Tel Aviv – Actor Liev Schreiber visited Tel Aviv University today to give a masterclass on acting and filmmaking during his weeklong sojourn in Israel. Mr. Schreiber, also a director, producer and screenwriter, spoke at length at TAU‘s Steve Tisch School of Film and Television in the framework of the upcoming Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival about his role models, his search for identity through film, and “one of the most detrimental things for actors: vanity.”
“I grew up in New York in the Lower East Side; my mother was an artist and a painter, and I was a kid who was into fantasy,” Mr. Schreiber told a packed auditorium in TAU’s David and Yolanda Katz Faculty of the Arts. “She didn’t have me in school, because she drove a cab all day, so I had to fully use my imagination. This was the start of my education, really.
“I was never interested in money, and I was not interested in academia until I discovered the classical arts. For me, acting is 50% impulse, acting and creativity, 30% directing and 20% camera work. It is a complicated, intensely collaborative relationship.”
Israeli actor Ohad Knoller (“Yossi and Jagger,” “Srugim”) moderated the 45-minute discussion, which was sprinkled throughout with scenes from Mr. Schreiber’s 20-year career in filmmaking.
Mr. Schreiber’s roles have run the gamut from dedicated newspaper editor (Oscar-winning “Spotlight”) to unscrupulous salesman (“Glengarry Glen Ross”), for which he was awarded a Tony, Hollywood fixer (“Ray Donovan”) to Shakespearean prince (“Hamlet”).
Mr. Schreiber, character actor par excellence, has, according to The New York Times, “never settled down into a recognizable type. He’s still hurtling himself headlong into every part, trying to learn more about who he is as an artist, about what he can do … he’s an actor of variety and unpredictability, of transformation and range. He is not a brand. To admit that he’s perfect for a part would mean classifying and labeling himself. He won’t do that.”
During the Q&A at the Film School, attended by Raz Yosef, Head of the Tisch School of Film, students and local actors peppered him with questions about his muses, his heritage and the current political climate in the entertainment industry.
“Something that has guided me creatively always is memory,” Mr. Schreiber mused. “I have a pathological issue with memory. Fantasy and that notion of who we are is determined by memory. This defines personality and character and creativity.”
In response to a question about working with new directors, Mr. Schreiber said, “I prepare by watching their films and keeping quiet for about a week. You hope they will take you someplace unfamiliar but rich.”
“I have spent a lot of my career trying to figure out what it means to be to be Jewish,” Mr. Schreiber said, touching on the subject of his connection Judaism. “My mother always talked about being Jewish and was very proud of being Jewish. She said to me, ‘You know, you are one of the chosen people.’ I said, what does that mean? I really didn’t know much about it. But everything I have ever done is an extension of my grandfather, and, for me, ‘Jewish’ was my grandfather, who used to go to Israel every year. His getting sick was a turning point for me creatively.”
When asked about the political climate and political correctness in the U.S., Mr. Schreiber said, “It is a hard time for America right now. But if it moves women forward an inch, it is worth it. The point is: white heterosexual men have been in power for a long time, and there is a shift and I hope it contributes more to the collective creative bubble. It can only contribute more.”
American Friends of Tel Aviv University supports Israel’s most influential, comprehensive, and sought-after center of higher learning, Tel Aviv University (TAU). TAU is recognized and celebrated internationally for creating an innovative, entrepreneurial culture on campus that generates inventions, startups and economic development in Israel. For three years in a row, TAU ranked 9th in the world, and first in Israel, for alumni going on to become successful entrepreneurs backed by significant venture capital, a ranking that surpassed several Ivy League universities. To date, 2,400 patents have been filed out of the University, making TAU 29th in the world for patents among academic institutions.