Actor, director, producer, scriptwriter: Liev Schreiber has worn multiple hats in the film industry throughout his impressive career. In addition to his turns as a leading man in Hollywood an on Broadway, Schreiber has also shown a penchant for all things puck, having delved into the hockey world as the narrator of HBO's series, 24/7, and more recently in the role of Ross "The Boss" Rhea in the Goon film franchise. With Goon: The Last of the Enforcers now in theaters, we caught up with the 49-year-old thespian to find out more about his favorite frozen sport.
Did it take a lot of convincing to get you to reprise your role of Ross "The Boss" Rhea in Goon: Last of the Enforcers?
LIEV SCHREIBER: The way they got me to do the movie is that they promised me they would send me to hockey camp for five weeks. Sometimes when you're working as an actor, you get these situations where your job affords you the opportunity to have these incredible experiences. I was never really a skater or a hockey player - I've always really loved watching the sport - but I thought, "Well here's my chance to learn it at [age] 45!" (laughs) I had such a great time, so it was an easy decision to do the second one.
For someone who has appeared in several renowned Broadway productions and played many serious roles, how much fun was it to play a guy like Ross "The Boss"?
LS: I just like physical training. It's fun to do. I have a soft spot for Marty McSorley and all those guys from when I was back in college - guys like Bob Probert. They're just such interesting characters to me. Hockey players are such a strange dichotomy. I personally think they're the toughest guys on the planet, many of them, but at the same time, they're also the sweetest guys. It's a strange mix in hockey, to have that brutality and politeness. It may be because they're Canadians, I'm not sure. (laughs) But that's typical of hockey players.
Has the role given you a new appreciation for hockey enforcers?
LS: My perception of hockey players has changed dramatically since I met a bunch of them and worked with a bunch of them. I honestly mean it that they are some of the kindest and gentlest people I've ever met. Not that I would get in a fight with any of them, but the reality of who they are in real life is very different from what you see on the ice. The competitive fire in those guys and their drive to do things that most human beings could not, would not, or should not do makes these guys very different. Off the ice, I don't even know how to explain it. I just remember [Georges] Laraque taking me to his vegan restaurant in Montreal. That kind of sums it up.
Speaking of Laraque, we did an interview with Seann William Scott a few years ago and he admitted that dropping the gloves with Georges in the first Goon was really frightening. Did you feel the same way when you had to get into it with other former NHL enforcers?
LS: No, they all took good care of me. I had no fear at all. I was not much of a skater, that was the biggest problem. In hockey when you're fighting, you have got to dig you edge in. Like in boxing, all the power comes from the ground up. In hockey, it starts from the skates. A lot of those guys had to actually hold me up in those fights. I was completely relying on them. They were all so sweet and everybody was so nice. I never felt scared or intimidated. And Laraque, he's a big puppy - I could take him! (laughs) You can tell him I said that. How can you be a professional hockey player and have a vegan restaurant? I mean, come on. (laughs) He's a very special bird and I love him very much.
You also had a chance to play with another former Hab, George Parros.
LS: Parros is amazing. People don't understand what these guys are like. They're amazing people. Parros is a great example because he's such a contradiction. He's a contradiction to who he is on the ice when you meet him in person. He's a really interesting guy. I think it's something about hockey where you have to have good parents to play hockey. You need so much equipment, you have to go on the ice to practice early in the morning, you have to find ice time, and it's such a big deal to get your kid to the rink every day. To find that all those guys have excelled at hockey, generally they must have had a great relationship with their parents. Part of their sweetness maybe comes from that.
Who had the better mustache on set: George or yourself?
LS: Well, 10 years ago I had the better mustache, but Parros has no grey in his so now his is better. Although I think mine looked funnier. Parros looks like he should have his mustache - I don't know how good he would look without that mustache actually! I genuinely look funny with a mustache, whereas to Parros looks good with one.
In the second installment of Goon, you help Seann William Scott's character - Doug "The Thug" Glatt - learn new fighting techniques. Would you compare your situation in that movie to Rocky III, when Apollo Creed went from Rocky's rival to his coach?
LS: Are you comparing me to Burgess Meredith? Because if you are, we're probably going to drop the gloves right now. (laughs) Actually, if you're comparing me to Burgess Meredith, that's high praise. He's one of my favorite actors and Rocky is one of my favorite movies so I'll take it. Carl Weathers, too - but our mustaches are a little bit of a different. Plus, he's shorter than me, I'm pretty tall.
The director of the movie, Jay Baruchel, is a die-hard Habs fan. We know you're a Rangers guys, but has he successfully converted you?
LS: One of the best things about working with Jay is that just by working with him, you know you'll be going to Habs games for free. He's like the mayor in that town. That was great. Over the course of the two movies, I think we went to four Habs games. Going to a Habs game with Jay is like going to a barbecue with Elvis. He's a rock star.
What's the best in-arena experience you've seen in person?
LS: Watching a game at the Bell Centre was incredible. It's unbelievable. I grew up in New York going to Rangers games and it's totally different. Habs fans are much more sophisticated - I hope nobody from New York sees this...
But it's a different kind of crowd. I remember going to some Rangers games and you wouldn't want to bring your kids. Habs games are good for families, people wear suits. It's really nice. Madison Square Garden was rough.
How much would you enjoy seeing a Montreal-New York playoff rematch?
LS: That would be amazing.
You narrated the HBO series 24/7, as well as numerous commercials for the NHL. How often do fans ask you to record their voicemail messages?
LS: People ask me to do their voicemail messages a lot. I think it's a great compliment. A couple of charity auctions have had that as a prize, actually. I'll see how this acting thing goes for a year or two longer and if that starts to crack up, I'll go into the voicemail business.