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Liev Schreiber Reveals His One Wish
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Liev Schreiber said he likes to feel he has some control over the progression of a movie. “If you think it’s all there before we start, I’m out.”
 
 
Sunday, April 3, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

To Boise NPR film reviewer George Prentice, Liev Schreiber represented his father in the new film of Hemingway’s “Across the River and Into the Trees.” To Kathy Wygle, he was Hemingway himself. Isaac Live Schreiber himself saw his Ukrainian grandfather--a man who played cello, collected Renoir etchings and worked as a meat deliveryman--in his portrayal of Col. Cantwell.

“What’s interesting to me is what this character is reaching for,” Schreiber told those attending a Coffee Talk the morning following the Sun Valley Film Festival’s world premiere of the film. “What’s his idea of masculinity… I wanted to scale back his relationship with the girl and find out who this man was.”

“Across the River and Into the Trees,” Hemingway’s last full-length novel written in 1950, is the bittersweet story of a too-late romance between a young Italian countess and an American colonel who is trying to come together with the atrocities of war even as his deals with his failing health. It is a blend of Hemingway’s novel and material from “Autumn in Venice,” which tells the story of Hemingway’s love affair with the city of Venice and his somewhat scandalous affair with a vivacious 18-year-old.

“The rumor is he wrote (’Across the River’) for her,” said Schreiber.

The movie, which is awaiting a release date, was a hit with many in the Sun Valley audience, even though a few noted it was somewhat plodding in places. Peppered with humorous one-liners, it was a feat of photography showcasing beautiful Venice, a beautiful countess and long, searing scenes of a man who was disintegrating.

In a twist, the movie was filmed in black and white save for a few jolting flashbacks of war in bloody color.

Schreiber, who kicked off his film career as a suspected murderer in the “Scream” trilogy and cemented his legacy in “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Spotlight,” said he became interested in the film because it told the story of a generation of Americans who volunteered instinctively to give their lives to defend their country.

“I’ve always been moved by that,” he said. “We don’t spend enough time remembering and honoring what the generation before us did.”

The film was the most difficult Schreiber has ever made, both physically and emotionally. In fact, he said he flew over to Venice to make sure the film was going to happen when he got the sense it might not.  Schreiber had to fly to Seattle in the middle of things when his father was diagnosed with a fast-spreading sarcoma. There was difficulty getting insurance for the filming and then the crew had to work through a very restrictive COVID lockdown in Italy. But that had a silver lining as it allowed the crew to film in an empty St. Mark’s Square.

Adding to the difficulty was the many languages spoken by the crew, ranging from Spanish to Italian.

“It was kind of like a Tower of Babel,” he said. “But (director) Paula Ortiz’s leadership was extraordinary—calmness in the eye of the storm.”

The son of what Schreiber once called “a Bohemian socialist Labor Party” activist, Schreiber attended the Yale School of Drama and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts enroute to a theatrical career where he’s been praised as the foremost Shakespearean of his generation.

“For me, it’s about how I’m communicating to the audience and what I am communicating,” said Schreiber, who won a Tony Award for his role in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

“I think people undervalue repetition,” he said of rehearsing lines, adding that knowing where to put an effective pause leaves the audience wondering what’s going to happen next.

Right now, Schreiber said, he’s tired, ready to put his feet up for a spell. But that doesn’t mean fans will see any less of him on the big screen. He returned for another go-around with “Ray Donovan: The Movie,” which aired in January on Showtime. His film “Asteroid” is in post-production. And “Golda”  finds him playing Henry Kissinger alongside Helen Mirren, who plays the former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

“I never imagined I’d never play Henry Kissinger. I got to meet him, which was extraordinary,” he said, of the 98-year-old former Secretary of State.

Schreiber noted that “Across the River” is relevant today as it offers a look at the aftermath of World War II even as the war between Russia and Ukraine has captivated the world’s attention.

“I think there’s nothing like war to remind people of basic human rights,” he said. “We as a country are being reminded of what we stand for, what we provide. This is a place where everybody claims they had issues when they came here.”

In “Spotlight,” Schreiber played the editor-in-chief of the Boston Globe who is focused on making his paper “essential” to its readers.

Asked by an audience member what is most important to him, he said his two children. Then he added: “My wish is that we all can find a way to be essential to each other.”

FESTIVAL ADDS FREE NICOLAS CAGE MOVIE

Actor Woody Harrelson will take part in a free Coffee Talk at 10 a.m. today—Sunday, April 3—at The Argyros. Other highlights include a free program of shorts at the Future Filmmakers Forum at 11:30 a.m. at The Argyros.

The new “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” documentary will air at noon at the Opera House, and “Navalny,” the story of a Russian leader’s quest to learn who poisoned him, will play at 4:30 p.m. at The Argyros.

The audience-picked Best Narrative Encore will show at 1:30 p.m. at The Argyros and the audience favorite Best Documentary will encore at 2:30 at the Opera House.

The Festival will conclude with "a special advance and free screening of "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" at 7:30 p.m. as The Argyros. The movie star Nicolas Cage as a man who accepts a million dollar offer to attend a wealthy fan's birthday party but ends up channeling his most iconic and beloved characters to save himself and loved ones when a CIA operative recruits him for an unusual mission.

Visit https://sunvalleyfilmfestival.org for more information.

 

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