Isaac Liev (pronounced ‘Lee-ev’) Schreiber was born on October 4th 1967 in San Francisco, to Heather Milgram and Tell Schreiber. Around the age of five, his parents divorced, and Heather took young Liev to New York. Things were hard for them, and they spent time living in squats in abandoned buildings, and an apartment without electricity, while Heather looked for work to support them. During this time, his mother taught him to read, and forbid him from seeing movies in colour, which left Liev to see old black and white and silent films at a local revival house. He particularly enjoyed those by Charlie Chaplin. The first colour movie he saw was Star Wars in 1977.
It was at the Quakers’ Friends Seminary that Schreiber first dabbled in acting, appearing in school plays. He began acting seriously at Hampshire College and continued at the Yale University School of Drama in 1992. He originally wanted to be a playwright, but his teacher encouraged him to become an actor. He furthered his studies by attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made his professional acting debut at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
His first professional work was on Broadway, in a 1993 production of “In the Summer House” with Dianne Wiest.
Liev made his on-screen debut in the charming indie comedy “Party Girl” (1994), in which he played a British bouncer who fancies Parker Posey’s offbeat librarian. He then joined Parker in “Mixed Nuts” (1994), playing a muscular, lonely transvestite who gets mixed up with the employees and friends of a suicide hotline on Christmas Eve.
In 1995, Liev starred in “Denise Calls Up”, playing an agoraphobic, and co-starred with Patrick Stewart in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s staging of “The Tempest” in Central Park. Later that year, he appeared with Jason Robards in “Moonlight” by Harold Pinter.
1996 saw a return to the big screen with a vengeance, with his role as a co-kidnapper in “Ransom”, the ex-mental patient and most likely suspect in a rash of killings in “Scream”, Parker Posey’s boyfriend in “The Daytrippers” also starring Stanley Tucci, and as Katherine Keener’s boyfriend in “Walking and Talking”.
Liev’s role as Cotton Weary was reprised in 1997’s “Scream 2”, giving the character a much more substantial role, and Liev big exposure within Hollywood. He gained further exposure in “A Walk on the Moon” (1998), starring as Diane Lane’s Jewish husband, whom she abandons for hippy Viggo Mortensen during Woodstock.
1998 also saw him feature in “Twilight”, in which he plays a caddish boyfriend to Reese Witherspoon, Barry Levinson’s science fiction thriller “Sphere”, in which he plays a Physician, investigating a supposed alien craft at the bottom of the ocean, and Dean Koontz’s “Phantoms”, as a creepy cop alongside Ben Affleck and Rose McGowan.
During this time, Liev also managed to fit in a significant amount of stage work, which included a 1998 off-Broadway run with Alec Baldwin in “Macbeth,” an Obie Award-winning performance in two roles in Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” in 1999, and a starring turn as Hamlet in 2000.
His first top billing role came in 1999, when he starred in the TV movie “RKO 281”, playing Orson Welles and his struggle to create and release the classic film loosely based on newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, “Citizen Kane” (1940). The standout performance, opposite James Cromwell, Melanie Griffiths and John Malkovitch, 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.
He was once again able to reprise his role as Cotton Weary in “Scream 3” in 2000, though the role was smaller. He also starred in a modern day on-screen version of “Hamlet”, playing Laertes opposite Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles.
He met his good friend Hugh Jackman while filming “Kate & Leopold” (2001), in which he played the scientist, lazy ex-boyfriend of Kate (Meg Ryan), who discovers a portal under the Brooklyn Bridge, which transports him to 1786 and into Leopold’s (Hugh Jackman) path.
In 2002, he starred as a mercenary, opposite Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman in “The Sum of All Fears”, and had a significant role in the TV movie “Hitler: The Rise of Evil” (2003).
Liev was able to bolster his ability to achieve leading man status in the remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004), to turn in an excellent performance as a vice-presidential candidate who has been reprogrammed by a large and sinister multinational corporation. Though the film did not do as well as expected, it is considered one of Liev’s strongest roles.
The following year, he won a Tony Award for a revival of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” (2005), and made his directorial debut with “Everything is Illuminated”, which he also wrote. It starred Elijah Wood as a young man seeking to better understand the history of his Ukrainian family. Several critics praised Liev for his efforts and the scope of his vision.
Liev rejoined Julia Stiles in the remake of “The Omen” (2006), and saw him star alongside his partner, Naomi Watts in “The Painted Veil”, in which he plays a Doctor involved in an affair with a married woman (Watts). It was during this time that Liev and Naomi announced they were a couple, and in early 2007, they announced Naomi’s pregnancy with their first child, Alexander (Sasha), who was born on 25th July 2007.
2007 also saw Liev feature in a four episode role in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”, as Michael Keppler, an investigator with a troubled past.
After “CSI”, Liev returned the big screen with his role as Zus Bielski in “Defiance” (2008), one of three brothers who saved 1237 Jews during the Second World War, by taking refuge in the Belarusian forests. Liev and Naomi attended the premier with some of the surviving Bielski family members. They also welcomed their second son, Samuel into the world on 14th December 2008.
Liev joined his friend Hugh Jackman in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009), playing Victor Creed/Sabretooth, his most physically demanding role yet, and one that earned him a great many more fans from the younger Sci Fi generation.
Liev’s last stint on Broadway ran from January 24, 2010, closing on April 4, 2010, opposite Scarlet Johannsen in Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge”. He can also be seen in “Salt” (2010), opposite Angelina Jolie, and “Every Day” (2010) alongside Helen Hunt and Brian Dennehy, which opened in New York and Los Angeles theatres on 14th January 2011.
He has also recently finished filming “Goon”, opposite Seann William Scott, and “Movie 43″, a film comprised of short segments, with his partner Naomi Watts, and close friend Hugh Jackman.
Liev is also starring in “Fading Gigolo” opposite Vanessa Paradis and Woody Allen. It is currently in post-production.