Displaying the kind of off-kilter charm that makes him a natural for leading roles in independent films and character parts in mainstream features, Liev Schreiber has made a name for himself on both circuits. Born October 4, 1967, in San Francisco, Schreiber was raised on New York's Lower East Side. A graduate of Hampshire College in Massachusetts, he initially wanted to become a writer, but later decided to try his hand at acting, training at both London's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Yale School of Drama.
Schreiber's first acting job was on Broadway, where he appeared in In the Summer House. More theater work followed and in 1994, the actor made his film debut in the Steve Martin comedy Mixed Nuts. The film was an unequivocal flop, although Schreiber's role as a rather muscular transvestite proved to be one of the picture's few memorable features.
His next project, the 1995 indie Denise Calls Up, fared a little better; despite almost non-existent box-office ratings, it was rewarded with critical approval. Following more minor film work, he landed the role of a British bouncer in the successful indie flick Party Girl (1995), which also starred nascent indie queen Parker Posey. Schreiber got an introduction to a more mainstream audience thanks to his role as killer Cotton Weary in Wes Craven's mega-hit Scream, a role he reprised in the film's sequel, Scream 2 (1997). The same year, Schreiber had leading roles in two more independent films, The Daytrippers (which again paired him with Posey) and Walking and Talking, as well as a secondary role in the bloated Mel Gibson thriller Ransom.
Deftly straddling the divide between Sundance and the studio, Schreiber went on to make three major mainstream pictures in 1998: Phantoms, with Rose McGowan and Ben Affleck; Twilight with Susan Sarandon, Paul Newman, and Gene Hackman; and Sphere with Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone, and Dustin Hoffman. The following year, Schreiber returned to more familiar territory with his role in Tony Goldwyn's small but successful drama A Walk on the Moon. As the man Diane Lane cuckolds for Viggo Mortensen, Schreiber mined endless possibilities from what could have been a narrow role, giving his character the sort of charming, good-intentioned inadequacy that became one of the actor's trademarks.
In 2000, Schreiber returned to the role of Cotton Weary a third time to close out the Scream franchise. It was around this time that he also began doing a considerable amount of voice-over work, mainly for PBS's NOVA series. As the decade progressed, Schreiber continued to be a presence in bigger mainstream projects, such as the 2002 adaptation of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears. Two years later, he could be seen in another high-profile, politically tinged thriller, this time opposite Denzel Washington in director Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate.
In 2005 he made his directorial and screenwriting debut with Everything Is Illuminated, and appeared in the critically acclaimed, Golden Globe-winning HBO movie Lackawanna Blues, a life-affirming film about a selfless black woman (played by S. Epatha Merkerson) in 1950s segregated New York who provides a home and a guiding hand to the youths who come to live at her boarding house. His 2006 project would be quite a departure from this sweet, poignant tale, as Schreiber took the role of Robert Thorne in John Moore's remake of the 1976 horror classic The Omen. Heavily publicized for its "666" release date (June 6th, 2006), the film pleased horror fans, as did Schreiber's performance as husband to Julia Stiles and father to the infamous Damien, a little boy who seems to harbor an evil that at best makes him disturbingly cold and at worst, places him at the crux of the devil's own plan for hell on Earth.
Schreiber next went into production on The Painted Veil, an adaptation of the novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Playing the playboy whom Naomi Watts cuckolds her husband with, the actor immersed himself in the part for the drama.
Meanwhile, a return to the stage in the lauded revival of Glengarry Glen Ross not only earned Schreiber a Tony award, and in 2005 he made his debut as a film director and screenwriter with the indie Everything Is Illuminated. Always up for new challenges, he played the role of the comic-book supervillain Sabertooth in the 2009 summer blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In addition to his acting, Schreiber also has a lucrative career narrating documentaries and commercials. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi