LIV TYLER TALKS AVOIDING FAME AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FEMALE AGENCY
Liv Tyler has spent the morning pushing her toddlers, three-year old Sailor Gene and two-year old Lula Rose, in their buggy up and down the streets in the shadows of the Westway. Quite a workout, she exhales, flopping onto the banquette at the Electric in Notting Hill, and seizing on a menu. She’s ravenous. Or, as she puts it, “drooling for everything”. There is a digression about how to craft the perfect Spanish omelette, before she commits to the salmon and beseeches the waiter to serve the grilled corn in a bowl. A megawatt smile. He will see what he can do. “I love to get into a good corn on the cob, but it’d be really hard to do while we’re talking,” she says. And then, like that – waiter dispatched with charm – she is poised and ready for conversation.
Though with Tyler, there is always a danger you’ll rehash hackneyed ground. Her entire life is industry mythology; she’s been on the inside since she was born on 1 July 1977, the only daughter of Playboy model Bebe Buell – the inspiration for Kate Hudson’s hypnotic groupie in Almost Famous – and Aerosmith’s lithe, livewire frontman Steve Tyler. Except, (in)famously, she spent the first eight years of her life believing her father was really Buell’s then-boyfriend, the musician Todd Rundgren – he even signed her birth certificate – and only worked out the truth after clocking a little girl standing off-stage at an Aerosmith gig who looked just like her. This was Mia Tyler, her half sister; Buell confirmed Liv’s suspicions as the girls’ biological father performed. The myth runs that an eight-year old Tyler, barely missing a beat, remarked: “Christmas is going to be really fun this year.”
Even in an industry of unconventional stories and gilded lineage, Tyler’s myth has been insistently fascinating. As second generation, the progeny of a rock star and a model, she always seemed destined to be in the public eye – as another profile once put it, she is “an actress whose career has chased her a lot harder than she has ever chased it.” Though she sees it differently. “I don’t think I ever would have done this job if my mother hadn’t encouraged me. I was super shy. I was just in high school, and people started asking me to go on auditions. She really encouraged me. She didn’t make me, but she did in that way that only a mother can, [she’d] be like, ‘you’re doing this’.”
Certainly, unlike many famous progeny, Tyler has never been very interested in the fame game. She never spent longer than two years in LA, she doesn’t enjoy the celebrity circuit, the fripperies, the schmoozing. “The acting part of it I love, the history, the filmmakers. The flashier parts of it, never. I don’t want to go to Hollywood Boulevard. I was never very interested in the social part of the industry. I think being second generation it loses its appeal – if anything you’re very sceptical about it.” She hates talk shows, the promotion circuit. “I have the same reaction now that I had when I was 17, 18 – even though I’ve been doing it for longer in my lifetime than I haven’t been doing it, and it should be second nature. I get stage fright, which is weird because I don’t usually. I can’t control it: I try and breathe my way through it, but I get red from my heart up. It’s like a weed grows and goes all the way up my ears and my neck, and all over my chest. It’s a physical reaction. My breath is short and I have to pee a million times.”
Hat by Stephen Jones, dress by Damir Doma, ring by Slim Barrett
It doesn’t help that this promotion circuit is expected, that the industry she has known her whole life has now changed irrevocably. The biggest change is the way its mystique has been cheapened by social media. “[Back then] you would hide out more, create your own fun. You weren’t advertising yourself all the time in the way that people do now. It’s such a pressure now, it’s just part of everything.” She won’t use Twitter (“I just don’t think in words like that”) though concedes a refusal to play the fame game can backfire. “It’s not always the best for making decisions professionally. Sometimes, if you don’t play the game you miss out. But at the end of the day, I feel better going to sleep at night knowing that I’m making the choices about the things that I want to do. I’ve tried to always follow my heart.”
And those instincts have served her well: Tyler’s is a stellar CV for someone accused of ambivalence about the industry. At 14, she started modelling, where her career milestones included a shoot for the now-defunct, then-zeitgeist magazine, Interview. She “kind of hated modelling because I didn’t like being told what to do – I didn’t realise the amazing people I was working with until later.” Then, there was a few years of commercials, auditions and indie films, before her film breakthrough in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty, in which Tyler played the romantic naif Lucy Harmon, who travels to Tuscany to try and lose her virginity. She celebrated her 18th birthday on set. At 21 came her blockbuster initiation in Armageddon – her father, famously, sang the anthemic theme tune – followed by a few offbeat rom-coms, before being cast as the elf Arwen in the Lord of the Rings franchise, a turn for which the term “ethereal” might have been created.
In the meantime, she had her first child, Milo, in 2004, with then husband, Spacehog musician Royston Langdon. “I didn’t work for a year. It was around the Lord of the Rings time and I felt like I needed to cocoon myself and my family.” Exceptions were made for a role as Dr Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk – another blockbuster, grossing $262 million worldwide – and in 2014, her first foray into television, in the eerie Tom Perrotta drama, The Leftovers.
Coat by Simone Rocha
And then she met football agent, David Gardner – the pair were reportedly introduced by mutual friend Kate Moss – and had Sailor and Lula, in (very) quick succession, moved to England, first Primrose Hill, now Notting Hill, where they live in a six storey townhouse, and mingle with London’s bohemian creme-de-la-creme, some of whom have upbringings similar to Tyler’s (Stella McCartney is a close friend).
After packing so much life into three years, then, Tyler would be expected to take a more extended maternity leave this time. Except she felt like doing the opposite. “This time I felt a very clear drive to continue working. Having the babies so close together, acting is almost like my vacation. It’s not the easiest part of my life – but it kind of is, in comparison to being a mother. It’s like a joyous holiday from real life.”
Currently, she stars in Harlots, a drama about prostitution set in a seedy eighteenth-century Soho, a gangland of madames and murders and extortion and misogyny, in which people are casually referred to as “infernal whores”. Tyler joined the second season, which started airing in the US in June, as Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam, a courtier who is controlled by her brother, and must trick and manipulate him in order to win her freedom. “She is such an interesting person,” Tyler says, smiling. The programme, which was written by Alison Newman and Moira Buffini, with a largely female team is an education in female sexuality and independence, ribald and knowing, but, despite its subject matter, not titillating or gratuitous. “But what you realise about the harlots – as much as you think, ‘oh god, poor them’ – is at that time, those were the women that were free,” Tyler continues. “That was maybe their last resort, but they were living in their own homes, taking their own money, doing with it what they wanted. If you were to marry, your husband would get your money.” She was seduced by this world, “how much it mirrored so many issues going on now and how far we’ve come.” Plus, she got to work alongside Samantha Morton – “Sam”, she smiles again.
Coat by Erdem
Female agency is, of course, the theme of this last year in Hollywood: #MeToo and #TimesUp have forced radical introspection on the power imbalances of the entertainment industry and beyond – the difference between the fantasies it projects and the realities for those involved. Initially, Tyler is a little guarded on the topic, clearly a little weary of the “woman” question, loathe to become a soundbite. “I feel like it’s always an interesting time to be a woman,” she says, firmly, carefully. “But I think it’s amazing that there’s so much opportunity and so much focus on making things right and more equal. I think it’s also important to look at how far we’ve come. We take that for granted, being free, young, independent women in this Western world, who can make anything we want happen if we put our minds to it. There’s a lot of women who don’t have the opportunity. Everyone talks about the entertainment industry and I’m like, ‘I’m so glad – but there’s so many other industries in the world where things are not fair at all’. It’s a bigger conversation.”
Cape by Nina Ricci, body by La Perla
Being second generation was a privilege in other ways: she was always very realistic about the industry’s flaws and imbalances. “I was blessed. My mother protected me so fiercely but she also taught me to protect myself at a very very young age. I was always taught to be aware, to listen to my instincts, not put myself in situations that were uncomfortable or how to get out of them quickly if I was. I’m really grateful to her. I personally didn’t have horrible things happen to me. Nothing. But I was probably always looking out for it.” That soft femininity belies steeliness. “Things can feel weird sometimes, in any part of this industry; people ask you to do things all the time. But I was always very vocal about my taste – what I did and didn’t want to do, while still respecting the creatives involved.” It is a careful dance.
Tyler knows she is charmed, playing make-believe. “It’s such a privilege to dip into all these different people and eras, embody those people, then come home and be a mother of four.” Though the idea that acting is “glamorous” rankles. “I was talking to someone the other day and she said to me, ‘Why do you have to read scripts? I don’t understand.’ And I was like, ‘what do you mean? You have to read a lot of stuff, read the story and then your lines…’ And she was like, ‘you have to memorise all that? I thought you wore something in your ear and they told you what to say’. No! On Harlots, you would work fifteen-hour days sometimes. Three hours of hair and make-up, and then you’re on set, and then the drive home. And then you’re memorising lines when you get home. That’s a normal day for an artist. The longest day I ever worked was 18 hours, on a movie. But you know it’s for a certain period of time – you just get stuck in. I get kind of obsessed.”
Taken from issue 15 of Hunger magazine, Fantasy meets Reality, out now
Folklore and traditions are ingrained in cultures across the globe. They tell imaginative tales that cover a wide range of topics: romantic encounters, origins of popular holidays, and lighthearted fables. In the spirit of Halloween, however, we’re examining the darker side of folklore. These are not the stories that populate children’s books, but rather the deep-rooted cautionary tales passed on from generation to generation.
Many of these tales include terrifying creatures or dive deep into the ghostly histories of centuries-old paintings and other mysterious works of art. Though fantastical, many believe these legends are rooted in truth. Below, explore the eeriest, most blood-chilling stories and traditions from around the world.
Chilling Folktales from Around the World
Also referred to as The Peony Lantern, the story of Botan Dōrō originated in 17th-century Japan and continues to be one of the most famous ghost stories in Japanese culture. Though there are multiple versions, the general storyline is as follows: On the first night of Obon—a Japanese festival that honors ancestral spirits—a widowed samurai meets a beautiful woman named Otsuyu and quickly falls in love with her. They meet every night from dawn until dusk, and she is always accompanied by a young girl holding a peony lantern.
Soon, someone grows suspicious and spies on them, horrified to discover that Otsuyu is a skeleton. Though petrified, the samurai’s love for Otsuyu is so strong that he ignores warnings to stay away and follows her to a grave in a temple. The next day, his dead body is found entwined with the woman’s skeleton. This famous folktale has been the subject of many Japanese paintings and was also developed into a Kabuki play.
The Headless Horseman
There are many stories in folklore surrounding headless horsemen—from the German folktale by the Brothers Grimm to the Irish Celtic legend of dullahan, a headless demon on a black horse. The most persistent American version of the myth is a loose adaptation of Washington Irving’s 1820 story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which draws from historical facts about the American Revolutionary War.
Legend has it, during the Battle of White Plains, a Hessian artilleryman was decapitated by an American cannonball. He was buried hastily in the churchyard of Sleepy Hollow by his comrades. In the middle of the night, it is said that he rides out to seek his head or take anyone else’s in his path.
Jasy Jatere: God of the Siesta
The tale of Jasy Jatere stems from Guarani traditions in Paraguay. Parents often use the spooky story as a scare tactic to get their children to behave. Supposedly, Jasy Jatere roams the streets during siestas looking for children who would rather play than nap. Most variations depict Jasy Jatere as a child himself, with long, light-colored hair, but some say he is a small man who takes children prisoner before scooping their eyes out so they cannot find their way back home.
In China, stories of an undead creature known as Jiangshi have existed since the Qing Dynasty. Though the word literally translates to “stiff corpse,” these reanimated bodies are often referred to as “hopping vampires” because they move by hopping with arms outstretched and hide in coffins or unlit areas during the day. The pale, lifeless creatures are often depicted as rotting or decomposing and are believed to kill the living with one touch. Chinese residents who fear the dead place a six-inch piece of wood at the bottom of the door to prevent them from entering their homes.
One of Mexico’s most popular tales centers around La Llorona, which translates to “weeping woman.” Though no one is certain from where the story originated, it has been haunting Mexican families since well before the Spanish conquest. Details vary from source to source, but the general idea is that La Llorona started out as a beautiful woman named Maria. After her husband left her (some versions say for a younger woman), she drowned her children in a river out of rage.
Maria felt immediate remorse and threw herself into the river in an attempt to reverse her sins. Instead of finding forgiveness, she is cursed to walk riverbanks for eternity, where she kidnaps and drowns other children out of spite. It is said that if you hear her cry, you will soon encounter the same fate. La Llorona has been represented in many forms of Mexican art throughout the years including film, poetry, theater, and literature.
The Scariest Creatures To Walk The Earth
The Banshee is Ireland’s best-known spirit. This female figure roams the countryside and is said to wail as a warning that death is near. Though she does not cause death, her presence is believed to foreshadow death’s arrival. Historians have traced the Banshee story back to the 8th century, when it was customary for women to sing sad songs to lament a death. There are a few variations as to how the Banshee appears: some depict her as a beautiful, young woman with flowing white hair, while others describe an old woman with dirty, rotting teeth and long fingernails.
Deer Woman is an animal spirit that appears throughout Native American art and mythology. She is sometimes depicted in animal form, sometimes human form, and sometimes both. Deer Woman is associated with love and fertility, but in contemporary tellings she takes on a mischievous role. The spirit is known to seduce promiscuous men and leave them to die or waste away from longing.
The legend of the Chupacabra began in Puerto Rico in 1995 after a series of attacks on livestock occurred. The animals appeared to be drained of blood with puncture wounds around the neck, but the deaths were never explained. Though the description of the creature varies, it’s said to have a forked tongue, large eyes, and alien-like quills. The tale of the Chupacabra eventually spread to other parts of Latin America and even to the United States. It is still widely believed to be true.
Hawaiian art and culture has a rich history of mythology and folklore, and one of their scariest tales is that of the Hukai’po, which translates to “Spirit Ranks.” Also known as Nightmarchers, the Hukai’po are thought to be ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors who come out on sacred nights to reenact old battles, toting archaic weapons, helmets, cloaks, and raised torches. Anyone in their path risks harm, though it is suggested that you may be spared if you show proper respect to the marchers.
The legend of La Ciguapa is one of the most renowned in the Dominican Republic. Ciguapas are small, feral women that inhabit the mountain areas, lurking in the shadows and waiting to capture lonely men. They appear to have extremely long hair that covers their thin bodies and backwards feet. One of the earliest written accounts of these creatures appeared in novelist and poet Francisco Javier Angulo Guridi’s 1866 short story “La Ciguapa,” where he provides a lengthy description of the mountain women. Since, they have been an important part of the Dominican Republic’s culture and represented in mythical paintings and sculptures.
Cursed Objects from Around the World
Crying Boy Paintings
In 1985, a series of fires broke out in England that destroyed various homes and businesses. A group of paintings known as “Crying Boys” were the lone survivors of the fires, and as a result, all of the paintings belonging to the series were thought to be cursed. The original collection, created by painter Bruno Amadio, intended to depict children who had been recently orphaned as a result of World War II. The paintings were mass-produced in England, but everyone who had one sought to destroy theirs after the curse of the fires.
The Basano Vase
Legend has it this 15th-century vase was given to a bride on the eve of her wedding in Naples, Italy, but she was murdered that night holding the artifact. After her death, any family member it passed to also died. The family stored the vase, but it resurfaced in 1988 with a note warning of its capabilities. Even so, the vase was auctioned off for $2,250 without the note. The pharmacist who bought it died shortly after as did various others who owned it until, finally, a family demanded that the police do away with it completely.
In 1974, a group of seven farmers in China accidentally uncovered a 2,200-year-old Terracotta Army while digging a well for their village. It was a series of 8,000 sculptures that had been buried alongside a grand tomb. Instead of fame and fortune, the seven farmers found only despair. Three of the seven died painful deaths, and all their land and homes were destroyed as a means to unearth the army. Many believe they were cursed by whoever was buried alongside the figures.
The Hands Resist Him Painting
The Hands Resist Him is a haunting painting created by Bill Stoneham in 1974. The work depicts a young boy standing next to a female doll who has hollow eyes and a downturned smile. Behind them are disembodied hands reaching through the glass panels on the door. Though the contents of the painting are spooky in itself, some also believe that anyone in contact with it will die. The art critic, gallery owner, and first owner of the painting each died within a couple years of each other after coming in contact with the painting.
Tomb of Tutankhamun
After the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, many believed the Egyptian Pharaoh cursed all who entered it. Aside from the curse of the pharaohs—which is a belief that anyone, thief or archeologist, who disturbs the mummy of an ancient Egyptian person will be cursed—an expedition led by Howard Carter furthered the mysticism. During the expedition, a canary that led Carter to the tomb died, Carter’s financial backer, George Herbert, died after a mosquito bite grew infected, and numerous other deaths became associated with the decade-long dig.
Cultures around the world have different tales and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. Though some are jovial and lighthearted, others draw upon creepier, darker elements. From cursed paintings and antiquities to Gothic literature featuring haunting spirits and monsters, these eerie folktales are sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.
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