Aaron Sorkin on the Challenges of Casting The Trial of the Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin found his dream cast to make The Trial of the Chicago 7 come to life on Netflix.
Aaron Sorkin's new movie The Trial of the Chicago 7 premieres on Netflix on Friday, October 16th. Recently Aaron Sorkin spoke to members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association about the The Trial of the Chicago 7 and in that interview I had the chance to ask Aaron Sorkin about the challenges of casting the movie which is led by Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin and Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, left wing, ant-war activists, who were put on trial following the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention which went down in infamy as massive riots roiled the streets of Chicago before Hubert Humphrey was chosen as the next Democratic nominee for president to face off against Richard Nixon.
In the wake of Richard Nixon's election Victory, the newly elected President decided to instruct his newly approved Attorney General to prosecute members of the anti-war left such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Tom Hayden and this movie picks up where that story takes off with the trial of the Chicago 7. I asked Aaron Sorkin about the challenge of bringing this cast together and whether or not there was a particular challenge in finding just the right actor to portray the members of the famed Chicago Seven, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis, John Dellinger and Bobby Seale.
SP- This is a fantastic cast, but was there a particular challenge in casting The Trial of the Chicago 7? Was there a role that was more challenging than others?
Aaron Sorkin- Well first, let me agree with you that it is a fantastic cast. Every morning when I got to the set I felt like I was being tossed the keys to a formula 1 race car and, as long as I didn’t put the car in the wall, these actors were gonna win the race.
The first person cast was Sascha (Baron Cohen) because Steven Speilberg had cast him 12 years ago. Steven had started the casting process. He and I both had met with Sascha, loved him, he was perfect, 12 years went by, or 11 years to be fair, Sascha found me and made it very clear that I would not be considering any other actor for the role. That he would be playing the part (Abbie Hoffman).
Was there a role that was difficult? No, well, I was just lucky. We got everyone. I prayed for Mark Rylance to play (William) Kunstler, we got him. I prayed for Jeremy Strong, Michael Keaton got in touch with us and said, I’d love to play Ramsay Clark. I’m trying to think if there was a role that was particularly difficult to cast and no, I can’t think of one. In pretty much any case, you would hear either from the actor directly or from their agent saying this actor is interested and that was the end of that. That was the actor you wanted.
The cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7 also features Eddie Redmayne in the role of Tom Hayden, John Carroll Lynch as John Dellinger and newcomer Yahya Abdul Mateen in the pivotal role of Black Panther Party Leader Bobby Seale. Veterans Frank Langella and Michael Keaton round out the cast as Judge Julius Hoffman and former United States Attorney General Ramsay Clark whose testimony at the Trial of the Chicago Seven was denied by Judge Hoffman on grounds that would eventually pave the way for the appeal and the release of the convicted Chicago seven.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 debuts on Netflix on Friday, October 16th.