Quantcast Liev Schreiber interview - THE OMEN, SCREAM, PHANTOMS

Liev Schreiber!!!
Icons Of Fright got to sit down with actor Liev Schreiber!!! Genre fans recognize him as Cotton Weary from the 'SCREAM' trilogy. Or from his other genre entry 'Phantoms'. But now, he's the lead in John Moore's update of 'THE OMEN' as Robert Thorn. Read on for Liev's thoughts on the original 'OMEN' and the new remake!!! - by Robg. 6/06

What were your initial reactions to seeing the original ‘OMEN’ film back when it came out?

I was a big fan of the original. I thought it was one of (Richard) Donner’s best movies. It's just so creepy and there was something about the psychological quality of the film & the perspective. I remembered a feeling of… the perspective of the lone gunman on the bluff. I remember there was a scene where the doctor and Thorn are talking about how (his wife) lost the child and he shot the scene from 4 stories up looking down a stairwell and it had the effect that A) feeling like you were privy to a conversation you shouldn’t be privy to, and also B) the feeling that you were being watched and maybe we were the watchers. There was also a wonderful way in which the vulnerability of Thorn in that moment was shown. He was allowed his privacy to have that very painful conversation. It wasn’t a particularly violent film and yet it was really, really haunting and creepy.

I had read that because of your love of the first film, you were a little skeptical of doing this remake. What was it about director John Moore that convinced you that you wanted to be a part of this film?

I think John definitely convinced me. And to be fair, I’m skeptical about everything I do. Always. John was able to convince me of the validity of the story and the value in updating it, and why it could be as effective now in 2006 as it was in 1976. I think there is no coincidence that genre films flourished in 1976, in particular films like ‘THE OMEN’, it felt like it was the tail end of the Vietnam war and during disturbing domestic violence in America. There was something being vented by that film, and I think the conditions are again like that in 2006.

So, it’s quite relevant to what’s going on with the world right now?

I think so. Yea.

In the original, Gregory Peck was a lot older of a character and it seemed like he came from a different kind of wealth then from where your version of the character (Robert Thorn) came from. Did you go back and look at his work from the original and try to modify it? After seeing his great performance, how did you prepare for your version of the character?

There’s no way in a million years that I can run the risk of reproducing the quality of Gregory Peck’s performance. Having been thru that before with Laurence Harvey on ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ and perhaps Orson Wells on ‘RKO 281’, I’ve certainly made my peace with playing these characters. If you’re responded intuitively and honestly to the story, you’re going to make it your own. That’s just the nature of acting. But there were things about his performance that I was influenced by. Part of that, and maybe I’m projecting over from ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’, but he brings a tremendous amount of credibility and dignity to the parts he plays. The idea of a guy who essentially is trying to be good against some very powerful odds stacked against him.

How was it working with Julia Stiles?

It was cool. We had done ‘Hamlet’ before. And in that we had played brother & sister, so it was a little kinky this time playing husband and wife. (laughs) But it’s always easier to work with an actor whom you’ve developed a shorthand with. And I think that went a long way for us.
How was it working with child actor Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien. Did he have any understanding of what was going on in the film?

I don’t know how much he understood, because I didn’t feel it was appropriate to discuss it with him. For me, it was about what game we going to play that day to accomplish what we needed to accomplish to film the scene we were filming. And that usually involved some inwardly painful version of ‘Gotcha Last’ where he would punch me in the stomach. And when John said action he would continue from where we left off last, so it was fun. Probably more fun for him then it was for me. (laughs) You have to find a way with a 7 year old kid to make it fun or you’re not going to get thru the day.
How was it working with Mia Farrow on this project?

Pretty great. Billie Whitelaw was so terrific in the original, but the minute she walked in to that room and said “Hello, little one. I’m here to protect you”, you knew it was bad news! There was something about Mia Farrow that she has this angelic, luminous beauty that sort of reeks innocence, that I thought really was a great choice, playing along with the idea of the embodiment of evil taking on a very innocent face.
I thought you and David Thewlis who played Jennings had such a great on screen chemistry for the second half of the picture. Did you guys know each other beforehand? How’d your on screen chemistry come together so naturally?

I certainly knew him, I don’t know if he knew me. The reality of that was the first week around David. I was on pins and needles. I had seen him a few summers ago in a film called ‘Naked’, and for my money that’s one of the greatest film performances of ever. I was just shocked and awed when I found out I was going to act with him. So, the first week I was pretty nervous, but then on this movie, these great actor’s just kept coming and coming. Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Gambon and Mia Farrow. It was just one after another. Actors whom I’d admired and never dreamt of working with.
I was really excited when I heard that you were cast in this new version of ‘THE OMEN’ because I knew you’d do justice to Robert Thorn and I think you did.

Thank you.

Do you have any personal beliefs about the whole current chaos in the world and what is said in the book of revelations? Do you see any connection yourself?

Well, not being Catholic myself, I thought it was important to familiarize myself with the new testament, in particular the book of revelations and also, to make a decision about who Robert Thorn was and what his background was. I thought it would be effective if you approached that character from the perception that he was a lapsed Catholic, so that he would have an emotionally charged relationship with catholism and then a stronger resistance to believing in it.
One of the things I love about films like ‘THE OMEN’ is the 10 minutes after you walk out, and you have to think “Well, it’s just a movie.” I think it’s an important thing to remember about films like these. I like the idea that it’s so preposterous, because I think there are parallels today of ideas that are just as preposterous. It’s important to support faith and to respect people’s faith, but you need to draw a line at the loss of human life. That’s the parradine that this story explores, that I think is provocative and interesting.

Are you typically a fan of the horror genre?

No. Frankly, I can’t really watch them because I get scared! I’m a sucker for films. I love films. And I buy into them very quickly. I like watching them with other people to see how they react because it’s easier to separate the reality by thinking “Oh, they’re scared too." For some reason, a lot of my work keeps leading to this genre.
A lot of the film takes place in such great locations. What was it like traveling for ‘THE OMEN’?

It was great. It was great to go back to the Chez Republic having worked there as a director. I mean, I love that city, and I’ve had a long standing relationship with it. It was nice to be able to go SEE it. Instead of being on 12-14 hour days, this was 8 hours days. It’s a beautiful place.

I know you recently directed a feature, ‘Everything Is Illuminated’. What are you up to next? Are you looking to direct another feature?

Yea, I’ve been reading stuff, but I haven’t picked anything yet. After spending 2 and a half years working on a film, I’m a little hesitate on jumping into anything again right off the bat. You really need to take the time to decide weather or not you feel emotionally connected to something before you make that commitment. Right now, I’m rehearsing ‘McBeth’ for the Shakespeare In The Park for the public theatre. That’ll open in June 13th and close July 16th and then I’m looking forward to taking some time off and maybe write.
What’s the latest with ‘The Painted Veil’?

’The Painted Veil’ comes out some time in the Fall (2006). I’m not sure exactly when though. John Curren directed an adaptation of the Somerset Maugham novel, starring Ed Norton and Naomi Watts. It’s the first American film in a very long time, if not the first at all ever to shoot in Beijing, China.

Thanks, Liev for talking to us! Take care!

Thanks to Dave Bourgeois, Dave Basner & Chris Steible for fielding questions.

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