Today, PHS columnist Kate Hardy admits to her soft centre for clever men...
I have a weakness for clever men. Geeks, even. (This is why my heroes tend to have, um, slightly unusual jobs. The archaeologist, the stormchaser, the volcanologist, etc etc.) I love learning new things, so I tend to watch documentaries rather than drama; and, even when I’m watching drama, I’m likely to sit up and take notice of a secondary character who’s a geek.
And that’s how I came to notice Liev Schreiber; in ‘Kate and Leopold’, he played Stuart Besser, the eccentric scientist who was Meg Ryan’s ex – and for me he stole the film from Hugh Jackman!
Isaac Liev Schreiber was born in San Fransisco in 1967, the son of a painter and an actor. (His name is pronounced Lee-ev, though he tells a lovely story about how people usually mispronounce it: “People always pronounce it Leave. I walk into a casting person's office and the first thing I usually hear is ‘Leave!’”)
The family moved to Canada in 1968. When he was five, following his parents’ divorce, he moved to New York with his mother. She wouldn’t let him watch colour films, so he grew up with black and white films; the first colour film he saw was Star Wars in 1977. Although he wanted to be a playwright, one of his teachers persuaded him to become an actor. He trained at RADA in London and the Yale School of Drama, and his Broadway debut was in 1993 in The Summer House. His Shakespearean roles have gained wide critical approval – the New York Times called his performance in Cymbeline ‘revelatory’, and he had rave reviews for Hamlet, the following year. The New Yorker said of his Henry V, "He has a swiftness of mind which convinces the audience that language is being coined in the moment. His speech … feels lived rather than learned.”
As well as his work on stage, he has more than 70 films to his credit (either as an actor or a voice actor). In addition to ‘Kate and Leopold’, he worked with Hugh Jackman again in Wolverine, playing Sabretooth (aka Victor Creed). Other film credits include Charlie Townsend in ‘The Painted Veil’, Orson Welles in ‘RKO 281’ (about the making of ‘Citizen Kane’), Raymond Shaw in ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, and Frank in the recently-released ‘Repo Men’.
He has recently moved to the other side of the camera, writing the screenplay for and directing ‘Everything is Illuminated’ (which won seven awards and was nominated for three more). At the same time, he was acting the part of Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross on stage (and, incidentally, won the 2005 Tony award for best featured actor). On balancing the two roles, he said, “I think a certain amount of Ricky's rage and profanity has been a nice vent from the frustrations of the editing room, so it's great to come out screaming profanities at the audience for an hour and a half after eight hours of trying to be diplomatic in the editing room."
Apparently his nickname since childhood is ‘Huggy’. Liev himself says, "It's not easy being 6' 3" and being called 'Huggy'." And he’s certainly self-deprecating about his looks, when he talks about his experience as a director: "Trying to escape the powder puff and the man blush was the primary motivation for this whole endeavor. It's weird. You think, 'Now I'm going to direct, and they won't give me such a hard time about how I look.' But sure enough, there they are, coming at you with the powder puff and the man blush."
He has two children with the actress Naomi Watts, Alexander Peter and Samuel Kai – and he’s very much a devoted dad. In an interview in the magazine Hamptons, he said, “The minute that they show up and you hear that first scream, it’s a pretty profound feeling. You know that you’re in for it – you’re in for the best thing that ever happened to you and the hardest work you’ll ever do.” And in another interview in Time Out New York, he says how his children help him over the difficult parts of a role: “It’s been a total savior. [Sasha] is like, ‘Daddeeeeee!’ and he just wants to play. You dump the baggage right away and reconnect with all these human feelings. It’s such a good hit.” And he’s sensitive to his partner’s career, too, trading off work schedules so at least one of them can be with the children: “You gotta negotiate with each other and support each other in that regard.”
As a mum of two myself, I can really appreciate that – my Real Life Hero does the same!
In the US and Australia, Kate has a new book on the shelves this month: Good Girl or Gold Digger?, aka the fairground book. You can find out more about the book, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/)