If you were asked to name Liv Tyler’s father, you’d probably say Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, right? Understandable: they do share a surname, after all. Did you know, though, that the actress actually spent most of her childhood believing she was the daughter of another music legend? Oh yes, Liv Tyler has not one but two rock star dads! Imagine growing up surrounded by the glitz and glam, the colorful characters and an endless supply of hilarious stories. It sounds like a dream. But in a recent interview the actress revealed that it wasn’t as idyllic as you might think.
A successful model, actor and mother of three, Tyler has been a fixture on our screens for over 20 years now. Beginning her Hollywood career at just 16 years old, she’d already been working for two years. She became a model at 14, but it soon became clear that acting was a better fit.
During an interview with the Irish Independent newspaper, Tyler recalls loathing her modeling work. She said, “I just didn’t like being told what to do. I just had to stand there and look pretty and not talk a lot. I didn’t like that very much.” Lucky, then, that the teenage Tyler discovered acting — and a new purpose in life.
Tyler, by her own admission, struggled throughout high school. As reported by pop culture website The Things, the star explained why she suffered as a student. She said, “Basically, I had a really bad attention deficit. I used to fall asleep all the time in class and get kicked out.”
For Tyler, then, performing presented a whole new way of building something that, as a teenager, she definitely needed. She explained, “When I started acting, it gave me a lot of self esteem. Because, although a lot of what I did at school left me confused, it turned out that I could really focus on acting.”
Before Hollywood beckoned, though, Tyler made her screen debut appearing in a music video in 1993. At the time, the general public wasn’t officially aware that Aerosmith frontman, the leotard-wearing, banshee-screaming Steven Tyler was her father. And that includes the crew on the video for “Crazy.” In the clip, though, she performs a partial striptease. Oh, and Tyler was only 16 at the time. The 90s, right?
Since that rather infamous performance, Tyler has gone on to star in a string of huge movies. From cult classics Empire Records and That Thing You Do, to box office behemoths The Lord of the Rings and Armageddon, the star became a regular big-screen presence. And while Hollywood stars always create media interest, her family history has long fascinated us mere mortals.
Yup, even without having two long-lived rock star dads — the aforementioned Aerosmith frontman, as well as Todd Rundgren — Tyler’s upbringing often reads like a movie script. Equal parts crazy, sad, uplifting and cautionary — her life story understandably forms a large part of many interviews with Tyler. And during a chat with U.K. newspaper The Guardian, she finally revealed the emotional truth behind finding out who her dad really was.
Back when Tyler was little, though, she had no idea about her secret parentage. Born in 1977, she was originally known as Liv Rundgren. In fact, the rocker’s surname even appears on her birth certificate. All was not as it seems, though, and even her legal father knew the little girl might not be his.
Tyler’s mother is singer, model and author Bebe Buell. A staple on the music scene in early 1970s New York, Buell’s list of friend and exes reads like a who’s who of rock. She even spent her 21st birthday on a date with Mick Jagger, while John Lennon sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She eventually began her on-off relationship with Rundgren later in the decade.
But it was while Buell was in that relationship with Rundgren that she met Aerosmith’s charismatic frontman. After a brief period of flirtation, the pair eventually consummated their attraction in the bed of friend during a drunken sleepover. When Buell discovered she was pregnant, Steven was in no state to be a father. His well-publicized battle with drug addiction at that time meant that he, Buell and Rundgren had to come up with a workable solution.
Despite all sides of this triangle being aware that the baby may well be Steven’s, the trio decided to keep that information to themselves. Although Buell and Rundgren’s relationship was always on-off, the rocker officially became Liv’s dad when she was born and, it seems, they never spoke of it in front of her. They did, though, make one more pact.
The trio decided that they’d tell their daughter the truth about how she came into the world — at some point in the future. Buell, Rundgren and Steven agreed to wait until Liv was 18 before coming clean about her biological father. But it wasn’t just Tyler’s unusual family situation that was out of the ordinary.
When Buell had Tyler, she was a young mom of 23 — and one who’s music career was just beginning to take off. So, in order to save the infant from what was hardly a kid-friendly environment, the family came up with a unique plan. Tyler’s upbringing would be a team effort, with Buell and her mother, Tyler’s aunt and her cousin Annie all helping to raise the future star.
While that all sounds super-cosy and fun — which we’re sure it was — in reality, it meant that the young Tyler spent her childhood moving between very different surroundings. Given the star’s impeccable manners and deportment, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that her maternal grandmother, Dorothea Johnson, is an etiquette expert.
Johnson ran a successful etiquette school in Washington D.C., and that’s where Tyler spent a large part of her childhood. The youngster could also often be found behaving impeccably at political events, ambassador’s receptions and posh garden parties in the historic capital. And then there was the time she spent living with her cousins in Portland, Maine.
When Tyler was 12 years old, she and her mom made the move to New York together. Buell later explained the thinking behind having so many family members help raise her daughter. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “I always made sure that if I needed to go and be a rock ’n’ roll crazy person, that Liv had that grounding foundation of my mother or my cousin.”
But, despite the huge amount of love coming Tyler’s way as a child, there were still times when she resented not being with her mom. As she once explained to Wonderland magazine, “It was hard for me as a kid. I was definitely sad and angry that I didn’t have this perfect mommy thing. But now I have a lot of empathy for her.”
Of course, in the intervening years, Tyler and her unusual family have all become close, but that took a long time. Being the daughter of a pair of rock legends can lead to some odd, often hilarious and frequently embarrassing stories. Particularly when one of those two dads is the notorious Aerosmith frontman.
In fact, there are many well-documented cases of the Steven Tyler’s cringeworthy behavior. Well, at least there are from his daughter’s viewpoint. During appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in early 2020, Tyler recounted some of the more embarrassing things her rock star father got up to.
Take, for instance, the frontman’s on-stage antics. Tyler told Kimmel, “As a performer… He does things that embarrass me. Like, humping the mic stand. I’m like, ‘Dad…’” She went on, “[Aerosmith are] in Vegas right now… And he’ll, like, lick peoples faces sometimes.” And then, of course, there’s the danger of having a notoriously provocative rocker hanging around your friends.
Tyler once told James Corden a story so shocking on The Late Late Showin 2020 that the host felt the need to confirm it with the rocker’s daughter. When Tyler herself appeared on the show, Corden asked if her father had, in fact, hit on one of her friends. Oh, and was that friend, by any chance, Cameron Diaz?
A chuckling Tyler recounted the real story. “[My dad’s] memory is very interesting, ’cos he remembers little bits but not everything. He said it happened in London, but it happened in New York. He asked for [Diaz’s] number or something. He said that I was mad at him, but I don’t really remember.” Despite these revelations, though, the star was relaxed about the matter.
As Tyler laughingly explained to Corden, “My dad’s… My dad. He’s very flirtatious and sensual. He looks people in the eye and he might lick your cheek. He does that a lot, with dogs, grandparents, men, women…” But, as she told Jimmy Kimmel, his shameless behavior doesn’t diminish her love for him. “I mean, he’s pretty amazing.”
Tyler went on, “As a performer, [my dad] doesn’t half-ass anything. He’s really singing his heart out. So I’m usually pretty impressed.” Given that he’s still rockin’ into his 70s, it’s hard not to be impressed. But when the actor was little, though, the rocker was little more than a poster to her.
For the first decade or so of Tyler’s life — while she was gallivanting from Maine to D.C. and New York — she believed that Rundgren was her biological father. And even after Buell and the rocker split for good, Tyler continued to visit her dad. Around the time she was 11, though, she began to question her paternity.
And that questioning started — and finished — in the time it takes to watch a rock concert. Invited to see Aerosmith perform, Tyler was standing at the side of the stage, taking in the performance, perhaps even having a little dance. And then she noticed a couple of very interesting details in the scene playing out before her.
The first thing Tyler noticed gave her a shock. On the opposite side of the stage stood a girl who bore an uncanny resemblance to the 11-year-old. Unwittingly, Tyler was looking at her younger half-sister, Mia. As she explained to Marie Claire, that was a big deal. “I was by myself a lot as a child. I so wanted a twin. Then I met my twin. She looks exactly like me. That’s really weird!”
Then Tyler began to take a closer look at the Aerosmith frontman. The resemblance soon became apparent. But, ever the impeccably-mannered young woman, she simply asked her mother if the man on stage was her father. Her suspicions confirmed, she reportedly smiled through tears and said, “Christmas is going to be fun this year.”
And, as Tyler revealed during an interview with The Guardian, the emotional effects of meeting her real dad were overwhelming. “When I realized that Steven was my father, it was a moment that was bigger than me, it was almost spiritual. When you meet kin, there is an energy and a sparkle between your bodies. It must be chemical somehow — DNA and genes.”
For Tyler, though, discovering that Rundgren wasn’t her real father has in no way changed how she feels about him. As she told The Guardian, “I’m so grateful to him for choosing to be a father figure to me. Although he and my mum weren’t together, he was always a very stable, loving force in my life.” And, along with the huge family she already had, a new dad brings his own set of relatives.
Tyler explained, “It was fun getting to know [Steven’s] side of the family. My sister Mia will just move her hand in a certain way and the mannerism is so like mine, it’s crazy.” In addition to her lookalike sibling, Tyler also gained another sister, Chelsea, and a brother, Taj Tallarico. And while the way they all met might have been unusual, the bond they share is clear.
In fact, Tyler has nothing but good things to say about her two dads. As she explained to The Guardian, “They are like unicorns or wizards. They are musicians through and through.” And, it seems, her somewhat unorthodox upbringing left a lasting impression. “I had a very family-rich childhood. I learned that you lean into your family, ask for help and show compassion.” And she’s even forgiven her mom for leaving her for so long.
Tyler told The Guardian, “My mom was 23 when she had me. When you’re a kid, you… make judgments about wanting your parents to be a certain way. Suddenly, you are a parent yourself and you think, ‘Wow, how could she have done that, at 23, a single mom living in New York City? My mom always followed her heart. I really admire that.” But that doesn’t mean there weren’t scars.
Tyler reportedly told Net-a-Porter that her female-centric upbringing left her “incredibly strong and resilient.” But it also left the star feeling that men were “a bit of a mystery.” More than that, though, they were a transient presence. “[Men] are visitors,” she said. “They visit my life. I am always surprised when there is one around.”
These days, though, there are plenty of men permanently in Tyler’s life. Aside from her two dads, there’s sons Milo and Sailor, and stepson Gray. Then there’s Royston Langdon, Milo’s father and her ex-husband and friend, and David Gardner, her current partner and dad to Gray. So that’s two large blended families with the star at their center. But how do rockers react to being grandparents?
Well, as Tyler told U.K. chat show host Jonathan Ross in 2015, the Aerosmith frontman in particular is a doting, proud granddad. She said, “We are very close with all of [the grandparents]. It’s just so fun for him, for all the grandparents to get to play.” And all you have to do is check out the frontman’s Instagram to see that for yourself. But his involvement doesn’t stop there.
Tyler went on, “[Steven is] amazing at making weird noises with his mouth! He’s playful and funny and lovely. He’s kind of like a magical wizard ‒ he has things in his hair and all sorts of jewelry and he’s just very fun. Not your typical grandfather.” In fact, in the rock ’n’ roll style to which we’ve all become accustomed, the Aerosmith frontman even took part in the impromptu delivery of his grandson.
When Tyler was pregnant with Sailor in 2015, she went into premature labor. We’ll let her take the story from here, as told to The Guardian. “Sailor surprised me and came six weeks early. David was on a flight. I called Mia and she came straight to the hospital. She also called Steven. He walked into the room moments before he was born and cut his umbilical cord. It was wild.” In this family, even births are rock n roll.
Since then, Tyler has moved to the U.K., where she lives with Gardner and their children. In 2017, she told The Guardian, “I’m celebrating my new family coming together. We’ve gone on this crazy adventure together, blending our families and moving to London. It’s beautiful.” It seems that her unusual upbringing finally worked out for Liv Tyler.