The Schmear Chronicles


Liev Schreiber: The Jew Crush

It’s coming from inside the house (we hope)

Liev Schreiber has played many different roles as an actor as well as in his own life. Born Isaac Liev Schreiber in San Francisco, the actor, director, screenwriter and producer entered into a world without fame or fortune. His mother, Heather Milgram, a descendant of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants, was raised in a working class, Jewish household in Brooklyn, and through her Bohemian eccentricities and lack of money, Schreiber underwent a turbulent childhood (though he speaks of her with warmth and respect, like a good Jewish boy). A fighter in life — both literally and figuratively — (in addition to overcoming adversity he has boxed on and off for 18 years), Schreiber was a natural fit for the roles of the Jewish resistance fighter, Zus Bielski, in the 2008 film “Defiance,” and the prizefighter Mischa in the concentration camp film, “Jakob the Liar.” Now, Schreiber, 49, will portray heavyweight Chuck Wepner in the biopic, “Chuck,” which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. Our money is on Schreiber.

Seven reasons we have a Jew crush on Live Schreiber:

1. Rough start. From having a mother who battled mental issues who fled with him as a baby to being pursued by private detectives and kidnapped by his father when he was three, followed by becoming the subject of a fierce custody battle and eventually living with his mother in a dilapidated apartment, (often without hot water, electricity or beds), Schreiber lived anything but a life of glamor as a child. However, he still shows his gratitude to his mother for doing her best and takes the good parts with him. Very menschly.

2. Mighty huggable. Despite his rather, ahem, chiseled physique (not that we’re saying there’s anything wrong with that…), Schreiber has a tender alter ego that many may be surprised to learn about (he played the killer in “Scream” and a mutant super villain in the “X-Men” movies for crying out loud). When he was a baby, he was given the family nickname “huggy”… we sure wouldn’t mind testing that title out.

3. Self-motivated. He had nothing handed to him and as a young adult his mother forced him to shuttle among various ashrams. However, Schreiber ended up attending Friends Seminary in New York City, then went on to Hampshire College in Amherst where he first trained as an actor. He graduated with a master’s degree from Yale University before attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Color us impressed.

4. Bard-ass. Getting his start on the stage, Schreiber made a name for himself as a Shakespearean actor early on in his career. His role in the 1998 production of Cymbeline garnered a rave review from The New York Times. Answering their plea for “More Shakespeare, Mr. Schreiber,” a year later he played “Hamlet” in the eponymous tragedy at The Public Theater and in 2000 he played Laertes in the modern film adaptation of the play. He went on to play the title role in “Henry V” in a 2003 Shakespeare in the Park production to high praise from The New Yorker and in the summer of 2006 he played the title role of “Macbeth” at the Delacorte Theater. Huzzah.

5. The proof is in the pudding. Schreiber has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards and two Primetime Emmy Awards for his role as the eponymous protagonist in the Showtime dramatic series, “Ray Donovan,” among receiving many other nominations throughout his career. In 2000, he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor In A Play for his role in “Glengarry Glen Ross” as well as five awards for his work in the 2015 drama “Spotlight,” including “Best Cast in a Motion Picture.”

6. Director. To add to his CV of stage, film and television acting, Schreiber has also succeeded on the other side of the camera. As a screenwriter, he wrote a film about his Jewish grandfather (sadly it was never released, we’re still hopeful though), and in 2005 he directed a film adaption of the short story on which Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, “Everything is Illuminated,” is based.

7. Zayde Zayde. Schreiber’s grandfather, Alex Milgram, was the most significant man in his young adult life, according to JTA. He has called him an “old-fashioned socialist Jew.” When not delivering meat to restaurants to make a living, Milgram played the cello, and collected Renoir etchings. Schreiber recalls a time his grandfather took him visit a friend in the Lubavitch community in Brooklyn where he met the notable Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Of the Seders at his grandfather’s home he has said, “Those were some of the best times of my life,” recalling fighting over the afikomen with his brothers.


Liev Schreiber


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