Pawn Sacrifice, the latest release from indie film distributor Bleecker Street, offered a special preview screening to a packed theater of cinephiles and avid chess players on Tuesday evening at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Members from the LA Chess Club and Metro Chess LA were in attendance and even managed to play a few flash matches with guests prior to the screening. But even non-chess enthusiasts couldn't help but be captivated by the riveting biographical thiriller and the brilliant performances by stars Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard and Liev Schreiber. Keep reading below to learn more about the film from an engaging Q&A that followed the screening with actor producer Tobey Maguire and film critic Pete Hammond.
Hammond and Maguire talked about an array of topics including the music used in the film, Bobby Fischer's family, the film's script (written by the incredible Steven Knight), Tobey's chess playing skills, the film's shooting schedule (only nine weeks), and the Cold War era in which the historic chess tournament between Fischer and reigning Russian world chess champion Boris Spassky took place (1972), which the film is focused on.
To help prepare for the role of Bobby Fischer, Maguire focused on reading and watching interviews with Fischer as well as speaking with people who knew the chess phenom. During scenes where Fischer is interviewed by the media, they used green screen technology, and Maguire was able to improvise some of his lines based on the archival footage he had watched. Maguire also learned chess positions and playing styles prior to filming but said it would have taken years of game-play and practice to become a competition level player. An interesting piece of trivia divulged by Maguire during the discussion was that the actors used the original chess table when shooting the historic chess match scenes that the competitors had played on in 1972.
KCET Cinema Series host Pete Hammond noted that Pawn Sacrifice is not the typical biopic in that it focuses on a specific period of Fischer's life rather than his entire life. Fischer was a fan of the culture and popular music of the era, according to Maguire, and it was important to show that in the film by focusing on the specific time period (1950s-1970s) and delivering a great character study. Most will be familiar with the film's music which includes the iconic hits "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane, "Listen To The Music" by The Doobie Brothers, and "Travelin' Band" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The film is visually and stylistically reminiscent of the time period as well.
Pawn Sacrifice also includes noteworthy performances from Lily Rabe ("American Horror Story," All Good Things) as Fischer's sister Joan, Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry, Blue Jasmine), who plays Father Bill Lombardy, and Liev Schreiber, who portrays Boris Spassky. Schreiber learned Russian for his role, which Maguire said was phenomenal to watch.
Pawn Sacrifice when it is released in theaters on September 16, 2015.