When Liev Schreiber pulls up to a clam bar near the beach town of Montauk, New York, a surfboard strapped to the top of his black hybrid SUV, he bears little resemblance to the slightly nebbishy veteran of independent film and theater that Manhattanites are used to seeing cruising around Astor Place on his bicycle or standing in line for lox at Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. Ambling up to one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables, a gold shark’s tooth pendant hanging from his neck, “the finest American theater actor of his generation” (as The New York Times has called him) is bronzed and brawny, like a man who spends more time in the gym than pacing the stage as Hamlet.
Pretty quickly, however, any fear that New York’s favorite neurotic screen idol after Woody Allen has turned into a mellow surfer dude dissipates. If he seems a little out of it, Schreiber explains, it’s because he and his companion of three years, Naomi Watts, were up all night with their one-year-old son, Sasha. “Oh, my God, he didn’t sleep at all,” he says. “He’s really sick—I think he has a cold.”
Indeed, the words seem to be coming to him rather s-l-o-w-l-y today. “I’ve never worried so much as I have since I had him,” he says of his son. “I was always kind of a worrier, but now I really worry a lot. Like, he’s been having trouble sleeping, and it turns out that he’s got that cold, you know? But I’m running in my head things like, He’s crying because he’s frustrated because I’m a bad father!” He pauses, a slightly zombielike expression on his face. “And then, I’m thinking, Oh, my God, he’s got all these deep issues already!”
Earlier this year, the family spent three and a half months in Australia, where Schreiber filmed the new X-Men movie with Hugh Jackman (scheduled for release next spring, it’s called X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and, in his free time, learned how to surf. Now, with Watts pregnant with their second child, the proud parents are enjoying a couple of months at their new beach house in the Hamptons. Although they’ve mostly been laying low, rarely even venturing out to restaurants (“It’s such a schlep with the baby, so we cook a lot at home”), Schreiber and Watts did host a “huge party” at the house recently for Sasha’s first birthday. “Well, Naomi threw it. She loves a big party,” he clarifies. “I’m terrible with big parties. It was like a land mine, I mean, a minefield, of children. There were little babies everywhere and adults—people I didn’t know. I was horrified. Terrified.” Although it seems at first that he might be joking, it soon becomes clear that he’s quite serious. “I get panic attacks in big crowds,” he explains.