Steven Bauer Interview On 'Ray Donovan,' 'Scarface,' Liev Schreiber
Steven Bauer stars alongside Liev Schreiber in the Showtime hit Ray Donovan. Bauer portrays Avi, the right-hand man to Ray, who's a fixer for Hollywood's most rich and powerful. Though originally born in Cuba, Bauer’s character on Ray Donovan is Israeli. “I hate to admit that it’s really easy, because I also have a Jewish grandmother, and I have spent a lot of time in Israel,” Bauer told Uinterview exclusively.
Bauer originally rose to fame as Manny Ribera in the mob film classic Scarface. Having lived in Miami, Bauer admits that life in the city was not far from the lawless jungle depicted in the film. “I was living in L.A. and I was afraid for my family that was left behind in Miami," Bauer told Uinterview. "You know we’re religious, humble working people in Miami and my dad, my mom, my brother, all these people were living in that chaos in that time of that crime wave, so I was able to bring some of that first-hand knowledge to my representation of those guys in Scarface."
Fortunately, I was somewhere on the radar of the creator of the show. Ann Biderman knew me from when she wrote the screenplay to Primal Fear back in ’95, so she bought me in for this and had an idea for something really different originally. I showed her my Israeli version of the character, and she loved it. I was fortunate enough that Liev came in that day to read with me to make sure that the chemistry was right, so he approved me, too.
I hate to admit that it’s really easy, because I also have a Jewish grandmother, and I have spent a lot of time in Israel. I’ve had a lot of contact with guys specifically like Avi, you know, ex-Mossad guys because I did a movie many years ago called Sword of Gideon, about the Mossad and the Munich Olympic Massacre. I played this kind of character in the movie. It’s really about those guys, guys like that in secret service.
Oh, yeah, I love it. I really do because obviously I’m not 25 anymore so to have that responsibility of that persona it’s really fun. I enjoy it. People who know me now are scared of me [laughs].
Yes, I did. I was fortunate enough to have stunt coordinators who know the Israeli [martial arts] Krav Maga technique, so I’ve been able to pick some stuff up, to have some real quick training in that, sort of physical stuff. It's been really great. I’ve been handed every opportunity to facilitate embodying this role physically and mentally.
Well, Liev is an interesting guy. He’s got a young family, and besides that he's shouldering the main responsibility of the show — where the character goes morally and intellectually. He’s consumed with what he’s working on at the moment. So if you don’t know him you could think he’s a loon, like he doesn’t notice you. I remember early on I thought, ‘Oh jeez, I think I’m in his way, I’m bugging him.’ But he’s really gentle. He’s a really generous actor. He works really well with other actors, so he and I really hit it off — once I got over my insecurities, you know.
Yeah, I’ll tell you what I’ve had a few glimpse of these guys. They are a necessity because when there’s so much money involved and status — people don’t like to gamble with that. They need to have an insurance policy. Really Ray Donovan is an insurance policy to make sure TMZ doesn’t blow you out of the water.
Well, not specifically, I mean — there are shades of characters that I’ve seen over the years, you know, just some serious guys that were just lurking in the shadows. I kind of knew the guy, who's a big head at the studio, who takes care of s---t for people who are a little careless. Ann Biderman is a really sharp lady, she’s seen everything in Hollywood. She went and dug deep and created this character who’s very, very real. There are just some dumb movie stars who constantly step into it — are shooting themselves in the foot — and need to be rescued.
That was going on! I’ll tell you what — I was born there and I was going to leave and just before that really started happening. I left in ’78 and every time I came home it got worse and worse. The crime rate was horrifying. It was really scary. In fact, I was living in L.A. and I was afraid for my family that was left behind in Miami. We’re religious, humble working people in Miami and my dad, my mom, my brother, all these people were living in that chaos in that time of that crime wave. So I was able to bring some of that first-hand knowledge to my representation of those guys in Scarface.
Well, Miami was in transition really because the Cubans of my generation, you know my mom, my dad, my grandfather all came from Cuba, and I was raised here. So growing up in Miami, I grew up in the suburbs, so you know I wasn’t really involved in anything. I was just an American suburban kid. But we went through a tremendous change when the second wave of Cubans in the 1980s from Mariel [boatlift] because they were people who were growing up as victims of the revolution. In the 1980's, they had the opportunity to get the hell out and they did. What Castro did was open the jails and said, ‘Take all our prisoners and our girls too!’ So those people flooded the streets of Miami, and it was really scary. A lot of the really hardworking Cubans of my generations were already moving into business and finance and suddenly here are all these new Cubans and they’re just intruding into another society. It was really scary.
Yeah, certainly it did. Years after Que Pasa, U.S.A? I actually got cast in an episode of One Day at a Time with Valerie Bertinelli, and I was just amazed that everything that happened on that show — the formula of the writing and the acting and the direction — had already been done in Que Pasa, U.S.A.? So, I had this tremendous sitcom training while I was in college, so that was really interesting to see how they just kept repeating the same formula for the 3-camera sitcom. How popular it was in the American market with American audiences once it had already been established on public television. I was very fortunate to have that start.
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