TNT Roughcut Interview Copyright
October 19, 1998
At 23, Tobey Maguire's a young Hollywood turk getting close to his
moment. Up until now, he's probably best known as Leo's best friend --
the guy who ends up in all of Leo's photo ops, but that may be
changing. With Pleasantville, he literally and figuratively becomes a TV
teen heartthrob whose clean-cut, black and white image may
challenge his friend's domination of teenybopper wall space. We think
Leo will appreciate the break.
Roughcut's Andy Jones: Your character's a couch potato in this film. What did you watch when you came
home from school?
Tobey Maguire: It varied through my ages, but I liked "Three's Company" and shows like "Charles in
Charge." I used to flip around a lot. I'm not a big, like, one show kind of guy.
How did you prepare for life in a '50s sitcom?
It's just a fantasy world. And you just read the script and use your imagination and you just go there and it's
pretty strange. You go there, and you're like transported because they built a 21 building town and
everybody's in costume. As a matter of fact, I saw a couple of, like, the townspeople, out of their, you know,
costume and hair and stuff, a couple of girls, and I didn't even recognize them. And they were like, "Oh hey
Tobey, how you doing?" And I'm like, "Hey...Who are you?" And they were like, "Remember? I was just
working with you in the soda shop?" "No way! You were that girl?" So you're just transported as soon as
you step onto the set.
Were you working on a full color set or were the sets painted in black and white tones?
We were seeing color and I think they shot it all in color as well, and then...
Drained the color out...
Right, saturated it and then added it back with some other process I don't know about.
You've played two period teens now. The Ice Storm in the '70s and now the '50s. Considering neither one
was really your experience which was more difficult to pull off?
Right. I guess Pleasantville was a little more difficult. I mean, he wasn't really a period teen. You know, he's a
modern-day teen actually and he just went into this world. And maybe his clothes and his hair were of that
period in that show, but he was very much an outsider. I think it was actually harder to play the modern-day
guy than the guy in the '70s, you know?
Did you do much research on the '50s era?
You know, I didn't do much of that. You know, I was definitely asked if I wanted to see TV shows. But I
chose not to go into that stuff very much because there's such a particular fantasy world. I've seen a couple
of TV shos and, you know, talked to a couple of people about the time, but I thought that it's not really a
reality. It's what a script is. And not what anything really is, although maybe there's an exaggeration of some
things. I just decided that I was just going to talk with Gary [Ross, the director] and look over the script.
Speaking of old TV shows, you got to work with Don Knotts...
I really like Don. He's so funny. And of course, everybody was thrilled that I was working with Don Knotts.
And, so was I. But for me, I was working with Mr. Furley from "Three's Company," you know? You know,
you tell people abou the film and I'm working with so and so, Bill Macy, Reese, and Joan and Don
Knotts...And everybody goes, "DON KNOTTS?! No way! Can I come down to the set when he's working?"
It was fun. I mean, he was just hilarious. I remember when Gary cast him, I was like, "Wow, that's an
interesting idea." And then, like, the first day, I couldn't even do my scenes very well, because I was rolling;
just laughing so hard.
Can you tell us a little bit about Ride With the Devil?
Yes. It's a Civil War movie, and it's kind of like guerilla warfare. Jewel's in it. Skeet Ulrich. Jeffrey Wright.
Do you play a soldier?
There's the Kansas Jayhawkers, and then the Missouri Bushwackers. And it's guerilla warfare. And
basically, people come and kill your family and burn your house to the ground and you have nowhere else
to go. So, you just kind of ride along and you want vengeance. And it's actually really sad...how far some of
these people go. I mean, the film is about a lot of things and there's battles and love stories and friendships
and emancipation in many different forms.
You're sort of on the verge of some real stardom here. Have you prepared yourself for it?
Yeah. I've thought about it and I don't know. I mean, I'm just going to do the best I can with that. It's just
really interesting, to me, the whole idea of fame and I think it can be a real test of somebody, of who they are.
You know, 'cause some strange things happen. I've seen peculiar things as far as a person just living their
life, and these things get thrown into it. I think some of it's strange. Some of it looks very appealing and I'm
just going to go and do the best I can.
Does it give you pause? Especially after watching your friend Leo's experience. You could easily make a
movie like Titanic where the wave just comes.
Yeah, but how could you anticipate?
I don't know. Yeah, I think about it. I don't know. Each decision is an individual decision. And I'll see when
that comes. And, yeah, I'm a little, you know, wary of it, but I think it's manageable and you can keep
yourself intact. But sometimes I think that people, you know, get inappropriate. People, photographers,
people in the press can sometimes be inappropriate.
This was your second time out working with Joan Allen as your mom. Is she a better mom this time?
Well, I guess as far as the story goes, but she was great, great for Tobey both times. She's...I don't know.
She's just so phenomenal. She's such a great actress. No ego. She just shows up to work. She's a worker
among workers as far as her ethic goes, and of course, her talent just rises, you know?
Have you learned stuff from working with her?
Yeah. I mean, she's just so professional and so focused and doesn't get caught up in a lot of like...anything.
She's just so focused. She keeps in her work all day long. And sometimes you need to do that. You know?
Sometimes I can go around and goof off and have conversations and stuff, but sometimes when the day's a
tough day, you need to just keep to yourself. And just keep stuff going in your head -- which is difficult for
me. And I'm the sort that doesn't want to let go of being a kid, you know. And there's a certain responsibility
to work. And I think her work ethic is amazing. And...she has such freedom at the same time, it's great to see
Your character, like a good middle child, tries to make peace with everyone. Do you relate to him?
I can relate to him. I just think of the movie as a whole and then try and go play a scene and try and have as
much fun as I can. You know, stuff was hard for me because I'm so aware of what I'm doing when I go in
there and trying to control these situations and trying to, like, stifle things. It's really say, the scene with
Joan and I, you know, when I try to return her to the way she was and when I'm trying to contain Reese's
character. Some of that stuff was actually hard for me to play because I'm so aware of what I'm doing going
into it. And it was interesting to me because in life when I'm doing things like that, I'm not as aware of it. But
going in to play the scenes, I know exactly what I'm going to do. So, it was fairly uncomfortable.
Why do you think he wanted to go back?
That's a good question. I mean, that's where he belongs. And I think, in a way, he was done with that place
and he knows that not his home. It's pretty insane how he got into that whole world, but, you know, I think
he wanted to go home and he felt like he really got what he got. He got like really brilliant gifts and he gave
of himself, you know, a really unique experience. But that wasn't his home. He had to go home. I always
want to go home, you know? I'll go do films for three or four months and then I can't wait to go home to L.A.
And I complain about L.A. left and right, but then I always end up wanting to go home, you know?
Considering that there are more special effect shots in this movie than in any previous movie and that's a
lot of allegories going on, were you ever worried about being upstaged, either by the special effects or by
the symbols and metaphors?
No. I don't really care about that. You know, the film is the star. You know what I mean? I knew that going
into it. It's an ensemble movie and the concept of the film itself is more the star of the film than any actors
are, I think. Although, I think there were some really solid performances. I was never really concerned. The
technical stuff excited me. I thought that while I was playing the scenes, my greatest hopes was when they
tweaked this stuff later on, it's just going to add to the experience somebody's going to get while watching
it. You know, that was my hope anyway.
What did you think when you saw it?
I'm a really bad person to ask about that. When I saw it for the last time, I got to go on the ride a little more,
you know, and it was kind of nice some of it. But I'm so critical of my work that it's difficult for me to
disassociate myself and watch it as an audience.
Do you hate watching yourself on screen?
I appreciate the experience because I learn a lot by watching myself, but it's tough for me. You know? And
it's only after seeing it for a few times with a big audience that can shake me a little bit out of myself, you
know? And I did enjoy the film. I laughed a little bit and I actually cried. Joan Allen and Bill Macy made me
cry. I've cried so many times at Bill Macy now. It's like on the set I was crying; watching the dailies I was
What's the message of this film?
There's many things I get out of this film, but one of the things that's most important to me is just learning
how to let go of control and letting go of stagnant behavior that's actually keeping myself down. And
self-sabotage and not trying to control. I mean, it's so funny because I come up with this stuff all the time.
You simply cannot control other people's thoughts or actions and you can't even necessairly control your
own thoughts and feelings, you know? All you can do is make choices of what you do with your life and
what your actions are and sometimes when you do let things go and you're more passive or more active.
And, you know, it's just interesting and it's important to keep on top of myself and be super honest with
Do you think teens are going to respond to this movie?
Yeah. I think so. I think teens will definitely respond to it. I mean, I think the character development is so
strong with Bill Macy and Joan Allen and Jeff Daniels and me and Reese and they're all very different
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