Liev Schreiber wouldn’t mind revisit Ray Donovan,” he told the audience at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival on Sunday. The popular Showtime series, created by Ann Biderman, was canceled in 2020 after seven seasons. Following fan outcry, Ray Donovan: The Movie premiered in 2022.
“I would consider it,” he said during a master class.
“It always has been [longtime Showtime chief] The Baby by David Nevins. I know he loves this character and this story and I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard more from David.”
Schreiber admitted he was both “disappointed and relieved” by the show’s cancellation, but the outpouring of love and support touched him deeply.
“Naomi [Watts, his ex-partner] was a bigger star than me and we flew all over the world with our kids. But they grew up and had to go to school and live in one place. She wanted to live in LA, which was more like Australia, so I decided to get a job there. A job that would last,” he said.
“They let me help with the casting and writing and directing, and I thought it would be good to work in front of the camera over and over again every day. And that was it – for a while.”
“I didn’t know a lot of people loved it. You realize that seven years of work you’ve done for money has really moved some people. It meant a lot to me,” he admitted.
Schreiber also spoke about working with actors like James Woods and Jon Voight, who are known for their conservative political views.
“It was a very American cast – totally polarized,” he joked.
“You’re better off not sleeping with your co-stars. That’s not very smart. If you learn this lesson I did early on, you’ll know [it applies] to all the other things too. Jon and I had a few conversations and we both agreed that we will never talk about this stuff. “I love you and have your back, but I won’t talk politics with you.”
The actor spoke openly about his complicated childhood and poor memory. “My memories don’t start until I was about 24 years old,” he said, also mentioning his beloved grandfather, who emigrated from Ukraine.
“There were no men in my life. I grew up with a single mother who was a taxi driver. As a progressive person, she didn’t believe in school, so she took me around in the passenger seat, which was illegal.”
“My grandfather never spoke about his past or origins, he never spoke Ukrainian, Polish or Yiddish. When he died I went to a psychiatrist and had my head examined. I thought, ‘Shit. If I forget that person I don’t know about, it’s going to be really awful.” That was the beginning of my creative writing.”
He wrote a screenplay about a man who goes to Ukraine to “find out what it’s like to be Ukrainian,” only to stumble upon a short story by Jonathan Safran Foer.
“It was full of compassion and humor, and I wanted to adapt it rather than what I was doing. I met him, he’s 19, and he comes with a tote bag with a 400-page manuscript. He says, “It’s not a short story.” ”
The novel in question, Everything is Enlightened, became Schreiber’s directorial debut. But the experience itself proved exhausting.
“It was awful. I was scared and I really overestimated my abilities, which is what I usually do. But doing something bad in front of a lot of people is very painful. It’s also a great lesson: a lesson about ego that’s for every actor or person in the public eye is important,” he noted.
Schreiber, a Tony winner for his performance in Glengarry Glen Ross, also spoke about his love of theater.
“For all her craziness, my mom was into classic things. I played bass clarinet [as a kid] and we played Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve seen all these 13 year olds doing Shakespeare and I thought they were awful. I thought there was a spot for someone who could do better,” he said. But he resisted the acting bug for as long as he could.
“I studied animal behavior and was doing a thesis on why dogs bark. I didn’t think acting was a very intelligent career.”
He later became a respected classical actor.
“I had the great idea of being a big fish in a small pond. There was me and Michael Stuhlbarg, and we got all the major roles in Shakespearean plays.”
“Because of my eyebrows and my Slavic love handles, people in the film industry saw me as a bad guy. Then Nora Ephron saw me on Henry V and thought it would be funny to have this very tall, hairy guy as a crossdresser in a comedy about a suicide hotline [‘Mixed Nuts’]. That’s how my first film came about!”
After being cast as Cotton Weary in Scream, larger roles followed.
“I had a meeting at Dimension with Bob Weinstein. He had this movie called Scream and I didn’t give a fuck. But he told me he would give me $20,000 if I went down the stairs and got in a car. I said, ‘Let’s do it!'” he said, also mentioning his friendship with Hugh Jackman which led to X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
“Hugh was this beautiful guy who worked out all the time, was disciplined and never drank too much. Just a great person. I thought, ‘This can’t be true. He’s an actor and actors are a mess. But it was real,'” he said.
“He asked me why I wasn’t training. I said I think actors train because they can’t act. He said, ‘Why would you throw that tool away?’ I knew my body was a tool, I just never knew it had to be muscular. As soon as I started having that physique, all these jobs came.”
Schreiber also found time to praise Tom Holland, Watt’s co-star on The Impossible – “The most charming kid you could ever meet in your life. Everyone loved him. When I heard he was getting ‘Spider-Man,’ it couldn’t have happened to a better guy” — or his disastrous audition for Brian De Palma.
“He was there with his cigar, looking at his book and not looking up once. I stopped the monologue and stood there thinking, ‘Am I actually going to beat Brian De Palma?’ I didn’t, so I just left [fart noise]. And he still didn’t look up. Of course I didn’t get the role. A few years later we sat together on a jury in France. That was a fun dinner.”
Schreiber is currently filming the miniseries A Small Light about Miep Gies, a Dutch woman who gave sanctuary to Anne Frank’s family, and made a point of mentioning his non-profit BlueCheck Ukraine, which he presented at the Czech festival earlier this week.
“I chimed in after the invasion, sitting helplessly on the couch again channeling my grandfather and wondering what he was going to do. I didn’t do anything, and I realized I didn’t do anything in front of my kids,” he said.
“Watching all these guys from different walks of life say goodbye to their wives and children seemed very unfair to me. It’s ridiculous that this kind of story keeps playing out.”
But the masterclass ended on a much lighter note when Schreiber answered the audience’s question about the infamous anthology comedy Movie 43.
“Oh dear,” he said.
“I haven’t read the script. Nobody did. Thats a friend of mine, [producer Charlie Wessler], and he’s just the funniest guy in the world. He put this film together and asked all his friends to do it. Hugh did something where he had testicles on his chin. I thought, ‘Why would Hugh do that? It must be really great.” I guess all the other actors were thinking the same thing.”