there 3,000 different kinds of taxis now? Why can’t we go back to the ’70s? I want those cool taxis back.”
Currently starring as Meg Abbott, a woman lost even to herself, in HBO’s drama The Leftovers, Tyler is most recognized for (1) playing the luminous elf maiden Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and (2) being the daughter of Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler, which she was misled about until age nine, having been told by her mother that her father was rocker Todd Rundgren. Suspecting deceit after meeting her look-alike half sister, Mia Tyler, backstage at an Aerosmith show, Tyler confronted her mother, model and singer Bebe Buell, who subsequently confessed to the secret. Remarkably, Tyler held no grudges, perhaps understanding even at that innocent age that hers was a unique family tree and that she would probably need to be the rooted adult in the mix.
“I used to take care of everything,” Tyler says of her innate maternal instincts. “I can even remember being six years old and putting my cat, Little Man, to bed with a blanket over him before I went to sleep.”
Tyler acknowledges, with no trace of bitterness, that she has financially supported her mother and herself since she was 13 years old, the age at which she gained traction as a model and actress. “I bought my brownstone when I was only 23,” she says, “which is the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
“During my upbringing, I saw glimpses of so many different ways of living,” Tyler continues—a magnanimous way of saying that when her mother traveled with her band, Tyler would split her time between an aunt and uncle in Portland, Maine, and her maternal grandmother in Washington, D.C. “My aunt and my uncle are still together and still have the house that I lived in with them. So I had that example. And then I had my mom and my dad, and that was definitely more eccentric.”