For many city kids, as Liev Schreiber once was, playing ice hockey is just a dream. However, thanks to his role in "Goon," the actor has finally had the opportunity to live out his fantasy of hitting the ice.
In the film, which co-stars Seann William Scott, Schreiber plays an aging hockey enforcer whose primary job is to act like a tough guy in the rink. It’s another wonderful performance from the New York City-raised actor, who has shown his range in both indie classics, such as "Walking and Talking," and huge blockbusters, like "X-Men."
Though he's tackled many roles, the 44-year-old, who has two boys, Alexander, 4, and Samuel, 3, with his longtime partner Naomi Watts, claims not to be partial to any particular one. “My favorite job is always the one I’ve got,” he says with the modesty of a struggling actor, despite having won a Tony. “The best gig is the one you’ve got.”
Did you do "Goon" so you could beat up people?
No, I did it because I figured I’ve probably got five or six years of ice hockey left in my body, and the opportunity to go to a professional hockey training camp and learn the game seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
So it was like going to fantasy camp and being paid for it.
Did you grow up playing ice hockey?
No, I grew up admiring people who played ice hockey. There weren’t a lot of hockey rinks on the Lower East Side of New York, but I had a friend who used to travel all the way up to Harlem at 4 or 5 in the morning to play at Lasker Rink and I used to go along and watch him. The skill set for hockey is so specific to skating and if you haven’t been skating as a kid it’s impossible to play -- and I wasn’t a skater.
So was it fun beating up people?
Not as much fun as playing hockey, but yeah.
You have such an interesting career. You do big budget movies and lots of smaller, more thoughtful films.
I just like to mix it up. I take jobs for different reasons. "Goon" came to me at a point when I was spending a lot of my time on my butt watching kids and I didn’t have any activities or athletic pursuits. When someone came along and said, "Hey do you want to go to training camp and learn hockey?" I thought, this is a great opportunity to get engaged in something and get physical and healthy and learn a new sport.
I think it’s really, really important to mix it up as an actor, to try to get as much kind of varied experience as you can, not only for your own personal growth as an actor but for the audience to keep them guessing about what you’re going to do. So when they see a film, they’re not looking at the actor; they’re looking at a character the actor is portraying.
Your partner is Naomi Watts. Have you ever heard the expression "batting above your average"?
Yes, I’m definitely batting above average. Typically would Naomi Watts be out of my grasp? Absolutely. What stupid pills she took seven years ago, I don’t know. Oddly enough we have a lot in common. We grew up in similar ways. The other thing, it turns out that genetically we make exquisitely beautiful children.
You have young kids in New York City. Everyone complains about the pressure to get them into school.
It’s a hell of a lot more brutal than a hockey game. I have a 4- and 3-year-old and the fact that we’re already fighting tooth and nail ... The whole education thing is just ridiculous.
You grew up on New York's Lower East Side, which was pretty rough in the '70s and '80s.
It wasn’t scary, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere nearly as fashionable as it is now. It’s amazing, but that’s New York -- it’s constantly evolving and growing as a city. I think that’s why we have so much trouble with schools; there are too many damn people here.
Was it important for you to raise your kids in New York?
It was. I think there’s a cultural diversity here that you can only get in a few other places in the world. It’s also important for me that my kids spend time in Australia, because I think it’s a gorgeous place and one of the best places in the world for raising children.
You have a very deep voice. It’s like you have three testicles.
(Laughs) Do testicles make your voice deep? I guess they do, that’s true. No, I only have two testicles.