Born Isaac Liev Schreiber on April 10, 1967 in San Francisco, CA, Schreiber's father, Tell, was an actor and stage director, while his mother, Heather Milgram, was an artist. The family - which included his half-brother, actor Pablo Schreiber - relocated to Canada when he was little over one-year-old, but his parents separated a few years later and Schreiber moved with his mother and siblings to New York City. His mother was, by all accounts, a caring but eccentric woman who supported the family by driving a cab. She encouraged him to read but forbade him to see color films, so Schreiber developed an affinity for silent films, especially those of Charlie Chaplin. The combination of influences led him to pursue acting as a career, leading him to train at several colleges and universities, including Hampshire College in Massachusetts and the Yale School of Drama, from which he graduated in 1992. He furthered his studies by attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made his professional acting debut at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
Stage roles in America soon followed, as did his film debut in the charming indie comedy Party Girl (1995), in which he played a British bouncer who fancies Parker Posey's offbeat librarian. He and Posey reunited the same year in Mixed Nuts (1994), Nora Ephron's glum comedy about a suicide hotline's callers on Christmas Eve, with Schreiber playing a drag queen opposite Steve Martin and a then-unknown Adam Sandler. Independent features proved a more hospitable venue for Schreiber, who did notable work in Denise Calls Up (1996) as an agoraphobe, and "Walking and Talking" (1996), as a less-than-honorable boyfriend to Anne Heche. He also lent his fluid voice to such documentaries as "Rock and Roll" (1995). On stage, Schreiber co-starred with Patrick Stewart in the New York Shakespeare Festival's staging of "The Tempest" in Central Park in 1995, and appeared with Jason Robards in "Moonlight" by Harold Pinter.
Schreiber returned to Hollywood films in 1996 as a member of a team of kidnappers who steal Mel Gibson's son in the intense Ron Howard thriller, "Ransom." That same year, he gained even further exposure as Cotton Weary, the ex-mental patient and most likely suspect in a rash of killings in Scream (1996). Schreiber's turn as the terse, menacing Weary was memorable enough to typecast him as a heavy for the rest of his career, but he wisely returned to indies with the offbeat "Daytrippers" (1997), which reunited him with Posey. He then stepped back into the mainstream ring with supporting roles in a slew of features, including Barry Levinson's dire science fiction thriller Sphere (1998); Twilight (1998), as a caddish boyfriend to Reese Witherspoon; and "A Walk on the Moon" for fellow actor-turned-director Tony Goldwyn, who cast him as the husband whom Diane Lane abandons for hippie heartthrob Viggo Mortensen. In fact, Schreiber formed a small cottage industry as the husband/boyfriend left for greener pastures in films like "Kate and Leopold" (2001) and "Dial 9 for Love" (2001), but it was his tortured work opposite Lane in "Moon" which really put him on the mainstream radar.
Schreiber's stage work during this period included a 1998 off-Broadway run with Alec Baldwin in "Macbeth," an Obie Award-winning performance in two roles in Shakespeare's "Cymbaline" in 1999, and a starring turn as Hamlet in 2000. In 1999, Schreiber enjoyed top billing as Orson Welles in "RKO 281," a compelling examination of the actor's struggle to create and release the classic film loosely based on newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, "Citizen Kane" (1940). The standout performance, which rose far above the usual imitations of Welles, earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations in 2000, increasing his profile within the film industry considerably. But rather than dive headlong into commercial film, Schreiber returned to his indie roots once again, this time to play Laertes in Michael Almereyda's modern-day retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet (2000). That year, he also co-starred in the bland "Pay It Forward" (2000), starred in a stage production of "Betrayal" with Juliet Binoche from 2000-01, and narrated the documentary "Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team" (2001).
In 2002, Schreiber captured the attention of many critics with his dark comic turn as a mercenary in the actioner, "The Sum of All Fears," co-starring Ben Affleck. In 2004, he surpassed the firestorm of negative publicity surrounding Jonathan Demme's remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" to turn in a stellar performance as a vice-presidential candidate who has been reprogrammed by a large and sinister multinational corporation. Though the film fared poorly at the box office, it helped to bolster the idea of Schreiber as a viable leading man. That same year also saw Schreiber return to Shakespeare in a much-praised production of "Henry V" in Central Park. The following year, he won a Tony Award for a revival of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" (2005) and made his debut as a film director with "Everything Is Illuminated," starring Elijah Wood as a young man seeking to better understand the history of his Ukrainian family. The film fared moderately at the box office - due in no small part to the challenging nature of the material - but several critics praised Schreiber for his efforts and the scope of his vision.
In 2006, Schreiber did his best to survive an unnecessary remake of "The Omen" and did fine work as a doctor who carries on an affair with a married woman (Naomi Watts) in "The Painted Veil." In real life, Schreiber and Watts became a couple, announcing they were pregnant with their first child in 2007. Schreiber made a rare jump to network television in late 2006 with an appearance on "CSI" as an investigator with a troubled past. His four-episode guest shot gave the veteran series a much-needed dose of solid acting. The following year, Schreiber scored a personal triumph in his stage career with a production of Eric Bogosian's "Talk Radio;" his performance as an abrasive talk show jock earned him the Drama League Award and a Tony nomination, among many other laurels. He also lent his distinctive voice to controversial lawyer William Kunstler for Chicago 10 (2008), an animated recounting of the trial of several noted counterculture activists during and after the 1968 presidential election. In addition to his many acting and narration turns, Schreiber also provided the voice-overs for the Infinti car company. Back on the big screen, he was one of three Jewish brothers who seek revenge on the Nazis after escaping a prison camp in Defiance (2008), which he followed by taking on the role of Victor Creed/Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009).
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