Besides being a beloved actress and model, Liv Tyler is also the original NYLON It Girl. No, seriously - she appeared on the first cover of NYLON Magazine, shot and styled by Helena Christensen in April, 1999.
Twelve years and umpteen film roles later, Tyler stars in this summer's On the Ledge, a psychological thriller produced by IFC and exploring the extremes of fanatical religion and absolute atheism. (It also stars Charlie Hunnam as - yes - a guy on a ledge.)
Digital Director Faran Krentcil sat down with the Manhattan native to discuss her new role... and also Empire Records, because we couldn't resist.
How's it going?
It's good, but sometimes journalists ask the weirdest questions. I'm so glad you said you're from NYLON because I love NYLON! I was on their very first cover! And I'm kind of all talked out.
Is there something everyone asks you? And you're like, really, again? I think the question I always have the hardest time with is when people want to know the similarities and differences between you and your character. When there's a character... you want to fully become that person. You're not paying attention to whether or not you would like them, or whether they would like you. You can't judge them if you want to give a good performance.
How'd you get involved in this film?
I thought the script was weird, and amazing, and I had never read anything like it. That was four years ago. Then one of my best friends – the cinematographer Bobby Bukowski – he was hired. And he was very good friends with Charlie [Hunnam] but we had never all hung out together. So I would always hear about Charlie, and Charlie would hear about me…and suddenly it came together really fast. I passed on it earlier, and they gave it to someone else, and Bobby was getting on a plane to make [the film] and I got really jealous. I was like, “Wait! I want to come with you!” Matthew [Chapman, the writer and director] wrote me this really beautiful letter telling me he had always wanted me to be in the movie. I said yes, on a whim. Well, not on a whim but just very quickly. Then I went to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and we started filming it.
Your character, Shana, is a reformed drug addict and hooker who becomes an Evangelical Christian. How'd you prepare for that? I watched a lot of those Evangelical programs on TV, and I went to church a few times in New Orleans. There was actually this crazy place I passed all the time, but I was kind of too scared to go there. It was like a compound with barbed wire around it; it was all white with a huge giant cross. I would pass it on my days off on my way to New Orleans to visit my godmother, in my little rent-a-car. But the things I focused on weren't religious, it was really trying to understand her complexities, her vulnerabilities and what she had been through – where she was in her life.
Every character in this movie is in a dark place. Was the set really tense, or could you do something fun between takes? Patrick [Wilson, who plays her husband] and I used to laugh our asses off. It's funny, of all the people, we would be goofing off the most on set. We would get in trouble for laughing so hard! But this movie wasn't necessarily fun. It was hard.
What's it like being on set for months at a time? Sometimes you're filming 14 or 16 hours, but on this movie, it was only 12 [hours a day]. Ha, "only!" I usually had to be there at 4am - for women in films, especially, you're expected to be there very early, usually before the men. So if [your] location is a 30-minute drive, you get there and it's still dark. You're in hair and make-up for an hour and a half, more if it's a period film or a special effects thing, and then wardrobe needs you on set by 8 or 9. Then at the end of the day because you've got all of this adrenaline going – that sort of performer juice going through you – it's so hard to go to bed early, or go over your lines. It's hard. But it's also amazing, because it's really fun, especially when you shoot on location, to put your own life aside and get to escape a little bit from the everyday mundane responsibilities you have in your own life. You really get to go live in a new place and experience something new and focus just on the movie.
What are you obsessed with right now? I'm obsessed with wearing heels all the time now, these Louboutin heels. They're really comfortable.
You're lying. Nobody ever thinks their five-inch stilettos are comfortable.
No, these are so comfortable and nothing is digging in! I was this tall when I was, I think, eleven? So at eleven, I was 5'10 and I had a size ten shoes. And this came to me like a lightbulb recently, like, “Why am I so shy when I'm tall?” and “Why do I feel better in flats and Converse? Oh I bet it's because I was a giant at eleven years old, and I was so much taller than everyone. All the boys!" But today I feel happy to be tall.
What do you remember from your NYLON cover shoot in 1999? I remember everything! I remember being so excited having Helena [Christensen] take my picture. I feel like she'd only been taking pictures for a little while. [I had] really, really short hair. And I remember her putting these jewels on my lips. There's a picture where I have, like, pink crystals on my lips. I remember we shot in the Chateau Marmont, and it was just so fun, I loved it. It was really fun to be shot by a girlfriend, and she dressed me in her things. I don't even think there was a stylist. We just created these images…and my favorite was the one with my chin on the table with the baby TV. I liked that one.
Empire Records is one of our favorite movies in the office. Please tell us about making it. We had so much fun making that movie, because we all…all of us were just wild teenagers in South Carolina on the beach. We live in these little condos and we had so much fun... I was obsessed with Jane's Addiction, and I would drive around in my car listening to like "Classic Girl" and "Three Days." There was a thrift store there that I was obsessed with, and I used to go shopping there, and we ate hush puppies at this local beach shack, and... what else did we do? We did Rex Manning Day! I remember Rex Manning Day! I was really scared I had to strip down to my panties and my bra.
At least you didn't have to wear a Music Town apron and photocopy your ass.
Omigod! Amazing! Which character did you identify with the most in Empire Records?
I was like twelve when it came out, and I just wanted to be all of you. I wanted to be the fourth girl at Empire Records! But I've always liked dirty rockers, even as a kid, so I'm pretty sure I wanted to marry Coyote Shivers. Omigod, my mother was married to him!
What? Oh crap, I didn't know that! I never would have said that! Ha! It's okay. Yeah, he was married to my mom while we were making that movie. It was cool.
Why should NYLON girls go see your movie! Oh, I'm terrible at selling people on a movie! And honestly, I wouldn't want to influence someone's experience. Because when you read a book or you see a film, it's not good to read too many reviews before you see something or read something because you want to have an untainted experience of what you see and what you take from it. But when I saw this movie for the first time, I had a really profound moment about not being so judgmental about people, and always remember when you meet someone, the guy at the deli or your doorman, that you just don't ever know what someone's been through or what happened to them. How we judge someone based on their face or their politics or what exercise they do, or what outfit they're wearing. But you just never know why they're doing those things. We're all just trying to get through the days….so, whatever floats your boat, you know?