Liev Schrieber sat down with House of Horrors and a few others to discuss his role as Robert Thorn, originally played by the great Gregory Peck, in the upcoming remake release of The Omen. Liev was a lot of fun, but also very serious about his reply on what John Moore brought to the film, improvisations that were kept in, how he regards his work in Scream and discusses the mythical wall between top-name actors and the horror genre. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: So now, are you the “king of remakes”? Is this how this is gonna go?
SCHRIEBER: I dunno. We’ll see.
Q: Cause if so, what would you like to “remake” next? (laughs)
SCHRIEBER: Someone asked me that earlier and I couldn’t think of anything. Probably one of my favorite all-time films is Being There, the Hal Ashby/Peter Sellers film. But um… yeah that might be biting off a little more than I can chew.
Q: So far now, you’ve written, acted, and you’ve directed. Are you ever going to try and put yourself one and go that route?
SCHRIEBER: I don’t know. The first time around I felt that maybe that was too much. Plus there wouldn’t be apart for me. Maybe… I don’t know. Two and a half – usually three years, is what it takes to make a film. That’s such a huge chunk of your life that um… the most important thing is to find something that’s worth spending that chunk of your life on. So Im sort of looking around and meeting and trying to write.
Q: What was it that attracted you to this film?
SCHRIEBER: The conflict. You know, its so preposterous, the ideas just… As an actor, its a really interesting challenge. I didn’t really think… I kinda felt like… I don’t buy it, you know? It so outside of my parameters of what I believe in, that it made it really exciting for me to try to play it.
Q: Do you think that John [Moore – the director] brought a relevance to this, to sort of substantiate it, the remake?
SCHRIEBER: Yeah. What John did is the right thing, which is, he let 2006 bring relevance to this that makes it pressing and interesting. I dont think that its any coincidence that in 1976 genre films were flourishing. Particularly films like The Omen. I can speculate what the reasons were – the politcal climate – we were at the tail end of the Vietnam war – the civil rights movement – Kent State – there’s all of this stuff going on and suddenly genre films are flourishing. Cut to 2006 – the next great era of the genre film – and you sort of look at what’s going on in the country, both in foreign and domestic policy and I think you can see some parallels.
Q: There’s a couple of different literary perspectives that say there has to be an active choice on the part of the character where he lets the evil into his life. When does this character let the evil into his life that he becomes the pawn for the Devil to seek his goals?
SCHRIEBER: That was something that John was actually interested in and that’s probably because John actually comes from a Catholic background. There were two places. I think he felt that the Thorns FastTrack ambition – the fact that in our version we made him the Deputy Ambassador – that he profited from the death of his boss, was one element. For me, it kind of felt like the original sin is not telling his wife. And what I kept looking for in the film, and thankfully John made those opportunities available to me, are the moments when he could and should tell her, but chooses not to. And I think that’s the original act that actually invites evil into his life.
Q: You said that movies usually take about 2 or 3 years to complete. How long did The Omen take. Did it take that long?
SCHRIEBER: No – The Omen was very fast because they had this very very tempting marketing date. They wanted to hit it.
Schrieber directing Everything Is Illuminated…
Q: So in respect to that, I was just curious if this was taking away from any time with Naomi Watts and planning your wedding? (laughs) Had to do it…
SCHRIEBER: I know you do. Celebrity has become such big business now. You have a choice as an actor – you can follow that careerpath or you can follow trying to be an actor. I mame enough money as an acotr that I don’t wanna follow that careerpath. So, in order for me to stay off that path, what I gotta do is I gotta try to keep my private life private, and my public life public. I keep them seperate. Someday maybe Ill wanna spill all that stuff, but right now I don’t want to.
Q: So you would say the key to making a relationship in Hollywood work is being private then.
SCHRIEBER: I think the key to making your life in Hollywood work, is keeping something private – keeping something to yourself.
Q: I’d like to talk about Pablo [Schrieber] – congratulations on his Tony [award]. Do you guys have any plans to work together – how supportive of each other are you – do you mess in each others lives at all?
SCHRIEBER: The funny thing was, the Tonys asked me to announce The Tony Awards this year – and you know Pablo’s great in his show. I didn’t really think that he would get a nod, partially because I didn’t get a nod when I was that young. When I heard his name get read, my jaw just dropped – I mean I was so thrilled for him. He’s doing great. He’s doin a hell of a lot better than I was doin at his age.
Q: Regarding The Omen – was there anything that surprised you after watching it?
SCHRIEBER: Yeah. Any of the scenes with Julia that I wasn’t in. There were some things that were improvised that I thought were probably too provacative, and that ended up in the film – that I was very happy to see stayed in the film.
Q: Like what?
SCHRIEBER: On the last scene – that sort of “final conflict” scene with Damien on the altar – I improvised the Lord’s Prayer as I was about to kill him – and that sort of made everybody in the room go, “Ooh…” To John’s credit, he wasn’t scared, and he went with it, and I really like the way it turned out. There was one other, after the scene with Michael Gambon’s character Bugenhagen – there was a line – I improvised something like, “…just another nut,” or something like that, “…that thinks that arcane scripture justifies killing.” That felt like, given Fox… (turns and mockingly looks over his shoulder for anyone from Fox listening)… That felt like that was a dangerously left-wing sentiment. Not that I feel the character is liberal at all, but that idea seemed pressing to me and very 2006.
Q: A fan of horror myself, I’ve always felt like we’ve gotten a little jipped as far as when it comes to casting upper eschelon characters. In this case, yours and Mia’s and Julia’s presence in the film really lifted The Omen to that higher level whereas most horror films seem to be cast full of breakout names or cult favorites. What do you think is the wall between high caliber and quality actors and horror films?
SCHRIEBER: I dont know – I dont think there’s that much of a “wall”, honestly. I mean look a the actors this time, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon, and Mia Farrow. Julia Stiles, and you know – I look at like… probably one of my all-time favorite movies is The Shining. Look at the caliber of acting in that. I think things that have a lot of gratuitous violence in them scare people off – because I think they feel like maybe they’re endorsing violence. The Omen actually does not have a lot of violence in it, but is in some ways still more horrible than things that have a lot of violence in it.
Because there’s something… what David Selter did so good with the bones of the original idea is he connected it to something that people were familiar with – the Book of Revelations, something that everybody could relate to – and he says, “What if its real?” You know? And I think that freaked people out. And I think – that thing – is ultimately ten times more terriying as a big green monster with six heads. The problem is, the scripts aren’t all that great. Genre films can make so much money that people try to turn ’em out fast – and they do kinda thin scripts. I think that might be part of the problem.
Im pretty much proud of every one of the genre films Ive worked on. You know – people ask me why I did Scream – and I’m like, “Are you out of your mind? I thought that was one of the most inventive, interesting genre movies to come along in years. Even though I hadn’t known a lot about them when I saw that – I just thought, that’s a great movie. AND it scares the pants off you. And its also got the kind of wink in it. Its like Wes Craven – he knows his audience so well – that he’s like, “You know its a movie, I know its a movie. Lets talk about that.” And I thought that was a great premise for a horror film.
Thanks, Liev, for taking the time to speak with House of Horrors and for your exceptional work in The Omen. Coming up next is our interview with legendary actress Mia Farrow, where she discusses evil in the world today, shooting The Omen in Prague, and what she thinks of a Rosemary’s Baby remake. Keep it right here at House of Horrors for all the latest!