Most Known For: “Spider-Man” Trilogy, “The Great Gatsby,” “Seabiscuit”
Snubbed For: “Brothers”
Like the subject he is portraying in Edward Zwick’s upcoming ‘Pawn Sacrifice,’ Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire has gone through a period where he was ‘missing’ from the Hollywood mainstream. But also like his subject, he was at one point on top of that very same world. The lead of one of the original superhero franchises and roles in some of the most acclaimed films of the 90s made Maguire almost a sure bet to land an Oscar nomination some day. As of yet, though, his mantle sits empty.
Maguire built himself quite the impressive resume for a young actor, working with great directors like Ang Lee in ‘The Ice Storm’ and again in ‘Ride With the Devil,’ Woody Allen in ‘Deconstructing Harry,’ Terry Gilliam – albeit briefly – in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’ and Gary Ross in ‘Pleasantville.’ His last film of the 90s was the Best Picture nominee ‘The Cider House Roles’ with Lasse Hallstrom and co-starring Charlize Theron and Michael Caine, who won for his supporting performance. Still, can’t really say that Maguire was snubbed for any of these performances, but things were building, and he would land his first critics nomination for 2000’s ‘The Wonder Boys.’
Then Maguire’s star would take off as he landed the role of Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man.’ Helping to legitimize a spandex wearing superhero, Maguire was consistently reliable in these films – save for the third – and headlined what was then one of the biggest box-office franchises of all-time.
He even managed to squeeze in perhaps his best performance up to that point in a reunion with Gary Ross for ‘Seabiscuit.’ As jockey Red Pollard, Maguire was part of a fantastic ensemble that included Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Banks. The ensemble would manage a SAG nomination, but no one would be able to separate themselves from the pack.
For all that ‘Spider-Man’ did for him, it may actually have kept him from being able to continue the success he had built in the 90s as Maguire only managed to star in ‘Seabiscuit’ and Steve Soderbergh’s little seen ‘The Good German’ in between the blockbuster sequels. After the abomination that was ‘Spider-Man 3’ he was freed from the superhero franchise, though Maguire has yet to become as frequent of a performer as he once was.
Since 2007, Maguire has only been credited in five films, including ‘Pawn Sacrifice.’ However, one of those films was ‘Brothers’ and was likely his best chance at an Oscar nomination thus far in his career. As a soldier thought to be dead by his family who comes home to discover his wife and brother in a relationship Maguire was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a drama. Lead probably wasn’t the way to go for the Oscars however, especially considering that outside of Christoph Waltz’s performance in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and Woody Harrelson’s performance in ‘The Messenger,’ a lineup of Matt Damon (‘Invictus’), Christopher Plummer (‘The Last Station’) and Stanley Tucci (‘The Lovely Bones’) doesn’t hold up all that well. ‘Brothers’ never truly caught on in the season though outside of Maguire’s performance, so it still was going to be a tough sell either way.
Maguire has gotten strong reviews for playing the eccentric chess prodigy Fischer in ‘Pawn Sacrifice.’ It’s possible that he could be championed by critics groups and get the wheels rolling on another campaign, but it seems like an uphill battle this year.
What Maguire needs to really make a run at an Oscar nomination is the same kind of frequency he was working with back in the late 90s. He’s clearly got the talent as great directors keep working with him, but he just needs to get back into the everyday minds of people to have the best possible shot.
‘Pawn Sacrifice’ opens in theaters on Wednesday, Sept. 16.