In “Pawn Sacrifice,” actor Tobey Maguire turns in a nuanced performance in the role of real-life chess player Bobby Fischer.
Getting underneath the mythology that follows such an iconic figure, Maguire is captivating as he plays a psychologically damaged man, who’s choked by paranoia and the weight of becoming the champion of the world.
Set after the Vietnam War, the film drops Maguire’s intense portrayal in the middle of a politically convoluted climate. In order to end the Soviet Union’s reign in chess, the conspiracy obsessed Fischer, who is slowly crippled by his paranoia, takes up the task in defeating master chess player Boris Spassky in a historic 21-game competition.
amNewYork spoke to Tobey Maguire about taking on the complex role.
Were you hesitant to take on Bobby Fischer?
I did research and was a little hesitant once I discovered some of the things that Bobby Fischer would say publicly that I found to be pretty awful, but as I investigated more about him and his story, I found him fascinating, and that there was a way to tell this story in a way where I thought it would be interesting and fair.
He was largely in the public’s lens for a long time because he was this amazing chess player.
I think that that was an added difficulty, just that people were paying so much attention to him. But in practical terms, that’s largely about people asking things from you or taking pictures, or looking at pointing. So, I would think that maybe in some ways Bobby appreciated it, but in some ways that would be a distraction to him.
It’s an interesting parallel to how we put Hollywood figures on a pedestal to always feel “on.” Do you ever feel that pressure?
Yeah. You lack anonymity. So there’s a certain aspect to that that changes one’s life. I don’t see it as much as a responsibility to be “on.” I see it as a factor that one has to accept, but in accepting it you do make adjustments depending on how you’re feeling. If you’re anonymous and you want to go to the coffee shop, you don’t really have that same sort of freedom. You have to accept the fact that people are going to look or stare, or get on the phone with someone they know. Your life’s not your own in that way.