Liev Schreiber dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Monday to discuss his upcoming film, “Chuck,” which tells the story of former heavyweight contender Chuck Wepner, as well as his propensity to take on boxing-centric roles. Boxing is palpable in Schreiber’s Showtime series, “Ray Donovan.”
“I’ve always been a big fan of boxing,” Schreiber said on Reiter Than You. “I don’t know if there’s been any conscious connection on my part between boxing roles and my career. I really think they’re just a coincidence, but I think it’s safe to say that in a prize fight, there’s a pretty good metaphor for life for a lot of people overcoming the adversity and taking punishment. I also think that we all tend to identify with the underdog. I know I’m certainly a sucker for it.”
Schreiber assumes the underdog role in “Chuck,” which recounts Wepner’s epic 15-round fight with Muhammad Ali. Wepner scored a knockdown against Ali during that 1975 battle at Richfield Coliseum, but Ali recorded a TKO with just seconds remaining in the 15th round.
“Initially as a boxing fan, I was drawn to the incredible story that I didn’t know,” Schreiber said. “I had very little idea who Chuck Wepner was, and then to hear that he was actually the inspiration for ‘Rocky’ and all of the little coincidences that come from that (was incredible). Over time, when I became increasingly interested in was this kind of cautionary tale about fame and celebrity. That’s what really pulled me in, especially after having a couple of kids and a television show for four or five years.
“But it wasn’t really the boxing to me, to be honest,” Schreiber continued. “For me, it was what is it about this guy that I’m just compelled to follow him? I find him so likable even through all of this horrible stuff that happens in his life with his family and drugs and alcohol and the kind of trip down the narcissistic rabbit hole of fame. Why are we still compelled to like him? That was one of those things that really took meeting Chuck for me to understand.”
Schreiber met Wepner and his wife, Linda, before filming began. They went to a boxing match and dinner.
“I think the thing that I took away most for meeting Chuck and Linda was this big, powerful guy – whose hands literally fit the size of my head – his eyes kept darting toward his wife to make sure she was okay,” Schreiber said. “In many ways, for me, that become the ideogram of who Chuck is. I think it’s that same hyper-awareness of her well-being that also caused him to deal (with) other people’s judgements of him that maybe when he was younger made him quick to fight or quick to seek that fame or appreciation. But now it has been refocused and targeted on his wife. It was really something quite admirable.”