Five Things We Learn from the Liev Schreiber Cover Story

Credit: Photograph by Mark Seliger

Liev Schreiber was a brooding, wounded kid who grew up to be called the greatest actor of his generation. But despite marrying a movie star, and finding success on both the stage and screen, including his starring role as a Boston thug turned Hollywood fixer in Showtime's Ray Donovan, the 47-year-old still struggles with memories of his childhood, his identity as an actor, and his own happiness. Here are five things we learned from the magazine profile.

He's Left With Few Memories
Schreiber remembers little of his life before age 14 as a form of coping with the trauma of a custody battle in which he was kidnapped by both his parents at separate times, and that bankrupted his mother. His memory issues started when his grandfather, who raised him and who helped him "understand what it meant to be a man," died in 1993. "I started to really panic that I had a serious memory issue and that I was going to lose memories unless I endeavored to write them down… I don't remember things about my life. I can memorize a page of Shakespeare, no problem, but could I tell you where I was last week? No."

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He's Not a Confident Movie Star
Despite being named in a 2007 New York Times review "the finest American theater actor of his generation," he still struggles with his film confidence.  "I never really thought I was good at film. And honestly, I still don't. My strength is language. My background is monologues and a certain kind of Brechtian spin on theater."

In Many Ways, Naomi Watts Is His Opposite
Despite his hardened exterior, Schreiber "seduced" wife Naomi Watts with his humor after they were introduced at the Met Ball in 2005, and she helps him stay grounded. "Most of my life I've spent pushing people away," he says. "Most of Naomi's life she's spent gathering people around her. They both have their pathologies, and they can learn from each other."

He's a Wannabe Mad Man
He's fascinated with advertising, has considered a career in the industry more than once, and even owns his own boutique agency, Van's General Store, which works with brands like Vespa. "In college we talked a lot about subliminal seduction," Schreiber says. "Everybody else in class was going, 'Oh, those bastards!' And I was saying, 'That's pretty slick.'"

He Trains Like Wolverine
Schreiber credits Hugh Jackman for helping him embrace a managed diet, trainers, and a workout regimen when they played opposite each other in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. "My style was always intuitive," Schreiber says. "I never used to believe in working on your body. Acting that smacked of vanity to me was bad for your acting, but I learned that wasn't true. There's a whole set of tools available to you, and you're not using them because you're insecure or lazy, and I was both."