Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

PG | 110 mins | Drama, Biography | 11 August 1993

Director:

Steven Zaillian

Writer:

Steven Zaillian

Cinematographer:

Conrad L. Hall

Editor:

Wayne Wahrman

Production Designer:

David Gropman

Production Company:

Mirage Enterprises
Full page view
HISTORY

The opening title card is preceded by black and white archival footage of legendary chess player Bobby Fischer competing in the 1972 World Championship against Russian titleholder Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland. Images and video are accompanied by voice-over narration of Max Pomeranc as “Josh Waitzkin.” Additional scenes and voice-over throughout the film explain Fischer’s early life, career, and mysterious disappearance from the public eye.
       The film ends with the following written epilogue: “Joshua Waitzkin still plays chess. He is currently the highest-ranked player in the United States under 18. He also plays baseball, basketball, football and soccer, and in the summer, goes fishing. In September, 1992, Bobby Fischer emerged from seclusion to challenge his old rival, Boris Spassky…After winning, he promptly disappeared again.”
       Searching for Bobby Fischer marked the directorial debut of screenwriter Steven Zaillian. Although unfamiliar with the game of chess, Zaillian was intrigued by Fred Waitzkin’s 1988 book of the same name, which chronicled his relationship with his son, Josh, who became a renowned chess prodigy at just seven years old. According to a 9 Aug 1993 NYT article and 24 Feb 1992 New York brief, producer Scott Rudin scouted chess tournaments at various New York City elementary schools until he discovered Max Pomeranc, an eight-year-old with no acting experience, but enough “composure and confidence” to assure them he was suitable for the role.
       According to the 14 Jul 1992 HR, principal photography began 30 Jun 1992 in Toronto, Canada. Items in AMPAS library files indicate that the production later relocated to New York City to shoot exteriors of the “Waitzkins’” Greenwich Village neighborhood and spent two ... More Less

The opening title card is preceded by black and white archival footage of legendary chess player Bobby Fischer competing in the 1972 World Championship against Russian titleholder Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland. Images and video are accompanied by voice-over narration of Max Pomeranc as “Josh Waitzkin.” Additional scenes and voice-over throughout the film explain Fischer’s early life, career, and mysterious disappearance from the public eye.
       The film ends with the following written epilogue: “Joshua Waitzkin still plays chess. He is currently the highest-ranked player in the United States under 18. He also plays baseball, basketball, football and soccer, and in the summer, goes fishing. In September, 1992, Bobby Fischer emerged from seclusion to challenge his old rival, Boris Spassky…After winning, he promptly disappeared again.”
       Searching for Bobby Fischer marked the directorial debut of screenwriter Steven Zaillian. Although unfamiliar with the game of chess, Zaillian was intrigued by Fred Waitzkin’s 1988 book of the same name, which chronicled his relationship with his son, Josh, who became a renowned chess prodigy at just seven years old. According to a 9 Aug 1993 NYT article and 24 Feb 1992 New York brief, producer Scott Rudin scouted chess tournaments at various New York City elementary schools until he discovered Max Pomeranc, an eight-year-old with no acting experience, but enough “composure and confidence” to assure them he was suitable for the role.
       According to the 14 Jul 1992 HR, principal photography began 30 Jun 1992 in Toronto, Canada. Items in AMPAS library files indicate that the production later relocated to New York City to shoot exteriors of the “Waitzkins’” Greenwich Village neighborhood and spent two weeks filming in the “speed-chess corner” of Washington Square Park, where the real Josh Waitzkin was discovered in 1983. Several of the park’s regular chess players appeared as background actors in the film. In a 30 Aug 1993 People magazine news item, actor Ben Kingsley stated that although he was portraying a real person, Zaillian’s scripted depiction of “Bruce Pandolfini” reminded him of a character in a Samuel Beckett play. As a result, Kingsley chose to model “Pandolfini’s” hairstyle, wardrobe, and Irish accent on Beckett himself. The actual Pandolfini served as a technical advisor, helping to work out the specific moves and strategies for each chess game and coach the actors on their individual techniques. Along with Josh Waitzkin, then fifteen years old, Pandolfini accessed a German database containing 400,000 chess positions to orchestrate the climactic match against “Jonathan Poe.” The entire Waitzkin family visited the Toronto set in Jun 1993, and Josh claimed that although some of the plot had been fictionalized, “the emotions [were] true” to his experience.
       Despite the 1 Jul 1992 HR report of a $12 million budget, the 9 Aug 1993 NYT estimated a final production cost of $17 million, which was still considered “relatively low” at the time.
       In Aug 1992, Bobby Fischer emerged from twenty years of isolation to challenge Boris Spassky in a rematch of the 1972 World Championship, which took place in Yugoslavia. Producer Scott Rudin told the 18 Aug 1992 DV that he hoped the match would increase publicity for the film, and the onscreen epilogue was written to reflect the incident. Shelley Winters was reported as playing an unnamed figure from Bobby Fischer’s story, but she does not appear in the final film.
       Searching for Bobby Fischer opened a year later, on 11 Aug 1993. A HR article published that day indicated that the Wednesday release in 211 theaters suggested Paramount Pictures’ confidence in the film’s box-office performance, following two successful “sneak preview” screenings on 1 and 8 Aug 1993.
       The picture received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography, and ranks #96 on AFI’s list of the 100 Most Inspiring Films of All Time.
       Onscreen acknowledgments state: “The producers wish to thank: Albert Maysles, Maysles Films, Inc.; Toronto Film Office; Ontario Film Development Corporation and Sandra Johnson; All the kind people of Toronto, Ontario and New York City, New York; United States Chess Federation; Svetozar D. Jovanović, Pal Benko, Patrick Lewis; The Dalton School; Hanon Russell; Harry Benson Photography; CBS New Archives; Daphne Productions, Inc.; Hearst Metrotone News; NBA Entertainment, Inc.; NBC New Archives; The Phoenix Communications Group, Inc.; Sherman Grinberg Film Libraries, Inc.; Baseball Trademarks licensed by MLBP; National Public Radio®; ‘Life’ magazine logo and trademark used with permission of the Time Inc. Magazine Company”; and, “Filmed at Studioasis, Toronto, Canada.” Additional “Special Thanks” are given to: Fred Waitzkin, Bonnie Waitzkin, Josh Waitzkin, Katya Waitzkin, and Bruce Pandolfini. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1993
p. 8, 29.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Aug 1993
Calendar, p. 1.
New York
24 Feb 1992.
---
New York Times
9 Aug 1993
Section B, p. 3.
New York Times
11 Aug 1993
Section C, p. 13.
People
30 Aug 1993.
---
Variety
16 Aug 1993
p. 39.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures presents
A Scott Rudin/Mirage production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
3d asst dir
2d asst dir, New York crew
2d 2d asst dir, New York crew
DGA trainee, New York crew
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op and addl photog
1st asst photog
2d asst photog
B cam 1st asst photog
B cam 2d asst photog
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Video playback op
Video playback op
Still photog
Chief lighting tech
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
Generator op
1st company grip
2d company grip
Dolly grip
Rigging grip
Cam trainee
Cam trainee
A cam 1st asst photog, New York crew
A cam 2d asst photog, New York crew
B cam op, New York crew
B cam 1st asst photog
B cam 2d asst photog, New York crew
Asst Steadicam op, New York crew
Video playback op, New York crew
Chief lighting tech, New York crew
Asst chief lighting tech, New York crew
Lighting tech, New York crew
Lighting tech, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
1st company grip, New York crew
2d company grip, New York crew
2d company grip, New York crew
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art prod asst
Art dir, New York crew
Art prod asst, New York crew
FILM EDITORS
Co-ed
1st asst ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dec buyer
Draftsperson
Const coord
Asst const coord
Head carpenter
Head scenic artist
Prod painter
Prop master
Asst props
Set dec, New York crew
Scenic charge, New York crew
Prop master, New York crew
Asst props, New York crew
Asst props, New York crew
Set dresser, New York crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward master
Ward asst
Ward prod asst
Asst cost des
Ward supv, New York crew
Ward supv, New York crew
Ward prod asst, New York crew
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Orch cond by
Orchestrator
Orch contractor
Mus preparation
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cableperson
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Supv ADR ed
Supv foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR mixer
Foley mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley artist
Sd mixer, New York crew
Boom op, New York crew
Cableperson, New York crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Makeup artist, New York crew
Hairstylist, New York crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Asst to Mr. Rudin
Asst to Mr. Rudin
Asst to Mr. Horberg
Asst to Mr. Zaillian
Asst to Mr. Wisnievitz
Asst to Mr. Pollack
Voice casting
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Casting assoc
Toronto casting
Accountant
Accounting asst
Accounting asst
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Tech adv
Clearances
Craft service
Extras casting
Extras casting, New York crew
Prod coord, New York crew
Loc mgr, New York crew
Asst loc mgr, New York crew
Transportation capt, New York crew
Transportation co-capt, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Caterer, New York crew
Children's tutoring by, New York crew
Prod services in Canada provided by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Dailies by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based upon the book Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin (New York, 1988).
AUTHOR
SONGS
“Rough Enough,” written and performed by Freddie Foxxx, courtesy of Flavor Unit/Epic Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Green Grass That Grows All Around,” performed by Pete Seeger, courtesy of TRF Music, Inc.
“All Things Considered Theme Music,” by Donald Voegeli, courtesy of National Public Radio
+
SONGS
“Rough Enough,” written and performed by Freddie Foxxx, courtesy of Flavor Unit/Epic Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Green Grass That Grows All Around,” performed by Pete Seeger, courtesy of TRF Music, Inc.
“All Things Considered Theme Music,” by Donald Voegeli, courtesy of National Public Radio
“Enough Is Enough,” by Anthony Criss, Kier Gist, Vincent Brown, A. Bahr, & J. Ray, performed by Rottin Razkals, courtesy of Flavor Unit/Epic Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Salsa #3,” by John E. Oliver & Lou Forestieri
“Saxophone Concerto,” by John Debney
“Heart And Soul,” by Hoagy Carmichael & Frank Loesser.
+
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 August 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 11 Aug 1993
Production Date:
began 30 Jun 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
24 August 1993
Copyright Number:
PA665798
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras & lenses
Prints
Prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
110
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32357
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During his seventh birthday party, Josh Waitzkin notices people playing chess at the tables in New York City’s Washington Square Park, and quickly develops an interest in the game. One day after school, Josh sits down at a table and plays for the first time against an elderly Russian man. Although he loses the match, Josh’s skills surprise his mother, Bonnie, and attract the attention of a drug hustler named Vinnie. His sportswriter father, Fred, unearths an old chess set and urges Josh to play. The game lasts hours as Fred strategizes over his moves, but Josh ultimately defeats him without much thought or effort. Realizing his son's potential, Frank hires renowned chess coach Bruce Pandolfini, who believes the boy has talent equal to that of famed world champion Bobby Fischer. During lessons, Bruce teaches Josh to carefully consider his moves without picking up the pieces, and devises an arbitrary points system as motivation. After entering his first children’s tournament, Josh goes on to win several more prestigious titles. His absence from school eventually concerns his teacher, who notifies the Waitzkins about his lagging schoolwork and struggling social relationships. Fred becomes defensive and rudely dismisses her for “belittling” Josh’s talent. As a result, Josh switches schools, and pursues his camaraderie with his supporter, Vinnie. Before long, Josh discovers he has a competitor in young Jonathan Poe, who has been working exclusively with a teacher since he was four years old. At the state finals, Josh suddenly becomes afraid of losing and purposely knocks himself out of the first round. Although Fred is upset, Bruce uses the setback as incentive to work harder. As part of his new discipline, Josh ... +


During his seventh birthday party, Josh Waitzkin notices people playing chess at the tables in New York City’s Washington Square Park, and quickly develops an interest in the game. One day after school, Josh sits down at a table and plays for the first time against an elderly Russian man. Although he loses the match, Josh’s skills surprise his mother, Bonnie, and attract the attention of a drug hustler named Vinnie. His sportswriter father, Fred, unearths an old chess set and urges Josh to play. The game lasts hours as Fred strategizes over his moves, but Josh ultimately defeats him without much thought or effort. Realizing his son's potential, Frank hires renowned chess coach Bruce Pandolfini, who believes the boy has talent equal to that of famed world champion Bobby Fischer. During lessons, Bruce teaches Josh to carefully consider his moves without picking up the pieces, and devises an arbitrary points system as motivation. After entering his first children’s tournament, Josh goes on to win several more prestigious titles. His absence from school eventually concerns his teacher, who notifies the Waitzkins about his lagging schoolwork and struggling social relationships. Fred becomes defensive and rudely dismisses her for “belittling” Josh’s talent. As a result, Josh switches schools, and pursues his camaraderie with his supporter, Vinnie. Before long, Josh discovers he has a competitor in young Jonathan Poe, who has been working exclusively with a teacher since he was four years old. At the state finals, Josh suddenly becomes afraid of losing and purposely knocks himself out of the first round. Although Fred is upset, Bruce uses the setback as incentive to work harder. As part of his new discipline, Josh is banned from playing “speed rounds” with Vinnie in Washington Square Park, withdraws from his other hobbies, and encouraged to develop contempt for his opponents. As he struggles to regain his confidence, Bonnie recognizes that his fear of losing at chess is actually a fear of losing his father’s love and approval. Fred tells Josh he can quit, but the boy insists he will continue playing on his own terms. While returning to his matches in the park with Vinnie, Josh renews his interest in baseball and fishing. Despite Bruce’s objections, Fred understands that allowing Josh the freedom to do what he wants has revived his love of chess. At the national championships in Chicago, Illinois, Josh worries he cannot beat his new rival, Jonathan Poe. Between rounds, Bruce declares he is proud to be his teacher and gives him a paper certificate to symbolize his achievement. Josh easily plays most of the final match, but abruptly stops to consider his next few moves. Although he realizes he can win, he extends his hand to Poe, offering to declare a draw and share the championship. Poe refuses, and the two continue the game to Josh’s eventual victory. Afterward, Fred and Bonnie watch proudly as their son humbly accepts the title and puts his arm around a fellow player named Morgan. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.