There has already been a lot written about the studio shift to blockbuster movies, which has made the playing field for smaller films — at least among the majors — a more rarified ground. And that of course has a direct affect on the kinds of films that audiences get to choose from, but it also means that as an actor, there are fewer parts with depth and complexity going around. And it’s a situation not going unnoticed, certainly not by Tobey Maguire, who chatted with Vulture at TIFF — where his chess drama “Pawn Sacrifice” (review here) premiered — about the prospects facing actors these days.
“Movies now have more to do with an aesthetic, than they do with a performance,” Maguire said. “Growing up, it was always my ambition to work with great actors and great directors, and it was Leo[nardo DiCaprio]‘s ambition, too, so that’s what we were focused on and aiming for. Parts like those start to shape you as an actor, and they shape people’s perception of you, too. Leo going into ‘This Boy’s Life‘ at 15 years old and working with Robert De Niro, that shapes the rest of his career — and the studios aren’t [making] many movies like that anymore.”
Ed Zwick, who directed “Pawn Sacrifice” and did the interview with Maguire, sees the rush of franchise projects as particularly damaging as well. “There’s a poaching of young people where they’re put into CW television shows, and they learn bad habits. They’re given too much responsibility too quickly, and without the opportunity to work with these great directors that Tobey and Leo had. Young actors used to be cast as the third lead opposite stars like Spencer Tracy or Henry Fonda, and they had apprenticeships of a kind, learning their craft. That doesn’t happen now.”
The filmmaker adds: “I also think that mainstream American movies have shifted so much that the focus is on the superhero, rather than on the actor. I mean, Chris Evans is playing Captain America, but I don’t think there are a lot of dramatic opportunities intrinsic to that part…”
And so, what are you to do if you’re a young actor? Maguire thinks things are bleak right now if you want a career of quality rather than that of participating in something with brand recognition. “You don’t have the opportunity these days to develop good habits, or maybe even the desire to,” he says. “If Leo and I were young now, I’d still aspire to work with great people, but those jobs don’t exist anymore. I would feel like my only opportunities were in YA franchises and superhero movies. You can hold out for something better only for so long until you’re like, Okay, I need a job!”
Still, not all is lost. Maguire says he likes what he saw of Jack O’Connell in “Starred Up” and clearly, the actor has managed — post “Spider-Man” — to take on challenging parts and work with a variety of directors (“Brothers, “The Great Gatsby,” “Pawn Sacrifice”), but he also has the luxury to be choosy if we wants.
So, do you think Maguire has a point? Are interesting roles for young actors becoming scarcer or is it time for rising thespians to perhaps not head straight to Hollywood and carve a different path to success?