Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to discuss career past, present and future with highly-acclaimed stage and screen star - having appeared in films as diverse as WOLVERINE, SALT, DEFIANCE, TAKING WOODSTOCK, the SCREAM trilogy, RANSOM and the remake of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, and in stage roles ranging from Mamet to Miller to Shakespeare - Liev Schreiber, on the eve of the debut of his newest feature film EVERY DAY co-starring Helen Hunt, Carla Gugino, Eddie Izzard and Brian Dennehy, written/directed by Richard Levine. In this exclusive conversation, Schreiber and I discuss his first roles on stage and on screen, favorite characters, sharing life and the screen with partner Naomi Watts, comments on his VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE co-star Scarlett Johansson and that highly-lauded 2009 revival of the play, what we can expect from him onstage in the future - Shakespeare perhaps? - and all about EVERY DAY. Plus, we find out what sequels to his many blockbuster movies - WOLVERINE 2? SALT 2? SCREAM 4? - he may or may not be in and his first comments on the new film he co-stars in with Watts, MOVIE 43. Schreiber's acute thoughtfulness and razor-sharp perceptivity inform his superlative acting choices onstage and onscreen as much as they do his everyday conversation, as became quite clear to me in his quick-witted responses. EVERY DAY opens in NY and LA tomorrow with a wider release planned after that and be sure to stay tuned to BroadwayWorld for an upcoming interview with the writer and director of EVERY DAY, Richard Levine of FX's NIP/TUCK.
Every Day Hero
PC: Few can say that they have a career diverse enough to emcompass lead roles in a big-budget Marvel mega-movie and a Arthur Miller masterpiece onstage both in the same year: could you tell me about splitting your time between theatre and film? What's your first love?
LS: Well, I think everyone knows that my first love is theatre.
PC: Of course.
LS: I trained as a theatre actor and I was fortunate to get work right out of school.
PC: IN THE SUMMER HOUSE.
LS: Right. Nora Ephron saw me in that and then asked me to be a drag queen in MIXED NUTS.
PC: So theatre led to film for you organically.
LS: Yeah, and it all kind of went from there. As far as splitting my time between them both, it's just one of those things that I couldn't do without - I think they just inform each other. I always saw the relationship between theatre and film. And, most people don't talk about "film is theatre" but, for me, at least, it was.
PC: And is.
LS: Yeah, it's really a vital part of my work to me to be able to do both.
PC: And what about filmed stage performances? I was so upset VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and GLENGARRY weren't filmed. Both your performances in those productions should have been preserved for the ages.
LS: Thank you so much for that. (Pause.) You know, it's very hard sometimes - I mean, I go to Lincoln Center and I watch these shows on the archive tapes - and it's very difficult to do.
PC: Almost impossible.
LS: Yeah, it is - it's difficult to see how to do it right. On the other hand, at the same time, there are other plays that make great adaptations into movies. (Pause.) I just see them as two different animals.
PC: You just need the right zookeeper/director at the helm.
LS: (Laughs.) Yeah, but as far as the business of acting them: they really do inform each other. They really, really do.
PC: Another actress who has found a way to do both just about as well as you is your VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE co-star Scarlett Johansson, who spoke so favorably to me of her experiences with you and Greg Mosher working on that show.
LS: (Sigh.) Oh, Scarlett...
PC: She told me you were so generous and the experience was like a free play-space where any questions were free to be asked and anything could be created.
LS: Yeah, I agree. I think all of that is to Scarlett's credit, and she gave an amazing, amazingly courageous performance and it was an amazingly courageous rehearsal process to work with her. There aren't many actors I know who are willing to take the chances she took.
PC: And you have worked with the very best.
LS: Just to learn from her every day was so thrilling to me.
PC: Your Laertes in the recent film version of HAMLET is exceptional and I simply adore that modernized version of the piece.
LS: Oh, thank you. I loved doing it.
PC: Could you tell me about working with Bill Murray on that and your opinions of that film since Shakespeare is so elemental in your career?
LS: That was one of those experiences where, to talk of film influencing theatre and vice-versa: it was so, so interesting to play Shakespearean dialogue for the camera. You could take it down to a level of intimacy that you generally cannot get away with onstage. That was just a really thrilling feeling - to naturalize those lines, because I do think there is room for that in Shakespeare.
PC: No question about that. It's not done enough, actually.
LS: To be honest, it informed the next two Shakespeare plays I did after that, too. It was a really interesting experience to try to explore that level of naturalism with that text.
PC: Shakespeare is my true love, so I have to ask since the role seems written expressly for you: would you ever consider taking on CORIOLANUS? Are you familiar with that play? It's a bit obscure.
LS: Yeah! No, I am very familiar with that play. Believe it or not, I've been thinking about that. I've been talking about it with the folks at The Public Theater.
PC: No way! Can you give me the scoop?
LS: We don't know when it's going to happen, but that's a play I am very interested in.
PC: It's one of his greatest tragedies.
LS: It's a truly remarkable play.
PC: You'd want to play Coriolanus, of course, right?
LS: Oh, yeah. (Deadpan.) I don't think I'm ready for Aufidius yet!
PC: Maybe in a few decades!
LS: Maybe. (Laughs.)
PC: I also have to mention that I'll never forget your Iago [in OTHELLO] - and I doubt anyone who saw you in it will soon either.
LS: Thank you, that was a great part.
PC: What about other Shakespeare roles in your future?
LS: I don't know, I've been definitely itching to do one but it has been a question of time and what. (Pause.) There have been a few that I have been thinking of for a long time.
PC: Such as?
LS: A production of MEASURE [FOR MEASURE] and, even, maybe, TAMING OF THE SHREW. It's all speculative at this point, of course.
PC: Would you like to share the stage with your partner Naomi Watts in TAMING OF THE SHREW? That would be awesome. Would you two ever Taylor/Burton it onstage?
LS: Well, the problem with that is: when you have two parents away, you never get to put the kids to bed!
PC: Indeed. The family balance.
LS: So, that's one of the difficulties with that - but, you never know!
PC: You two have a movie you did together coming out soon - MOVIE 43. Could you tell me about that? What's it about?
LS: Oh, we have this hilarious friend named Charlie who produced this film - which is a series of vignettes. And, they just asked us to do this really ridiculous and silly short about a couple of parents who get carried away home-schooling their child. So, we did it and I am looking forward to seeing what happens with it.
PC: So am I. Since you have been involved in a bunch of properties that have upcoming sequels in production, please let me ask: are going to be in Darren Aronofsky's WOLVERINE sequel?
LS: No, I'm not in WOLVERINE.
PC: What about SALT 2?
LS: I haven't heard about SALT 2 just yet.
PC: And SCREAM 4? The new trailer just came out this week. You were in the first three - any surprise cameo?
LS: No, I'm not in that one.
PC: I know that SCREAM and RANSOM were my first exposure to you - which is probably true for many others, as well. Do you look back favorably on your horror film roots as a great way to make your breakthrough or... ?
LS: I loved it. I loved it. (Pause.) I wouldn't have been asked to play Hamlet if I didn't do SCREAM.
PC: What a great quote!
PC: I also wanted to ask you what you thought about the film you wrote and directed, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED, being taught in schools and colleges now? It was used in two vastly different classes in my college experience.
LS: Oh, I'm incredibly flattered. If I may ask, in what context are they teaching it in?
PC: As a great adaptation of a novel to a film.
LS: Oh, that's great! I didn‘t know that. (Big Laugh.) That's so terrific!
PC: EVERY DAY has such a difficult central role - you don't have any leeway. You seem to be trapped - like a caged animal. What was your first impression of the role and EVERY DAY in general?
LS: I was just really drawn to Richard's incredible ability to find the heroic in the mundane. (Pause.) And, many of us in life will, you know, never confront mutant aliens or, you know, save the world from a collision by an asteroid - but we will deal with our dying parents; and, we will encounter the distant intimacy of relationships; and, we will, maybe, have to parent children and deal with their ideas of identity and confidence. Those are all things I think people deserve credit for.
PC: The everyday heroes.
LS: The everyday heroes - I think Richard sort of did that so beautifully in his script.
PC: I read that Naomi responded to that script as well - do you often read each other's scripts for potential projects to get perspective?
LS: Right. She did. We try to read each other's stuff always.
PC: It helps to have another actor's insight, right?
PC: Did you find the script ended up representing what the final film turned out to be?
LS: Pretty much verbatim.
PC: It's a very tight film - I don't know what could be cut.
LS: Me either.
PC: There's no filler - which is rare for a domestic drama.
LS: We also had to shoot the film in three weeks, so we didn't have a lot of leverage with, you know, staging it or mixing it up. (Laughs.)
PC: I also just had to mention to you before you go how much I loved you in Ang Lee's TAKING WOODSTOCK.
LS: Thank you. That was fun to do.
PC: My last question to you: define collaboration.
LS: Define collaboration. Hmm. (Long Pause.) Collaboration is the remarkable ability to incorporate the ideas of others to elevate your own work.
PC: That might be the best answer ever. Anything else coming up you want to tell me about?
LS: Nothin'! I got nothin'! I've been watching kids for three months! (Laughs.)
PC: You deserve a break after the last couple of heady years! I can't wait to see what you do next - onstage or onscreen. Thank you so much for this, Liev.
LS: All right, Pat. This was great. Take care. Bye now.