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CULTURE

New Film Will Tackle Historic Trial of the Chicago Seven

Anti-war activist Jerry Rubin, along with other defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial, speaks to the press in this February 1970 photo. Front row, from left: Rennie Davis, Rubin, Abbie Hoffman. Back row, from left: Lee Weiner, Bob Lamb and Thomas Hayden.
Anti-war activist Jerry Rubin, along with other defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial, speaks to the press in this February 1970 photo. Front row, from left: Rennie Davis, Rubin, Abbie Hoffman. Back row, from left: Lee Weiner, Bob Lamb and Thomas Hayden. (Screenshot via YouTube)

The Trial of the Chicago Seven, a film about the turbulent 1960s, portrays a pivotal moment in U.S. history that has parallels to today’s era.

Seth Rogen, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are confirmed to star in The Trial of the Chicago 7, based on the 1969 trial of “the Chicago Seven.”

The historic case involved seven defendants charged by the federal government with multiple offenses, including conspiracy and inciting to riot, arising from counterculture protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

The convention was in the process of selecting candidates for the then upcoming presidential election. Rallies and demonstrations had already been springing up around the city, primarily in protest of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s policies for the Vietnam War, which were vigorously contested during the presidential primary campaign and inside the convention. Protests would eventually turn up at the Democratic convention, breaking into riots and clashes with police.

Rogen will play Jerry Rubin, one of the founders of the Youth International Party (Yippies) opposite Cohen as radical Abbie Hoffman, also a Yippie, Redmayne as Tom Hayden, one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis, also one of the SDS founders, four of the seven defendants.

Jonathan Majors, known for Hostiles and Dustin Lance Black’s When We Rise miniseries, will play Bobby Seale. Seale, a Black Panther, was the eighth defendant charged when the group was initially dubbed “the Chicago Eight.” The judge, Julius Hoffman, had him bound and gagged in the courtroom for “loudly disrupting the trial when he could not have the lawyer of his choice,” according to Chicago Tribune article from 2008.

Seale, whose lawyer was unavailable due to hospitalization, vociferously demanded the judge give him a continuation, which the judge denied. Seale was eventually sentenced to four years in prison for contempt of court, though it was later reversed.

Gordon-Levitt will play Richard Schultz, one of the two prosecutors in the case.

According to The Hollywood Reporter  Amblin Partners will produce the film. Steven Spielberg had originally planned to direct the film several years ago while it was still in development. Instead, Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing and The Social Network) will write and direct it. It will be Sorkin’s second directorial effort following Molly’s Game, a movie about a poker titan.

“I’m thrilled to be making a movie about one of the craziest, funniest, most intense, most tragic and most triumphant trials in American history,” Sorkin said in a statement.

Indeed, the original trial extended for months, enlivened by several high-profile figures from the American left and counterculture called to testify, including singers Phil Ochs, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie and Country Joe McDonald, writers Norman Mailer and Allen Ginsberg, and activists Timothy Leary and Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“C-7 may take place in the late ’60s, but there’s no better time to tell this story than today,” Sorkin also added.

According to a press release the filmmakers affirm that the movie “speaks directly to the divisiveness of our times and how young people can take on power and change the world.”

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