Schreiber’s take on the 5th estate


By Pam Grady

When he hasn’t been busy playing fixer Ray Donovan on the eponymous Showtime series, Liev Schreiber has made a cottage industry lately of playing real people: President Lyndon Johnson in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” Soviet chess champion Boris Spassky in “Pawn Sacrifice,” and now “Boston Globe” editor Marty Baron in one of the most highly anticipated dramas of the fall season, Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight.”

“I hate playing people who actually lived,” Schreiber, 48, says. “It’s too much responsibility, but what I learned playing Hamlet is that if you pick smart roles, people will think you’re smart.”

Early award winner

Modesty aside, the actor was sharp enough to spot a winner when he accepted the role of Baron. One of the few films to live up to the hype when it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, “Spotlight” is also an early award winner, picking up two prizes at the Venice Film Festival, where it made its world premiere; a screenwriting award at the Hollywood Film Festival; and most recently, the Audience Favorite Gold Award, US Cinema, at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

“Spotlight” is the story of how a group of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe in 2002 broke open wide the story of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the church’s longtime practice of covering up the crimes. The Globe’s Spotlight team focused on their local parishes, but the story reverberated worldwide. Baron was the outsider, an editor brought in by the paper’s new parent, the New York Times, and the man who recognized the importance of the story and urged his reporters to pursue it.

“Baron’s very different from everyone else,” says McCarthy. “And day one, at that first 10:30 meeting, he sort of picks up on a piece of reporting that came from within the Globe, which I think is important to remember. It was a column by Eileen McNamara. He just sort of asked some simple questions and it unlocked what became this massive investigation. That, to me, was just so compelling.”

“I think Marty is a true American hero, and I think Marty did a remarkable job shepherding that team of journalists,” adds Schreiber. “And he’s always been very good at it, he’s asking the right questions and finding the right story and not being afraid to challenge powerful institutions and organizations.”

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