There is something perfectly magnetic about Liev Schreiber. He's tall, strong and handsome, with clear as aquamarines blue eyes. But it goes beyond that. When he sat down in the chair next to mine in Venice, I gasped.
And now I can't wait to watch him... eh hum.... hear him play a dog in Wes Anderson's 'Isle of Dogs'.
What is your experience with fame, and how to handle it?
Liev Schreiber: If we believe the central lie that is at the core of fame, which is that we are the most interesting person in the room, the room quickly becomes empty, and it’s a very lonely existence. I think we all struggle with the desire to be appreciated and adored and loved by many. I think actors do it publicly, athletes do it publicly, whereas most of us do it in private and therefore are able to manage it. Whereas when you have real returns from this kind of a feeling, life gets dangerous.
I think having children certainly helped, because you realize you must be able to pay attention to them. I mean to try to teach your kids to look at the world with as much wonder as it looks at you is important and hard.
We were talking before about the danger of fame. When did you have your ten minutes of madness?
Schreiber: I’m having it right now. As we speak. I started in the theater, a microcosm of it, it was very good training for an actor, because it’s a microcosm of fame. If you go through that you come out the other side and go, eh uh, I want something with more continuity, what am I doing and what am I doing it for? Am I learning anything, am I giving anything, and that helps because then you get to the film business and it gets crazy! And then you get to TV and it gets even crazier.
Suddenly you are in everyone’s living room and there is an intimacy that people feel with you that until you experience that, you really don’t know what fame is. To have millions and millions of people think they know you, and feel intimate with you, it’s a very strange feeling. Talk to you on the street, and call you “Ray”. It’s very complicated when someone comes up to you and does that, part of you feels genuine gratitude because they spent that much time with you and they consider what you did worthy of their attention, so there is a real feeling of gratitude, and at the same time, a human instinct to share in the intimacy, but you don’t have the intimacy because you don’t know them. But they, because they’ve watched the show, have a level of intimacy with you that you’re not aware of. And it’s a very strange relationship.
Why did you want to become an actor in the first place?
Schreiber: Probably some tragic level of narcissism that I’ve come to terms with, but certainly in the beginning I really liked having people’s attention. I still do. Well, it’s a really good feeling. What you do with it is important. Nothing really compares with live theater. You know you repeat a play eight times a week, it will drive you fucking mad. What changes every night, the one thing that makes it survivable is the audience. A new character comes in every night and does the play with you. And you feel their attention, if you’re doing your job right, they’re connected, they are energized and they’re enjoying it. They are following you and they are leading you and they are nudging you, and you feel by their laughter, by their lack of laughter, by their reactions, you feel connected.
And you’ve got a team, you share something and you’re going to hunt together and you’re not alone. Probably many actors started someplace feeling very alone, for one reason or another, and want to change that.