The True Story Behind Aaron Sorkin's Golden Globe-Winning Movie The Trial of the Chicago 7
The story behind the real men who inspired Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix drama
Aaron Sorkin took home the Golden Globe for best screenplay — motion picture for The Trial of the Chicago 7 on Sunday, over 50 years after the events that inspired the film transpired.
The Netflix film is based on the trial of eight anti-Vietnam War protestors — Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, John Froines and Bobby Seale — who were charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting the riots that erupted at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The trial began as the Chicago Eight but changed to the Chicago Seven after Seale challenged the presiding Judge Julius J. Hoffman when he could not have the lawyer of his choice. (Seale was a Black Panther Party leader and was played by Abdul-Mateen II in the film.)
Seale was bound and gagged in the courtroom and later given his own, separate trial, which never happened, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Judge Hoffman, played by Langella, was at war with the defendants and their lawyers, as well as the prosecutors daily in his courtroom. The unrest surrounding the case extended to the streets of Chicago, where demonstrators gathered to protest.
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The protests turned violent on Oct. 11, 1969, during the Days of Rage riots where several anti-war groups entered into skirmishes with police, causing violence and commercial damage to the city.
The trial ended with Hoffman deciding that just five of the defendants (Rubin, Hoffman, Hayden, Davis and Dellinger) had incited riots during the 1968 convention but that they hadn't conspired to do so. Weiner and Froines were acquitted of all charges.
Seale, whose case was severed from the Chicago Seven's, was never convicted on the charges related to the convention but was sentenced to four years for criminal contempt of court. The sentence was later reversed on appeal.
Sorkin paid tribute to the real Hoffman (played by Baron Cohen in the film) during his acceptance speech at Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards.
"I don't always agree with what the characters I write do or say, but Abbie said, 'Democracy is not something you believe in or where you hang your hat, but it's something you do. It's something you participate. You stop doing it, democracy crumbles,' " Sorkin said before referring to the riots that took place in January at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. "I don't need any more evidence beyond what happened on January 6 to agree with this."
The movie also stars Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Alex Sharp, Michael Keaton and John Carroll Lynch.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is now streaming on Netflix.
The 78th Annual Golden Globes Awards are airing live on NBC from 5-8 p.m. PT/8-11 p.m. ET.