WHEN LIV Tyler sat down to face the media last month at a Los Angeles press conference to promote her latest film, The Incredible Hulk, there was something in the air which suggested that all was not quite right with the 30-year-old actress.
She seemed surprisingly melancholic, and her normally upbeat and buoyant demeanour was noticeably absent. Within hours of the press conference, it was revealed that her seven-year marriage to British musician Royston Langdon was over.
Tyler married Langdon -- formerly the bass player and singer of Spacehog, and more recently of the little-known Arckid -- in 2003, after previously being in a long-term relationship with Joaquin Phoenix. Their split came as something of a surprise, and as word got out when the actress was spotted without her wedding ring, her representatives released a statement saying, "Liv Tyler and Royston Langdon have confirmed their separation. They remain good friends and devoted parents to their son, Milo, and are requesting that their family's privacy be respected at this time."
Rumours immediately started stating that Tyler's belief that they had married too young was behind the split, or that the strain of their careers, principally her success alongside his struggling career caused irreparable damage to their relationship. In reality, the rumours are just that and the couple have kept a dignified lid on the reasons if, for no other reason than for the sake of their son.
During the press conference to promote the latest Hulk incarnation, the only thing that seemed to animate the otherwise reticent Tyler was when her three-year-old son Milo was mentioned. "He's literally in the room next door, having a grilled-cheese sandwich,"' she beamed. "He is so cute. He is so amazing."
Now that she has split from Langdon, Tyler's son is the only man she seems to have room for in her life. She appears on the cover of the June/July issue of Cookie Magazine -- a publication which bills itself as a "lifestyle magazine for the modern mother" -- with Milo playing at her feet.
Inside, she spoke of her desire to move to the countryside with her son, from their current home in New York, and give him the kind of idyllic upbringing every parent dreams of providing for their child. It seems that the girl with the most unorthodox childhood is just seeking a bit of normality now that she's a parent herself.
"I'd love for him to have pets and chickens to take care of," she said. "And I want to give him all the tools to be the best man he can be. For me, so much of that has to do with being in nature and really using your hands when you're a kid."
Tyler's upbringing is the stuff of legend. She is the daughter of Playboy centrefold Bebe Buell and Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler. She spent most of her childhood in the care of her aunt and uncle believing that rock star Todd Rundgren was her biological father. "My mom was around, but she was young and struggling," she told Cookie.
She believed the Aerosmith front man to be a close family friend, which explained his presence around the family in between bouts of touring and occasional stints in rehab. In fact, it was his drug problems which caused her mother to list Rundgren, with whom she had also been in a relationship, as Tyler's biological father on her birth certificate. It was only at the age of nine that Liv noticed that Steven's other daughter, Mia -- who is now a plus-size model and actress -- looked a lot like her and twigged that Steve, was in fact her father.
With her upbringing, it was unlikely that Tyler was ever going to end up as a bank clerk, but even with the privileges afforded to her, her teenage years were difficult for a child with literally no avenue to turn to for rebellion. "What could I do?" she proclaimed last year. "Run away and smoke a joint, and go to rock concerts for the weekend? That's all they ever did."
She began modelling at 14 and moved into acting after starring alongside Alicia Silverstone in the music video for Aerosmith's Crazy in 1993. Despite having no formal training, she started landing movie roles soon after, appearing in Stealing Beauty, Armageddon and One Night at McCool's.
She then got the role of Arwen in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, a part which projected Tyler's acting career on to a whole new stratosphere. With her career established, she was now able to take a year off after Milo's birth, safe in the knowledge that there would be work there for her when she returned. She is not yet, however, in the position to pick and choose her roles based on caring for her son as someone such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who agreed to star in Iron Man because of the proximity of the film set to her home.
"Whenever I hear actors say that, I think, Wow, they must really be in demand," Tyler admitted recently. "I'm still trying to figure it all out. Modelling and acting are what I've done since I was 14, so it's not like I have another option. But the balance can be hard for me, because for my whole life, my dream was to be a mother." Instead, she brings her son with her when she shoots a movie. She has done four in the two years since her hiatus. The nomadic lifestyle a successful actor leads may not exactly correspond with how Tyler wishes to raise her son, but is something she is determined to make the most of. "We try to embrace that we live like gypsies a little bit. We go somewhere for three months at a time, and we make friends and get to see a whole new place. It's very special in a way."
She has described her current role as Betty Ross, the lover and confidante of Edward Norton's Bruce Banner/Hulk, as "the hardest film I ever worked on, hours-wise". It no doubt took her away from her son for a lot longer than she would have wished.
Now with her impending divorce that may be something she will need to get used to as their son divides his time between his mother and father. In the interview with Cookie, given before the couple split, she reveals the importance they placed on providing their son with stability given that their respective careers make a "normal" upbringing practically impossible. "My philosophy is that we're the ones who go to him in the night and when he wakes up in the morning," she said, "and those are the most important moments in a young child's life."
Even with her marriage split, Milo will certainly have a far more balanced childhood than Tyler ever had. In many ways it's amazing that she has emerged unscathed from that upbringing. It ensures, however, that her career, whether it be acting or modelling, is just one of the things which holds the public's interest in her. Her background remains every bit as intriguing for her as it does for the rest of us.
"I'm still working through my issues, which I always will be," Tyler says of her youth. Parenthood, however, has shed some light on the stresses and strains her own mother and father were operating under.
"I had the idea we all had as teenagers, of 'Well, I'm gonna do it this way'. Then suddenly you're living it, and you have a lot more empathy for every other parent in the world."
'The Incredible Hulk' is in cinemas from June 13