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Liev Schreiber

'The Manchurian Candidate'

THESP FILE
What actor/actress would you most like to work with?
“I should apologize in advance, but this is going to be a love letter to my former classmate from Yale, Paul Giamatti. The past couple of years have given Paul the opportunity to demonstrate not only how phenomenally talented he is, but perhaps more importantly, that our work as actors and filmmakers can and should be representative of how complex, sympathetic and infinitely lovable human beings are. Paul is a humanist of the first order.”
What’s your favorite film from the past five years?
“In keeping with the theme of this Q&A, I will have to say ‘Sideways’ is probably one of the best films I have seen in more than five years. The specificity and clarity of the emotional journey of the characters was overwhelmingly effective. It’s the kind of work actors dream of doing.”
Which character in a film have you watched and wished you could’ve played?
“I think you can probably figure out the answer to this one.”
“Right now I am in post-production for a film I wrote and directed based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, ‘Everything is Illuminated.’ Elijah Wood and Eugene Hutz are the leads, and we hope to be in theaters sometime next summer. In March, I will begin a run of David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway, in the role of Tony Roma.”

Liev Schreiber is pleased to be receiving the first serious Oscar buzz of his 10-year career for his work as war hero turned vice presidential candidate Raymond Prentiss Shaw in “The Manchurian Candidate,” but the actor isn’t letting the awards talk get him off his game.

“It’s never happened to me before,” says Schreiber of the kudos speculation, “but it’s a win-win situation unless you create too high an expectation for yourself. If I start thinking about it too much or worrying about it too much, then I’m bound for rough waters.”

Navigating the pitfalls of re-making a classic thriller while starring opposite multiple Academy Award winners Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep for Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme actually proved quite easy for Schreiber, a graduate of the Yale Drama School.

“One of the great things about Jonathan is he’s a real supporter of film and enthusiastic of collaboration,” says Schreiber. “He didn’t do a lot of rehearsal, and there was never a discussion of the film being a remake. We approached it as its own script without using anything from the original.”

Their combined efforts yielded some of the best reviews Schreiber has received to date. Critics such as Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said he turned in “the performance of his career” in the film and came close to stealing the movie from Washington, while Desson Thompson of the Washington Post said “Schreiber … makes a formidable force to reckon with.” Jami Bernard, writing in the New York Daily News, declared “the performance of the movie is Liev Schreiber as Shaw. … The role offers many choice tidbits, and Schreiber is alert to them with every twist and turn of the story. The movie becomes his own personal sample reel.”

Schreiber understands the positive effect a nomination might have on his career.

“There’s no question how important it is to the business,” he says. “How important it is to the individual is up to them. I’ve never really been very good at separating the art from the commerce. Things like (nominations) are still significant to me.”

That said, he’s careful not to let his expectations get out of hand.

“To work at that level with Jonathan and Meryl and Denzel is only going to further my career,” he explains. “If you get nominated for that kind of work, it’s an added bonus, an honor, a privilege to get that kind of acknowledgement and the level of exposure it provides actors with.”

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