Lily Rabe is no stranger to living with famous figures. She’s the daughter of actress Jill Clayburgh and playwright/screenwriter David Rabe. Still, her experiences were nothing like what happens in “Pawn Sacrifice.” In the new biopic, the actress of stage and screen — most notably “American Horror Story,” in which she’s the only actor to appear in all five seasons — plays Joan Targ, the sister of chess legend Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire). The film is about him, specifically his bout for the World Championship against Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), but occasionally Rabe’s Joan swings by, trying her best to help her troubled brother.
Making movies and TV means there’s a lot of downtime for actors. Playing chess is one way to spend it. What do you tend to do?
I read. I listen to podcasts. I had my moment with knitting, but that moment has passed. I find I want to read lighter things, because you’re constantly getting interrupted. I normally would choose a different book to read than one I would choose at home.
Or you could just learn about Bobby Fischer.
I knew who he was, I knew about Spassky, I knew about that match. I didn’t know much more before starting. But luckily I had lots of luxurious time to get to know his story. One thing I didn’t know was his childhood. I got to learn about the women in his life and what those relationships were.
It’s worth noting that your character, Joan, his sister, was a pretty fascinating person in her own right.
I went into a very happy rabbit hole about Joan, even though it wasn’t in the movie. She was such a compelling, fascinating woman. She knew seven languages, married a parapsychologist, her daughter became a parapsychologist. She became a nurse, she was a physician and she taught at Stanford and held this program teaching computer literacy. And she was an organic farmer. She had this consciousness about things that people weren’t incredibly aware of then. She was so ahead of the times and such a revolutionary gal. I’m just in awe of her. Even though in the movie it’s all in relation to telling Bobby’s story.