He's best known for his role as murder-suspect-turned-victim Cotton Weary in the Scream trilogy, but Liev Schreiber seems happy to put horror flicks behind him. "I don't like being covered in blood," he says. "You sit for hours in red-dyed corn syrup. It's no fun."
His idea of fun? Acting in anything by one William Shakespeare. Currently playing Laertes in a new modern-day film version of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke, Schreiber, 32, credits the Bard with giving him direction. His first stage role was in a student production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Manhattan's Friends Seminary high school. "I'd been kind of an introverted, antisocial person," he says, adding that he found himself in "heaven" onstage. He went on to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Yale School of Drama, and played Hamlet Off-Broadway last year.
An only child raised by a single cabdriver mom in Manhattan, he says he dreamed of being "very, very rich. I always had that in my head." These days, the single actor, who costarred in last year's A Walk on the Moon and played Orson Welles in the HBO movie RKO 281, has a steady film career. "Everybody always wants Ed Norton," he notes. "I get the jobs he turns down." He still calls New York City home, mostly for one reason: "There's a lot more work for me in Shakespeare." To thine own self, it seems, he is true.