Are you familiar, Liev Schreiber, with the original ''Manchurian Candidate'' -- the beautifully bizarro 1962 satire starring Laurence Harvey as a Korean War hero and Frank Sinatra as a soldier who suspects the hero is a political pawn? ''Yeah,'' he says. ''And I'm the only actor [in this film] who's willing to talk about that.'' Though Streep, for instance, says she didn't even see the classic until after shooting wrapped, Schreiber's willing to say that it wasn't too intimidating to assume Harvey's updated role -- a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War -- opposite Washington, who takes on Sinatra's part: ''I've been through that before with playing Orson Welles [in HBO's ''RKO 281''], so a remake of 'The Manchurian Candidate' didn't strike me as that outrageous.''
Meryl Streep portrays Schreiber's scheming mother, the role played by Angela Lansbury in the '62 version. ''The scenery gets chewed,'' she says. ''Very tasty language.'' To prepare, she adopted a steady media diet of political talk shows: ''Anything with Peggy Noonan, Karen Hughes.... It's hard to get more hyperbolic than that, but there are lots of little subtleties in how people spin and push their point of view. The jewelry is very important as well.''
For his part, Schreiber watched a lot of footage of Robert F. Kennedy (''I felt Bobby had the great mixture of dark and light. Also, I think he was a great speaker at times and an incredibly awkward person at other times, and I like those kinds of contradictions'') and channel surfed, too. ''The ideal thing is we're in the midst of all of this,'' he says. ''Every time I turned on the TV there was another campaign speech.''
THE GOOD NEWS If you count this movie's climactic scene, there'll be three political conventions this summer. A summer blockbuster never sounded so relevant.
THE BAD NEWS Director Jonathan Demme's last stab at a remake, the ''Charade''-inspired ''Truth About Charlie,'' was a disaster.