Trial of the Chicago 7 First Look Photos

Aaron Sorkin‘s next movie as both a writer and director is The Trial of the Chicago 7. The true story follows the infamous 1969 trial of seven men charged by the federal government with conspiracy following the counter-cultural anti-Vietnam protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. What started as peaceful protests turned to a violent clash with police and the National Guard. It’s a story that feels more relevant than ever in our current political and social climate, and the first look photos that have just surfaced showcase the all-star cast bringing this pivotal moment in history to life.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 First Look Photos

Trial of the Chicago 7 First Look Photos

The Trial of the Chicago 7 stars Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richard H. Shultz, William Hurt as John N. Mitchell, Mark Rylance as William Kunstler, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale, Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, Frank Langella as Julius Hoffman, and Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark, a progressive lawyer who was also a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century.

Not all of the cast members are featured in these first look photos from Vanity Fair, but this does give us a fantastic glimpse of the movie that will undoubtedly draw parallels between this moment in history and today’s important protests that have taken to the streets in light of the corruption and racism that is ingrained within our institutions.

The all-star cast had nothing but nice things to say about Sorkin’s work on this movie and as a filmmaker in general. While the young but experienced Eddie Redmayne praises Sorkin’s words on the page as “gold dust,” the veteran actor Frank Langella adds, “The man can write about as well as any living writer I’ve done.” In fact, Langella even praised The Trial of the Chicago 7 itself by comparing it to the likes of movies such as 12 Angry Men and Network. Meanwhile, Cohen maybe gets a little too complementary by saying, “He’s as talented as Shakespeare. And a lot more consistent—he hasn’t had a Titus Andronicus.” Even as a lover of everything Aaron Sorkin has done, I think we’ll have to wait at least a few decades before we can see if that’s an accurate assessment.

Though Aaron Sorkin is directing The Trial of the Chicago 7, he was originally hired only as a writer by the one and only Steven Spielberg. However, despite being the mastermind behind the political drama series The West Wing, apparently the filmmaker has some blind spots when it comes to history. Sorkin told Vanity Fair that when Spielberg offered him the job of writing the movie, he had absolutely no knowledge of the event whatsoever.

Spielberg had been hoping to make The Trial of the Chicago 7 since as far back as 2007. In fact, it was hoped that the movie would arrive before the 2008 election. But the Writers Guild of America strike that year put all those hopes on hold, and the project sat in development for a long time, even courting Paul Greengrass as director for a short period of time. It never got off the ground again until recently, when Spielberg felt it was time to revisit the possibility of making the movie, but he wanted Sorkin to direct himself after seeing his directorial debut with Molly’s Game.

It’s kind of amazing that The Trial of the Chicago 7 came back to life before the Black Lives Matter protests dominated headlines again. Because of how the film’s subject matter resonated with the increasingly relevant and timely issues of today, Sorkin went back and made some adjustments to his screenplay to ensure that the ties between The Trial of the Chicago 7 and the struggles we’re facing today did not go unnoticed. Sorkin observed:

“The movie was relevant when we were making it. We didn’t need it to get more relevant, but it did. The polarization, the militarization of the police, the fear of Black activists, even the intramural battle between the left and the far left. To say nothing about [Black Panther] Fred Hampton being murdered by the police during the trial. At this performance the role of Mayor Daley is being played by Donald Trump.”

Almost as a tease of what’s to come in The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sorkin told Vanity Fair about an old photograph he had seen that was taken outside of the courthouse in Chicago where the trial was held. Pro-government protesters held up signs that said things like “America Love It or Leave It,” “What About White Civil Rights” and “Lock Them Up!” Does that sound familiar?

Trial of the Chicago 7 First Look Photos

If you want to read much more about The Trial of the Chicago 7, make sure you head over to Vanity Fair for a full profile on the film, as well as several more photos from the production. There are great tidbits from behind the scenes, including a mention of Jeremy Strong’s method-acting techniques that he seems to have picked up from his time spent as Daniel Day-Lewis’ assistant. For example, Strong actually wanted to be sprayed with tear gas in order to properly tap into his character. Little did he know that if they waited to film, he probably could have experienced it himself in streets all over America.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 will arrive on Netflix (and maybe in limited theaters) sometime this fall.

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