There are many reasons to celebrate that Den of Thieves is finally in theaters. The movie is definitely already in the running for best action movie of 2018, it gives Gerard Butler his best role since he became a movie star in 300 and it proves that O'Shea Jackson Jr's charisma on the big screen was not a fluke. But even with all of that, the movie still belongs to Pablo Schreiber. As Merrimen, a retired soldier who is driven to rob banks in order to survive in a society that has no use for him after his service, Schreiber gives a performance that evokes those defining moments in the seventies that showcased Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as the male performers to watch.
To that praise, Schreiber is the first to say that "he is perfectly happy being a working actor," but his performance in this film makes the grievance that there are no upcoming male stars in the industry sound ridiculous. The 39 year old actor has had some success with roles in The Wire, Orange is the New Black, American Gods and a featured role in the intense Michael Bay real life drama 13 Hours, but Den of Thieves definitely feels like the moment where his career goes to the next level.
During a brief but pleasant chat with Entertainment Affair, Pablo Schreiber gave us all the details about a role that drove him straight to surgery and why success as an actor requires measured expectations and a lot of patience.
One of the most unexpected surprises of Den of Thieves is that it's a character driven film, not just another genre exercise. Was that always present when you were offered the script or did that become apparent when you started shooting the film?
Pablo Schreiber: No That was always there, it was one of the main things that drew me to the project. But at the same time (as an actor) you never know if that is going to be something that is successful in execution. I think that one of the obvious things when I read it is that the project was going for a gritty level of realism and authenticity and if we pulled that off that would be the strong point of the movie. I'm very happy with the results and to see that quality was something that stayed all the way through. The movie feels very real and that is what sets it apart. It also plays with genre convention of what is a good guy or a bad guy in this type of movie.
Your character in this is so intense and laser focused, how was being in that space day in and day out for the duration of the shoot?
PS: Psychologically and emotionally I don't have a hard time letting go of the characters I play. But this role was very physically taxing. He is laser focused, very intense. So I was living that reality for 14 hour days of shooting, but in order to stay in the shape that I was in at that point, I was getting up two hours before we started filming to do cardio and then lifting weights after we were done. So 14 hours of shooting with 4 more hours of exercise on either side of filming each day. By the time we were finished with the movie, my body was done. I had two knee surgeries immediately after we stopped shooting the movie. It was nuts. It definitely took a toll on me physically.
The performance you give in this movie feels like the moment where your career goes into high gear. Have you thought about that? Do you have a strategy as an actor or do you choose your projects on instincts?
PS: I've been lucky in my career to have been continuously working for the last 17 years and that is something I feel incredibly fortunate about. But I try not to look too far ahead because I've had a bunch of moments where you expect things to happen and then they don't happen as fast as you want. I think those have been wonderful lessons in patience and in being present for what is actually showing up in your life right now. Early in my career I did The Wire and I thought that was going to be the thing to set me off for the rest of my career. After that it was being nominated for a Tony Award on Broadway. I thought I was set after that. Then Orange Is the New Black came around and that was a big success. Had a similar experience with American Gods last year. That show is another nice feather in the cap. So I would be very happy and pleasantly surprised if this movie provides me with a (career) bump. But all I want is to keep working with the best people and keep telling stories.
Den of Thieves is now playing in theaters.