Steven Knight on Tobey Maguire, Bobby Fischer and ‘Pawn Sacrifice’

WRITER’S NOTE: This interview took place back in 2014.

Pawn Sacrifice,” the movie about Bobby Fischer’s quest to beat the Russians in the game of chess, proves to be another cinematic triumph for both Edward Zwick and Tobey Maguire. Another person who deserves credit for this movie’s critical success is Steven Knight who wrote the screenplay. Knight’s previous writing credits include David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises,” Stephen Frears’ “Dirty Pretty Things” and John Crowley’s “Closed Circuit,” and he wrote and directed “Hummingbird” which starred Jason Statham. He also wrote and directed “Locke” which featured Tom Hardy in what proved to be one of the most underrated movies of 2014.

I got to sit in on an interview with Knight while he was in Los Angeles, California at the Four Seasons Hotel to promote “Pawn Sacrifice,” and it was really nice to talk with him again after having interviewed him about “Locke” for the website We Got This Covered. His screenplay showed how well researched he was in Bobby Fischer and the world championship games he ended up playing against the Soviet chess grandmaster Boris Spassky.

Ben Kenber: I read that when you found out Tobey Maguire was going to be playing Bobby Fischer in this movie that it made it easier for you to write the script.

Steven Knight: Yeah, well it was Tobey who came to me with the idea, so from the outset it was always going to be Tobey playing Bobby. That really helped because this is about a battle being fought with the face if you like. It’s the intensity of the movement, and Tobey has got that intensity so much.

BK: Boris Spassky (played by Liev Schreiber) is an interesting character as presented in this movie. This could have easily become a good guy/bad guy story, but the movie avoids that thank goodness.

SK: Yeah because that wasn’t the case. If anything, Bobby was the bad guy. He was the one with the unreasonable demands. He was the one everyone chased around for reasons that we know. But Boris was a decent person, and when he applauds at the end of game six you realize that this is a man who knows how to lose and have the dignity. If there’s any message about this Cold War, it’s that when two human beings can overcome that conflict.

BK: It’s almost scary to think about how Bobby would’ve handled fame if he were to become famous in this day and age because there would have been nowhere for him to hide.

SK: No, definitely not. If he came along today, he would get the best agent and he would get the best lawyers. They would come to him. He wouldn’t choose. They would get him than make a fortune.

BK: The last image of the movie, when Bobby Fischer wins and gets what he wants, has haunted me ever since because it’s all downhill for him from there. It’s sad to see that he’s not able to enjoy the success he earned.

SK: Yeah, and the image that’s always in my mind was he’s been running away and he’s hit a brick wall, and now they are gonna get him.

BK: It’s interesting that the movie ends there instead of following Bobby and observing what happened to him afterwards. It could almost make for a good sequel.

SK: It would make for an odd sequel (laughs).

Thanks to Steven Knight for taking the time to talk about what went into his screenplay for “Pawn Sacrifice,” and I look forward to what he has in store for us next. The movie is now available to own and rent on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW I DID WITH STEVEN KNIGHT ABOUT HIS FILM LOCKE.\

Exclusive Video Interview: Tanya Saracho Talks About ‘Vida’

Vida cast photo

She has served as a writer on “How to Get Away with Murder” and on the HBO TV series “Girls” and “Looking.” And now, playwright Tanya Saracho presents us with her very own television series, “Vida.” Set in East Los Angeles, it follows a pair of estranged sisters who reunite for their mother’s funeral. Their hometown is a vibrant area and features a strong Latinx community with residents who find an empowerment in this place they cannot easily find anywhere else. As “Vida” goes on, we discover just how much history this part of Los Angeles contains and of the changes others threaten to make which can erase a past which needs to be preserved.

In addition to her work on television, Saracho has had her plays produced at New York City’s Primary Stages and 2nd Stage, Steppenwolf Theater, The Denver Theatre Center, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She was named one of nine national Latino Luminarios by Café Magazine and was given the first Revolucionario Award in Theater by the National Museum of Mexican Art. In addition, she is the founder of the Alliance of Latino Theatre Artists (ALTA).

I got to speak with Saracho while she was in Los Angeles to promote “Vida.” She talked of how she went about creating such complex characters, how she likes to give her cast only so much information before they receive the next episode’s script, and of how excited she is about filming the show in East Los Angeles. I often say there is always something new to discover about Los Angeles no matter how long you have lived there, and Saracho agreed as she is still learning of how far back the history of this particular community extends.

Please check out the interview below and be sure to watch “Vida” when it premieres on Starz May 6th.