Birthdate: October 4, 1967
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, USA
One of the most classically trained and vocally (as well as physically) imposing actors of his generation, Liev Schreiber (birthname: Isaac Live Schreiber) has crafted a career of great range and depth, making a striking impact in feature films, high-end cable (particularly as the title character in HBO’s hit series, Ray Donovan (2013-2020, 2022) and in the theater (notably in his many Shakespearean performances).
What has separated Schreiber from most of his peers is his deep grounding in classical theater, as well as his ability to draw on his highly unusual experiences growing up, which included living in ashrams and being educated by Quakers. As a New York-based actor, Liev Schreiber has been cast in New York indie films such as Denise Calls Up (1995), Daisy von Scherler Meyer’s Party Girl (1995), with Parker Posey and the first feature to premiere on the internet, and Greg Mottola’s The Daytrippers (1996), with Stanley Tucci, Hope Davis, and Posey.
Schreiber’s work in U.S. indie cinema continued with Nicole Holofcener’s relationship comedy-drama, Walking and Talking (1996), with Catherine Keener, Anne Heche, and Todd Field; and the Campbell Scott-Stanley Tucci co-directed foodie movie, Big Night (1996), with Tucci, Minnie Driver, and Isabella Rossellini.
Schreiber’s breakout role in his first major studio release was in the original Scream (1996), (as well as the sequels Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000)), in which he played Cotton Weary, followed by the hit Ron Howard thriller, Ransom (1996), with Mel Gibson. This launched a string of high-profile studio projects with Schreiber in supporting roles, including Dean Koontz’s Phantoms (1998), with Peter O’Toole; Barry Levinson’s Sphere (1998), with Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, and Samuel L. Jackson; and Robert Benton’s noir thriller, Twilight (1998), with Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, and Susan Sarandon.
Liev Schreiber continued to be identified with quality commercial cinema into the new century, co-starring in director Tony Goldwyn’s Indie Spirit-nominated debut, A Walk on the Moon (1999), with Diane Lane, Viggo Mortensen, and Anna Paquin; with Robin Williams and Alan Arkin in the English-language remake of the German film, Jakob the Liar (1999); with Denzel Washington and veteran director Norman Jewison in the biopic, The Hurricane (1999); the first film released by the stalwart indie company, IFC Films, Spring Forward (1999), with Ned Beatty and Campbell Scott; Michael Almereyda’s striking ultra-modern version of Hamlet (2000), with Ethan Hawke and Kyle MacLachlan; and Jonathan Demme’s controversial remake, The Manchurian Candidate (2004), with Denzel Washington, in which Schreiber recreated the role of Raymond Shaw originated by Laurence Harvey.
After attempting his own screenplay, Liev Schreiber opted to adapt and direct—in his feature filmmaking debut--Jonathan Safran Foer’s acclaimed novel, Everything Is Illuminated (2005), with Elijah Wood. Starting in 2006, Liev Schreiber shifted back to acting in a period that saw him alternating between genre, studio, and indie projects, including the remake of The Omen (2006), with Julia Stiles and Mia Farrow; John Curran’s adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s sage, The Painted Veil (2006), with Naomi Watts and Edward Norton; Mike Newell’s adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (2007), with Javier Bardem and Benjamin Bratt; Edward Zwick’s World War II thriller, Defiance (2008), with Daniel Craig and Jamie Bell; Schreiber’s first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), with Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds; Ang Lee’s comedy-drama about the Woodstock Festival, Taking Woodstock (2009), with Eugene Levy and Paul Dano; Universal’s futurist action thriller, Repo Men (2010), with Jude Law and Forest Whitaker; and Philip Noyce’s action movie with Angelina Jolie, Salt (2010).
Liev Schreiber changed tone in 2011, with filmmaker Michael Dowse’s raucous Canadian hockey comedy, Goon, with Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel, (as well as the 2017 sequel, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, directed by Baruchel); and with P.J. Hogan’s family comedy, Mental (2012), with Toni Collette. Schreiber shifted back to dramas with Mira Nair’s usual thriller, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012). Schreiber appeared at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight section, starring in Ruari Robinson’s astronaut drama, The Last Day on Mars (2013); he also starred that year in Kees Van Oostrum’s drama with Jeanne Tripplehorn, A Perfect Man.
Schreiber portrayed a fictionalized Lyndon B. Johnson in Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013), with Forest Whittaker; he also enacted famed Soviet Chessmaster Boris Spassky in Edward Zwick’s Bobby Fischer biopic, Pawn Sacrifice (2014), with Tobey Maguire as Fischer. Schreiber joined the ensemble of John Turturro’s gentle comedy, Fading Gigolo (2013), with Turturro, Woody Allen, and Sharon Stone; but it was his ensemble (the stellar group of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci) in Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (2015) that made the greatest impact, gathering a wave of awards and acclaim and winning the Best Picture and Best Screenplay Oscars.
Liev Schreiber elevated to the ranks of producer-star on two indie features: The sports drama, Chuck (2016), directed by Philippe Falardeau, with Elisabeth Moss and Naomi Watts; and the domestic drama, Human Capital (2019), with Marisa Tomei and Peter Sarsgaard. Desiring to participate in some movies geared toward his own children, Schreiber was a vocal actor in the animated My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), his second MCU project. At the same time, Schreiber collaborated with filmmaker Wes Anderson on two features—first, a vocal performance in Anderson’s animated Isle of Dogs (2018), and then as an amusing talk show host in Anderson’s The French Dispatch (2021), opposite Jeffrey Wright.
Liev Schreiber reunited with writer-director Woody Allen for the commercial and critical failure, A Rainy Day in New York (2019) with Timothée Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez, and Jude Law. In 2022, Schreiber appeared as the soldier hero Richard Cantwell opposite Matilda De Angelis and Danny Huston in the Paula Ortiz-Peter Flannery adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s late novel, Across the River and into the Trees; and reuniting with Wes Anderson on the comedy-drama, Asteroid City, with Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, and Scarlett Johansson.
San Francisco-born Liev Schreiber was raised by mother and painter Heather Milgram and father and actor Tell Schreiber. His family moved to rural British Columbia when he was one year old. Following an apparently bad LSD trip that led to hospitalizations and treatments, Heather faced the prospect of being institutionalized by Tell. In response, Heather fled to an upstate New York hippie commune with Liev; his father kidnapped Liev back, triggering a bitter custody battle and an ensuing and costly divorce. Schreiber finally lived with his mother, who moved to New York, driving a cab and living in abandoned buildings and cold-water flats without water, electricity, or beds.
Schreiber’s half-brother, actor Pablo Schreiber, was born in 1978 and raised under Tell Schreiber’s care in British Columbia. As a Hindu follower, Heather had Liev take on the name of Shiva Das, adopt a vegetarian diet, live in a Connecticut-based ashram, and watch only black-and-white movies. After being home-schooled in the commune, homeless, and ashram settings, Schreiber was schooled at the Quaker school, Friends Seminary.
For college, Schreiber attended Hampshire College in Massachusetts and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studied acting, and continued his acting studies at the Yale School of Drama, where he received a master’s degree in 1992. Schreiber continued his acting training at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Beginning in 2005, Schreiber was in a relationship with actor Naomi Watts; the couple had two sons, Kai and Sasha. The couple separated in 2016. Schreiber’s height is 6’ 3”.
Sleepy Man: In 2021, Liev Schreiber performed in a series of commercial shorts for the company, Mattress Firm, explaining the nature of “junk sleep.”
Short Memory: Schreiber experiences short-term memory loss, the residual effect of a likely defense mechanism in which he wiped out early childhood memories of being caught between his two parents in a running drama involving a bad LSD trip (his mother’s), two parental kidnappings (his father and his mother), sudden moves to hippie communes (his mother), and living in cold-water New York City flats without electricity, heat or bedding (his mother again).
Screenwriter: Despite his original ambitions of being a screenwriter, Liev Schreiber has written one feature script, an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (about a similar subject to his unproduced original screenplay) and the TV script, co-written with director David Hollander, for Ray Donovan: The Movie (2022), the finale to the long-running HBO series starring Schreiber as a tough-as-nails “fixer.”
Stage Artist: Schreiber has a large and impressive roster of theater credits, including four Shakespeare in the Park productions (including The Tempest (1995), Cymbeline (1998), Henry V (2003), and Macbeth (2006); three productions at The Public Theatre (including Macbeth (1998), Hamlet (1999), and Othello (2001); and an acclaimed staging of Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio (2007) at the Longacre Theatre.